It’s 10:59 a.m. on a Saturday, and I’m sitting on my back porch with a tall glass of ice water preparing to mow the lawn. Or, rather, I’m preparing to watch my lawn being mowed — not by a gardener, but by a robot mower.
Yup, you read that right: A robot lawn mower, or more specifically, the Husqvarna Automower 315X ($2,000). I know what you’re thinking the sacrifices I must make as a tester of all things smart home just for you, dear reader.
Promptly at 11 a.m., the Automower, which is resting on its charging pad underneath my deck, whirrs to life and wheels itself out onto the lawn and into the sunny October day. Using the borders installed by the professionals from my local Husqvarna dealership, the device (which I named “Lawnee”) makes its way around the lawn, back and forth in random patterns. Once it gets to the edge of the grass, it dutifully turns itself around and heads a different direction, leaving a zigzag pattern of lines all over my backyard.
After an hour (the time that I pre-set the mower to run via the app), Lawnee heads back to the charging station and tucks in for the day until its next run tomorrow at 11 a.m.
I look around at my backyard — at the lines running haphazardly over my perfectly cut lawn — and am extremely happy. And for the hundredth time since Lawnee entered my life, I wish I had more lawn, not just so my son has more room to run around, but also because I want to see Lawnee in action for longer than an hour per day.
Forgive me if I sound a bit overly excited about the Automower. It’s just that there’s something very satisfying about coming home every day to a lawn that is the perfect height and needs nothing from me, other than a good edging now and then. Plus, it’s a robot. Mowing my lawn. How cool is that?
Automowers have been a thing in Europe for some time now, and only recently are they becoming more popular in the United States. Earlier this year, Husqvarna made a push into the U.S. market with its Automower line, which features several different Automowers to handle various sizes of lawn. Here, they’ve found some success; from American colleges and Universities to businesses needing to keep their lawns freshly manicured, the upfront investment in an Automower can ultimately save time and lots of manpower.
Here’s how the device works: Husqvarna professionals come to your house or business and install underground guide wires around your lawn (you can do this yourself, but it’s recommended you have someone who knows what they’re doing handle it). This isn’t an invasive procedure, and the lines disappear after a week or so. Then they install the charging station, which needs to be plugged in outside for obvious reasons. Then they ask you to download the app and give you a tutorial on how to use the device.
After that, much of the control can be done through the Automower app. From there you can set a daily schedule, look at the mapping data that the robomower has collected, and even track the device were it to be stolen. Speaking of being stolen, the device is password-protected, a very loud alarm will sound, and the device will shut down if it’s picked up and taken away from its designated location. Built-in sensors will help police locate the device quickly, which is useless without the password anyway.
The 315X model comes with headlights in case you want to see where it is during a night mowing job (it has nothing to do with the device actually being able to see where it’s going but looks pretty freaking cool). Amazon Alexa integration was recently added to the 315X, so if you look out the window and think your lawn needs a once-over, you can just say, “Alexa, tell Automower to start,” and the Automower will get right on it — assuming you’ve activated the Alexa Automower skill.
Most home automation isn’t really fully automated — there’s usually something you have to do to help the device along. For example, robot vacuums need their dust bins emptied. And even if you can preheat your oven via an app on your phone on the way home from work, you still need to prepare the food to put in it.
With Lawnee, there are no lawn bags to empty. There is no pushing to get the device started. Once installed, it really is truly automated. It works by cutting a millimeter or so of grass every day, leaving it in the grass bed. The device can even run in the rain, although the owner’s manual recommends not cutting the grass if it’s especially wet.
The only thing I’ve ever needed to do with Lawnee in command of my yard is rake leaves or occasionally pick up the plums that drop from my tree. A couple times I’ve forgotten this step, and I’ve been impressed that Lawnee continues right over the plums despite the obstacles (not recommended, unless you like cleaning plums from Automower tires).
Unlike the typical gas-powered mower, the electric Husqvarna Automower makes almost no noise, other than the almost silent clicking sound the blade makes when it runs over a patch of grass that needs trimming. If I didn’t recognize the sound, I wouldn’t even know something was running in my backyard. I’m sure my neighbors appreciate the peace and quiet just as I do.
There are a few issues I have about life with an Automower, although they’re definitely small, first world problems. The first is the cost of the device. The 315X, which covers up to .4 acres, costs $2,000, and that doesn’t include the cost of professional installation. Other devices with bigger ranges can be much more expensive. Although it should be noted that larger gas-powered mowers can cost that much or more, and still require gas and manpower to operate.
The second gripe — and this is a serious first-world problem gripe — is that I no longer have satisfyingly straight parallel lines in my lawn. I know, I know. But those of you who appreciate such a result from an old school rider or push mower should know that the Automower will never provide those for you. If you’re in the market for an Automower, it’s time to let those lines go.
Overall, though, after having an Automower in my backyard for a month, I’m surprised that more people in the market for a premium gas-powered mower aren’t flocking to the Husqvarna dealership to buy one of these things. They’re fun to watch, take a lot of the work out of yard work, and could be great for homes and businesses with sprawling lawns.
Plus, you can give them a name like “Lawnee” or “Mow-ana.” What more do you need? Maybe a beer while you sit on the porch and watch your lawn being mowed. By a robot.