Wednesday, March 15, 2006

CONSUMER REPORTS: Don't get sucked in by trendy vacuums

By the editors of Consumer Reports

Carpets and floors remain a vacuum cleaner's most important challenges. Most upright vacuums are better than canister models for carpets. They also typically cost less and are easier to store.
Canisters, meanwhile, tend to be better for cleaning drapes, upholstery and under furniture, and are more stable on stairs.
After years of testing both kinds of vacs, Consumer Reports has come across a couple of canisters that excel at carpet and floor cleaning, while providing the reach that defines the breed.
At $940, the Sebo air belt C3.1 is one of the costlier canisters tested, yet it doesn't include such conveniences as a switch to turn the brush off (a plus on bare floors and delicate rugs) or manual pile adjustment for carpets.
For considerably less, the Kenmore Progressive 25914 ($500, from Sears) includes both those features. And it rated highest among all vacuums -canisters and uprights- in the magazine's most recent tests.
For even greater savings on a canister, consider the Kenmore Progressive 25614. It scored slightly lower than its brandmate in overall performance, but at just $350 (from Sears) it qualifies as a CR Best Buy.
If you're like most vacuum buyers, however, you'll prefer an upright. Upright vacs are about as apt to have a bag these days as not. CR tests show that models with bags tend to hold more than bagless vacs and create less dust when they're emptied. CR also found that self-propelled uprights ease pulling and pushing- a consideration if your arms aren't strong.
Among high-scoring uprights, the top-rated Hoover WindTunnel Self Propelled Ultra U6439-900 ($250) is both bagged and easy on the arms. It excelled in tests on floors and carpets, and bested all other vacs in how well it cleans with tools.
Trading some suction with tools for less noise, the bagged Eureka Boss Smart Vac Ultra 4870 is a very good performer that -at just $140- qualifies as a CR Best Buy. Another quieter upright model, the Kenmore Progressive with Direct Drive 34922 ($300, from Sears) is better with tools than the Eureka, but slightly poorer on carpets.
Each of these uprights weighs in the neigborhood of 20 pounds. If you want a lighter machine, consider the Riccar SupraLite RRSL3 ($330). It's just 9 pounds but does not accept tools and has few features.
To lighten the impact on your wallet, you might look to two very good inexpensive models from the tests. The bagless upright Bissell Cleanview II 3576-1 ($80) is noisy, but an excellent performer on floors and carpets. The GE 106766 canister ($150, from Wal-Mart) has a bag, but it must be changed frequently.
These down-to-earth machines defy a recent trend among major brands to market vacuums that could have starred in the latest "Star Wars" flick. Sanyo, for example, offers the robotically styled Dirt Hunter SC-F1201 ($150), an upright that looks as aggressive as its name. Yet high-tech doesn't guarantee high performance around the house - the Dirt Hunter scored poorly in our ratings.
And while its large caster impressed some male testers, women found Dyson's new DC15 The Ball All Floors upright ($600) tiring and hard to control.
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That said, we find that Dyson makes the only no non-sense bagless machine worth looking at: The dirt container holds a lot, is fun to watch (seriously!) and does not create a dust storm when being emptied. We have not tried "The Ball All Floors" but if the new [wheel] don't do the trick, stick to their first ground breaking fun cleaning machine, which does come in a variety of wild electric colors, with performance to match, and all the space age flexibility a housekeeper could possibly wish for.
The machine which has consistently blown our socks off though, no matter what the age or its model number is the Swiss German made "Miele". A bit too thoughtful at times, the Miele people have produced an intelligent machine which really tries hard to get around corners with grace, effortlessly hopping from carpet to bare floors and unto furniture with rarely more than one or two clicks of a button/or tenuous accessory change.
Oreck deserve a special mention, since most Oreck owners swear by them; Oreck's sale support seems to be its most valued properties, and badly does it need it too. Once the Oreck is a few years old, it seems to loose all interest in properly sucking up dirt/or working at all. We like its light weight and maneuvrability, and the fact that it comes with the handheld hose, a small, altogether independent machine that gets slung around the shoulder and which far outweighs its bigger brother in performance and durability.
We have however witnessed the slow death of too many of these machines not to want to stick a warning label on all of them.
- The House, a most assuredly qualified consumer of vacuuming goods.