Can a Robot Clean Your Windows Better Than You Can?

·Special Contributor, Yahoo! Tech

Home robots like the Roomba and the Neato have legions of fans, myself included. They truly make vacuuming a snap. So could a window-washing robot that costs $300 do the same – and is it worth the money? The Winbot is coming to market this spring; to find out if it’s worth your hard-earned dollars, I test it out.

How It Works
The Winbot uses suction (in fact, it sounds like a powerful vacuum) to hold itself onto your windows. You plug it in and give it a base charge, but in addition, you run it plugged in to a socket. The internal battery is only there in case the power goes out – so it won’t lose suction while an alarm alerts you to the power outage.

There is a cleaning pad on the front, a squeegee in the center, and a drying pad on the back. You spray cleaning fluid on the front pad; they provide their own brand and strongly advise it over traditional cleaning fluids, which may have ammonia and which they say could damage the Winbot. Once the pads are dirty, you remove them (they affix with Velcro) and toss them in the washing machine.

The Winbot glides along the window, and when it bumps the frame, it turns itself around and edges up the window to eventually go back in the other direction, systematically cleaning in a series of horizontal lines. The higher end model also works on frameless surfaces like mirrors.

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But How Well Does It Clean?
The Winbot did a good job cleaning the inside of my living room windows. It easily handled my kids fingerprints, spots, and general dirt. Outside it did an equally good job, but I did notice later that on a 5’ X 6’ window, it left two horizontal streaks the width of the window. The company says we probably had too much cleaning solution on the pad. They also suggested using the remote control to go back over any streaks and manually clear them. Overall, my hard-to-reach windows were cleaner than they’ve been in years.

For really serious dirty build-up on exterior windows, the company suggests giving a preliminary spray down or wash with a rag, letting it dry and then using the Winbot; the small pads can only handle so much dirt.

Is It Worth the Money?
$300 gets you the base model (which we tested), and $400 gets one that also works on frameless windows and mirrors, and has an extra extension cord for high windows.

For ordinary interior window washing, I’m not sold. It isn’t like a robotic vacuum cleaner where you set it and forget it. You have to spray the pads, place the device on each window, and then detach it to move it to the next window. You have to wash the pads and sometimes follow behind it to get rid of a streak here or there. But for really big and hard-to-reach windows, the Winbot made a lot of sense. It did a better job than I would have done on a ladder. And if I regularly had to pay someone to reach those high windows, the Winbot would pay for itself very quickly.

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