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How many household chores can you automate right now?

We break down the smart home gadgets to get you out of doing chores.

David Priest Former editor
David Priest is an award-winning writer and editor who formerly covered home security for CNET.
David Priest
5 min read
Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Ever since the first washing machine was invented over two centuries ago, we've been trying to get out of doing our chores. And now, thanks to lazy people-turned-tech-developers, we're halfway there. Robot vacuums roam thousands of homes, and it seems like you'll be able to avoid almost all your chores in a few years.

But it's 2017, and the question is, how many chores can you automate right now? Here's the breakdown.

Chris Monroe/CNET


Robot vacuums have come into their own in the past few years. Sure, they're pricier than their hand-pushed brethren, but some, like the Neato Botvac Connected Robot Vacuum, perform competitively with the best conventional vacuums on the market.

Here's the one problem: robot vacuums -- even smart ones that map house layouts effectively -- still suffer from limited mobility. They can't traverse stairs, they won't snag crumbs your kid left on the couch, and they will occasionally get stuck or miss spots.

Can you automate vacuuming? Yes... ish. But you might need a hand vac to finish the stairs and furniture.

Watch this: Time to sit back and leave the Robomow alone

Mowing the lawn

The chore I hated most as a kid was mowing the lawn. Okay, to be honest I still hate it the most. But push and riding mowers might soon be a thing of the past. Last year, one CNET editor tried out the Robomow RS612 -- think: Roomba for your lawn -- and actually liked it. The robot lawnmower kept the lawn tidy over time, and it was a relatively hands-off experience.

Robomow wasn't perfect, though. First, its efforts were thwarted by rain and wet grass. Second, yards with steep grades or large acreage are off the table for the robot mower. Plus, its going rate is $1,600 (about £1,250 or AU$2,134 -- a lot more than push mowers, and even some riding mowers.

Can you automate mowing the lawn? Surprisingly, yes. It even works pretty well.

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Dishes and laundry

Dishwashers and washing machines are pretty standard fare these days, whether you live in a house or an apartment. Some of these large appliances are adding extra smarts -- such as self-ordering detergent pods using Amazon Dash, and allowing users to check cycle statuses by asking Alexa.

Of course, we still haven't seen a robot that can fold your laundry (well, not one available for purchase) or put up the clean dishes, so you'll still have some work to do.

Can you automate dishwashing and laundry? Sure. But the process hasn't changed much in 50 years.

Chris Monroe/CNET

Feeding the family

Whether you're making dinner for yourself or cooking for the whole family, this chore can take up tons of time everyday. But some cooking devices are trying to help make it a more painless process. For anyone who wants their meal to cook itself while they catch up on "Bob's Burgers," sous vide immersion cookers and slow cookers might be your solutions. Both small appliances are relatively hands-free after you finish the preparations -- but you'll have to plan ahead.

If you like cooking, but you hate burning your pancakes -- oh, and have $650 to blow -- the Hestan Cue also adds automation to cooking. The smart pan-and-induction-cooktop walk you step-by-step through recipes, adjusting the temperature for you, and telling you when to flip the flapjacks via the app. It's a cool device, albeit imperfect and expensive.

Can you automate cooking dinner? To a degree. Smart cookware seems more like a sous chef than a personal chef.

Watch this: A cute dog weighs in on Petnet's smart food bowl

Feeding the pets

I know, I know: pets are part of the family. But feeding them is different, which means automating that process is different.

The good news is, smart dog and cat bowls are finally becoming available. The bad news is, they don't work so well yet. When CNET tested the Petnet SmartFeeder, the device worked well for the most part -- holding a few pounds of food, and doling it out on a schedule. Problem was, it clogged a couple times, delivering none or only part of the meal. And when it comes to feeding your pets, even a single missed meal can feel like a pretty big deal.

Can you automate feeding your pets? Sort of. But you won't want to trust your smart bowl that much.


Cleaning the gutters

Teetering on a ladder for hours to clean out your clogged gutters is annoying and can be dangerous. The iRobot Looj 330 claims to solve that problem, trolling your gutters and clearing out dead leaves and debris with its auger.

While CNET hasn't tested the Looj, users seem to have mixed feelings about it. Some report that the Looj has trouble with dense detritus, but others say it takes care of small clogs without much problem.

Can you automate cleaning the gutters? Yes. Although how effective the Looj is likely depends on your particular property.


Cleaning the windows

Spring cleaning gets intense when you start working on the windows -- especially if you have vaulted ceilings.

The good news is a device built exactly to clean windows is on the market. The Winbot attaches to windows like a vertically-inclined robot vacuum, and cleans them using two cleaning pads and a squeegee.

The problem? According to many users, the Winbot leaves streaks. Plus, you have to move the device from window to window, so depending on your house's layout, the Winbot could actually add work. But it's an interesting concept, especially for home owners with larger windows.

Can you automate cleaning the windows? Sure. But you can't automate carrying around the Winbot.


Watering the lawn

If you're serious about lawn care, you may already have an automated irrigation system with timed sprinklers. But a growing contingent of retrofit devices adds more smarts and convenience to these systems. Devices like the Sprinkl Conserve and Blossom Smart Watering Controller will cancel watering schedules if it rains, and lets users control their sprinklers with an app. The Rachio Smart Sprinkler Controller even adds voice control through the Amazon Echo.

The down side of these devices is they require an existing irrigation system. A few alternative options do exist, like the Edyn water valve, a hose-fed device.

Can you automate watering the lawn? Yes.

Can you automate your chores?

Technology has done a surprisingly good job of automating chores, but as you can see with most of these, none of the solutions are perfect. Whether that automation actually adds work, or just takes a little oversight depends on the chore. But in 10 years, maybe all the chore-bots will be as standard -- and as dependable -- as a washing machine.

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