Robots already are integrated into society. Your car can adjust its speed automatically, your door can unlock itself when you approach the house, and your sprinkler system can check the forecast and postpone watering if rain’s on the horizon.
Husqvarna Automower 450x
Makes your lawn look pristine. No long-term labor involved. Can mow on a schedule. Recharges in just 75 minutes. Can mow at night and in the rain. Anti-theft system emits a siren and sends GPS coordinates if somebody tries to run off with it.
Installation can take an afternoon, and involves a fair amount of tweaking. Though it’s an advanced robot, it still requires physical barricades to mark off the mowing area.
Now, pushing a lawn mower is a sweaty chore, making lawn care the perfect assignment for an automaton. Husqvarna’s new high-end robotic lawn caretaker, the Automower 450x, costs $3,500. The company makes cheaper models around $2,000, and the competing Robomow costs $2,099. Most of these smart mowers can be controlled by an app, but the biggest Husqvarna can cover the most ground–up to 1.25 acres. I was eager to put it to work on my glorious greenery.
The first step involves corralling the ‘bot. Like the Roomba, which uses cone-shaped plastic beacons to indicate where to work (and where not to) in your home, you tell the Husky where to mow by staking a perimeter with green wire. For obstacles like my rock garden, shed, and fire pit, I had to create no-mow zones by running the wire around each object. I would have preferred an app that lets me map the boundaries using GPS coordinates, but maybe that’s a future upgrade.
When you finally do let the mower roam, you’ll probably need to adjust your map by creating additional dead zones around ditches or depressions where the mower gets stuck. Also, if you leave the boundary wire sticking up too far, the Automower can slice it. Thankfully, the mower stops when it cuts a wire, so you know where a repair is needed.
After setting your boundaries, you can turn to Husqvarna’s mobile app to create a schedule. I programmed it to mow all day, every day. It cuts a small amount of grass over a long period, like getting a haircut every few hours for a month. That meant, initially, it cut an imperceptible amount of grass and left wheel marks all over my lawn. But it kept on cutting, working even when it rained, and returned to its charger automatically at the end of every session. You can make other adjustments using the app: scheduling, cutting height, the angles of its path, how close it to the boundary wire it cuts. I used the default settings.
Bots Are Better
After the first week, my lawn looked OK. After two weeks, it looked much better. After a month, it looked fantastic. Neighbors commented on my lawn looking pristine without the typical cutting paths. Another advantage of the “light trim every day” approach is you never see clippings because it cuts the grass so finely.
Beyond the trial-and-error installation, I had no issues after a month except for some unpredictable events. When a friend parked on the grass, the mower got stuck under the car’s bumper and I had to retrieve it. Another time, it got stuck on a tree root and I had to give it a hand.
Speaking of hands: A robot with sharp blades roaming freely? Really? The blades make an almost inaudible sound, but that does little to ease one’s anxiety. But the slicers retract automatically upon hitting anything, so although you’d get a cut if you put your hand in there, it’s less likely that you’d lose a finger–a near certainty with a regular mower.
Overall, I was very impressed. If you’re considering a robot mower, there’s decision to be made regarding the cost. The Robomow is also quite capable and more than $1,000 cheaper, but only mows three-quarters of an acre–half an acre less than the Husqvarna–and has fewer controls built into its app. For those with larger lawns and for those who prefer more tweakable settings, the Husky wins.
The real cost analysis depends on how you value your time. A John Deere X710 riding mower with a 22-horsepower engine costs $10,059. Get one and you’ll still spend an hour mowing a large yard. A reliable self-propelled push mower like the Toro Variable Speed High Wheel with Smartstow costs $369–cheaper, but it might take an afternoon to mow an acre.
I hate mowing. Instead of riding or pushing a mower in the sun for a few hours, I’ll let a robot do the work while I relax with my family and sip lemonade.