My Robotic Mower Woes
A Brief Background
I'm no stranger to robotic lawnmowers. When my wife and I moved into our rural home just over five years ago, we picked up the Husqvarna 450X Automower since I was far too lazy to manually mow my property and the cost was equal to that of a standard riding mower. It was a no-brainer.
Fast-forward five years. Everything is still going great with the Automower. Some minor repairs were needed but that was mostly my fault since I was allowing the mower into places it shouldn't have been (ie. root systems and dirt "craters"). Then lightning struck our backyard at the beginning of April this year. The mower was fine, since we stow it away inside for the winter but the charging station, charging brick and perimeter wire we not so lucky...
The lightning traveled along the main perimeter wire and went straight to the charging station. Boom. The charging dock was quite literally blown up into a million tiny pieces and scattered across my backyard. Giant trenches were carved up where the perimeter wire had been embedded in the lawn. This surge also followed the path towards the main power adapter and exploded that as well. All of this happened even with the charging station / adapter turned off and unplugged from any outlet. At least my mower was safe...
Shopping for Automower Parts
I realized I was going to have to buy another charging station, power adapter and also pay for a dealer to re-install the perimeter wire. This idea didn't thrill me but at least all-in the expense wouldn't be that high. Or so I thought...
I contacted my local dealer and he quoted me directly from the Husqvarna supplier:
- Charging base station: $749 CDN
- Power adapter: $599 CDN
- Perimeter wire install: ~$550 CDN
I thought the cost for both the charging station and the wire install seemed about right - but $599 for a power adapter?! Are you kidding me? Best of all, these parts were on back-order. So even if I shelled out the ridiculous asking price, it was anyone's guess when I would get them. May was fast approaching and I would need to start cutting my property soon. I started to look at other options.
Husqvarna EPOS Mowers
Husqvarna recently launched their "perimeter-free" automowers for the general public (originally designed only for "fleet" enterprise use). These units use GPS and RTK position to map the desired cutting area of a property. Already my interest was piqued. Moving away from a perimeter wire seemed like a significant upgrade. It would also make my wife happy by allow her to garden freely, without worrying about severing an embedded lawn wire.
So I contacted my local dealer again about these specific units. I came away with some interesting information:
- They were quite expensive for my taste ($5000+ CDN - before install!)
- They were also on back-order here in Canada
Sigh. The mower gods were trying to tell me something. It seemed Husqvarna was just not meant for me anymore.
Luba to the Rescue!
While researching "wireless" automowers, I came across the Luba Series 5000 (referral link) and kept it in my "maybe" pile to follow-up on if needed. So follow-up I did.
This mower seemed to check all my boxes:
- Decently priced
- 2-year warranty
- All wheel drive
- I could set it up myself
- No perimeter wires
- No-go zones available
It did have a few minor cons associated with it:
- Fairly new product / company
- No close dealer in my area
- iOS and Android apps are more or less "beta"
Next, I watched a few early reviews and went through some comments/feedback from beta users. I was convinced enough and bought the AWD 5000 model.
Arrival and Setup
The mower (who we named Lawna, and shall be referred to as such moving forward) arrived just after the first week of May. The hardware setup (charging station and RTK antenna) was very straight-forward, so I won't go into great detail about that here. Once Lawna was synced with the RTK and GPS system, it was time to map my property.
I broke my property into 4 main "tasks" as the app calls them. The 5000 model allows you to create up to 10, but for my needs 4 was fine for full coverage. I mapped each one, added a handful of no-go zones to each and told Lawna to get to work. She happily obliged.
The First Week
I've had (almost) zero issues with Lawna after a week and a half of running her daily. She alternates from the front to the back of the property every other day. The app allows you to setup automatic scheduling, but I prefer to run things manually every morning, based on whether an area should be skipped, grass it dried out etc.
The only minor problem I have run into is the need to manually clean grass build-up from under the small cutting blades after Lawna cuts a couple "task" areas. I swapped the default blades to use Husqvarna's endurance type, since they use a large slotted insert hole as opposed to Mammotion's two single insert holes. This change makes cleaning the blades faster, safer, and easier to maintain. I realize that a riding mower would require similar maintenance but a truly autonomous device shouldn't require human intervention.
My hope is that the software continues to improve over time and that the core hardware lasts as long as my 450X did. Which now reminds me - I need to sell that thing...
Hopefully this post helps others looking to snag their own robotic mower. So far, I can safely recommend Luba.