Adventures with the Automower: Installation and Technical Details

FTC Disclaimer: The following post is sponsored by Husqvarna.

 

I previously talked about the automower installation on Facebook Live, but I also have a few pictures to share of the process.

Oh, and yes, the automower has a name. We call her Moya, which is a nod to one of our favorite science fiction franchises, but also serves as an acronym: Mows Our Yard Automatically.

 

Our installers came from the Lawrenceville branch of Super-Sod, a lawn and seed company that services Georgia, Tennessee, and the Carolinas. Lawrenceville is not exactly a short trip to our house, but our installer Carlos told us that their store was branching into this technology and were eager to show us what they could do.

 

After a quick survey of the yard, Carlos determined that he could set up two zones for us: The largest is the backyard, which you saw in the Facebook Live video, and the second is the smaller front yard. Since the automower cannot get through the gate that separates the two zones, we physically move her once or twice a week to make her rounds. Carlos then started to lay the wire along the perimeter of the zones.

The wire is a braided cable in a thin green jacket that serves two purposes. It establishes the invisible fence around the area where the mower will work, and it provides a guide path for the mower to navigate back to the charging station when its battery gets low. We have since replaced a section of it using a garden trowel to dig the shallow trench, but Carlos used a walk-along machine that digs the trench and pushes the wire directly into the ground.

 

Unfortunately, as I mentioned in the Facebook video, our yard has a lot of hard Georgia clay, so both Carlos and the machine had to work quite hard to lay the wire. The other downside was the new openings in the clay combined with the weeks of rain that followed our installation that led to a lot of erosion sections of the wire path. Of course, neither of these could be prevented by Super-Sod, and neither of these should be a common occurrence for most homeowners.

We’re more of the exception than the rule.

Soon enough, the installation was completed and Moya was freely roaming her new yard. Carlos had warned us ahead of time that we needed to have an exterior electrical outlet within 50 feet of the charging base, and he was surprised to see that we had picked a spot right next to a solidly-installed weather-protected outlet. He was doubly surprised to find out that we had installed that outlet ourselves just days before. We didn’t have any outlets on the backside of the house before then.

 

Carlos then tried to walk my wife through installation of the Automower Connect app, which allows the owner to control and monitor the device from their smartphone, but our model did not come with that feature (or headlights) installed. Within a few weeks, we were able to coordinate between Husqvarna and Scott (the manager at Super-Sod of Lawrenceville) to get the new board installed and connect Moya to the internet.

 

Scott also sold us on the terrain package – it contains stronger wheels with deeper treads and built-in brushes to keep them clear – which should help Moya navigate our hill more freely. Scott was more than happy to let us watch and document the installation of the new components, and pointed out how various pieces of the machine functioned as he worked. We also got the chance to see just how much grass can collect under Moya’s shell. None of it can enter the circuitry since the inner components are guarded by a tight rubber seal. There is also warranty sticker to indicate potential tampering. Work inside the mower should only be done by a certified professional to maintain that warranty.

The shell is held strongly to the frame by these fittings. Scott had to apply a bit of force to pull them apart and open the mower.

 

Automower’s Internals – Bottom

 

Automower’s Internals – Top

 

Automower Connect board installed

 

So, long story short, Moya is now patrolling the yard for long blades of grass, and we can keep a closer eye on her from anywhere via the app. She’s also an escape artist on the hill, which is helping us to find trouble spots where she needs help with temporary barriers and where we need to pay attention for our future landscaping revamp of the entire space.

She also keeps Jango entertained.

 

You can still keep track of Moya’s adventures through social media on my personal Facebook profile and my Instagram page. You can also find the first post here on the blog (which feeds to the Facebook page, Twitter, Tumblr, and Google Plus).

You can also track our progress and that of other people in the program by following the hashtags #Automower and #AutomowerFirst.

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Adventures with the Automower: A Major Award!

FTC Disclaimer: The following post is sponsored by Husqvarna.

 

Sometimes surfing on Facebook pays off.

A few months ago, my wife was scrolling through her Facebook feed when a link popped up offering a chance to try an automatic lawnmower. Potential candidates had to live in the Southwestern United States, have a strong enough presence on social media, and have a compelling argument about how an automatic lawnmower would change their lives.

The first two requirements were easy: I live in the Atlanta area and (obviously) I have a few social media channels. But the third one was a bit more challenging. I mean, yeah, a robot that mows my lawn… that’s cool. But what advantage does it give me over firing up the old push mower once every couple of weeks?

Our house was built in the early ’80s on roughly an acre of land, a quarter of which is wooded. It’s a solid enough house, but the catch is that the house hasn’t really been updated in the nearly forty years. The yard was also left to its own natural devices and the usable portion is a fairly steep hill. We’re working on the interior first, but that leaves the hill to contend with these pre-arthritic knees (thank you, United States Navy) in the Georgia summer heat.

 

The Automower’s future stomping grounds. The steep incline will be a good test of its ability to handle hills.

 

We crafted a quick response and sent it off, not expecting to hear anything. As fate would have it, we did, and we were chosen for the Automower First Program. Husqvarna sent us one of their Automower 430x models, including installation. It’s smartphone controllable, roams the yard like a Roomba, and is supposedly quiet enough to run at night. Basically, it’s designed to maintain the yard 24/7.

I’m excited about this opportunity because it saves me from climbing this steep hill every week while manhandling a lawn mower, which will hopefully reduce the amount of pain in my knees. It also opens up time to continue the interior renovations, start work on the exterior (including a rebuild of the fence and the deck), and to map out the plans for terracing the yard. When the exterior work is done, we’ll have to call the Husqvarna installer again to re-run the guide wires, but that’s a small price to pay for a usable and enjoyable yard.

We get to keep the mower in exchange for five weeks of social media exposure detailing our adventures with this little buddy. That will take place on this blog (which feeds to the Facebook page, Twitter, Tumblr, and Google Plus), my personal Facebook profile, and my Instagram page. I am considering options to include my YouTube account as well, which would expand this ten-year audio podcast veteran’s horizons with the video front.

You can also track our progress and that of other people in the program by following the hashtags #Automower and #AutomowerFirst.