This article was originally published on 9to5mac.com on September 8th, 2017 by writer Michael Potuck
When it comes to smart homes and IoT devices, the majority of products on the market are for the inside of your home. While there are many smart home/HomeKit devices that can add convenience and some fun to your life, I hadn’t heard of anything that can free up hours of your time, until I learned more about autonomous mowers.
As IoT devices are still in their infancy, it’s not surprising that smart home setups haven’t gained mainstream popularity yet. For an average consumer there’s the confusion of the various platforms, a learning curve with set up and use, cost, and the question of how much value the device(s) will really add to their lives.
While there’s definitely a level of convenience and simplicity offered by products like smart door locks, Philips Hue Lights, or learning thermostats like ecobee, autonomous mowers take a smart home to another level.
Autonomous mowers have been around for how long?
As I started reading more about autonomous/robotic mowers I came across smart lawn specialist, Autmow. After talking with owner Jeff Lattimer on the phone, I was pumped to set up a time to experience them first hand.
One of the most surprising things I learned was that popular outdoor product manufacturer, Husqvarna has been making autonomous mowers for over twenty years. Lattimer shared that there are places in Europe where about 1 in 5 mowers sold are autonomous, but things haven’t taken off in the U.S. yet.
One of the big reasons for slow U.S. adoption is that most Americans buy their mowers from big box stores and those retailers don’t typically offer robotic mowers. In Europe it’s more common for people to visit a small business that will provide consultation, service, and sell robotic mowers.
Autmow is based in Ohio and Indiana and is making it easy for people to get going with autonomous mowers by providing consultation, installation, service, sales, and more. Lattimer is no doubt an expert when it comes to this subject and it was super fun to learn from someone who really enjoys what he’s doing.
Autmow currently sells two different brands and seven autonomous mowers in total, but the two most popular are the Husqvarna 430x and 450x Automowers (Husqvarna also claims its Automower is the #1 robotic mower in the world). We got to check these out in our hands on as well the Husqvarna 315.
The 430x and 450x have a hidden keypad that allows users to set a pin to keep others from tampering, while also featuring an alarm and GPS to keep an eye on your automower.
These Automowers use guide wire and the GPS to efficiently mow all of your lawn and make sure it stays within the boundaries you set. Because the guide wire is custom fit for each lawn, Husqvarna Automowers can accommodate almost any yard type and terrain.
The Husqvarna 430x and 450x can handle up to 45% slopes and there is also a “terrain wheel kit” if you happen to have a more uneven, rough lawn.
Users can do a self install, but Lattimer finds that most of his customers opt for Autmow taking care of the installation as the company has the machinery (and experience) to quickly bury and install the guide wire.
Do they really work?
The Husqvarna Automowers use a pivoting razor blade cutting system that’s about 9-inches in diameter and utilizes 3 blades. The mowers are so light they don’t leave tracks in your yard, they can even mow in the rain, and you can easily replace the blades with a phillips screwdriver when needed.
While a 9-inch cutting diameter might not sound like much, you do have to think about autonomous mowers a bit different from traditional push or riding mowers. When it comes to specs like run time and cutting diameter that would normally dictate the acreage a mower can handle, these things don’t matter as much for autonomous mowers.
Because a Husqvarna Automower returns to its base when it needs to charge up and heads back out to continue mowing, there’s not really a “finished” state. The benefit here is that these mowers can be set to cut a shorter length of grass (which is healthier for your lawn) and mow more often. With an Automower, your lawn is always looking fresh and clean.
That said, Husqvarna does give the 450x an acreage range of 1.25 while the 430x is rated to just over 3/4 acre. For users with over an acre, you can also set up multiple Automowers to handle a larger area. Lattimer usually recommends using a schedule of 4-5 mowing days for an automower, and personally has his run between 12am-5am.
As time went on during our hands on with the Automowers, I became more and more impressed with these machines. They’re super quiet (think fan, not mower), eco-friendly as you get to ditch messing with gas and oil, they’re really responsive to the guide wire, the iOS app is great (more on that in a moment) and they work really well.
Are they safe?
Another win for autonomous mowers is that they’re safer than traditional mowers. The Husqvarna Automowers feature bump, tilt, and lift sensors that automatically shutdown the blades. Another benefit of automowers is they don’t throw debris like traditional mowers, as shown by the peach test in the video above. And even if you somehow make it past the blade shutoff features, you’re more apt for a flesh wound than anything more severe.