Buying a Vacuum Cleaner

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Buying a Vacuum Cleaner

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Kirby or ???

I am looking to buy a new vacuum cleaner. The one I have is my second one in only 12 years. Both are made mostly of plastic and have not stood up well. I am looking for advice on what to buy. I would like to buy one and be done for a few years.

I looked at a rebuilt Kirby. Are they worth the money? What about a Kenmore? Any help would be appreciated.
Lori M.

My Old Kirby

You asked about a rebuilt Kirby? I had an old Kirby upright which I "inherited" when my aunt died. Kirbys are built like tanks (and weigh about the same). The Kirby was wonderful, wonderful for carpeting. On the bare floor, however, the whirling brushes just "spit" any crumbs or kitty litter back at my ankles. (I suppose there are attachments, but I'm into vacuuming quickly and getting it over with.) If your home is carpeted wall-to-wall, I think the Kirby would be great. We have oriental rugs and hardwood floor, a combination that challenged the Kirby.

Eventually I decided it was time for a new vacuum. I wanted one that could go from carpet to bare floor without having to change attachments. After researching various brands, I bought a Miele canister vacuum. I've had it 2 years and am very happy with it. The power head pulls lots of dirt from the rugs, yet is capable of cleaning bare floor without "spitting it back!" It's very powerful and also lightweight and compact. I bought the low-end model, the Flamenco.

Any drawbacks? Yes. The disposable dust bag is quite small and you could spend a lot of money buying boxes of expensive bags at the local vacuum store. I buy mine off the web, several boxes at a time, from A.A.Moley. A few months ago, Moley told me about a cloth bag that you can empty and re-use, which should last about 2 years with frequent use. I now use that one, it works fine, and has saved me a considerable amount over the disposable bags. The cloth bag, however, does not have the fine filtering capability (i.e., for allergy sufferers) that the disposable bag boasts. One other drawback is that the Flamenco II, being the most compact model, does not have room for the dusting attachment on board (the crevice tool and upholstery tool do store on board, however). On the larger Mieles, all the attachments are stored on board. This is not a particular hardship as I wear an apron with pockets to hold the dust brush. Or sometimes I just use the feather duster.

Anyway, I've been very pleased with the Miele. If however, you have a home with wall-to-wall carpet everywhere, I think the Kirby would be excellent.
Tina S.

Professional Likes Oreck

Iam a professional housecleaner and have used several different kinds through the years. I now use the 7lb Oreck and find it does a great job. It's so light, but picks up everything a heavy duty one would. I've had my Oreck for 3 years now, it's really been through the mill with my many houses I clean and is still going strong. It does not have the cumbersome attachments on board...for that I use the separate small vacuum that comes with the Oreck. I highly recommend it.
Deanna P.

Advice from the Repair Shop

I have been in the vacuum cleaner business for over 10 years and there is no such thing as a perfect vacuum. (My opinion) It all depends on what you need the vacuum for, and who is going to use it.

Do you prefer an upright or a canister? Do you plan to vacuum bare floors / rugs - both - do you plan on dusting furniture, stairs, a car, shampooing rugs, inflating an air mattress or drying your hair? What features are important to you?

The more features you get the more that can go wrong, and the cost does not clean any better. (Cord winder, variable speed, head lights, dust sensors.) Is filtration quality important to you? How loud it is? How heavy is it? How hard is it to change the bag? Do you need a screw driver and a masters degree to change the belt? Who will help you if you have a problem? (And how much will it cost and how long will it take?)

Do not worry about amperage. It just tells you how much electricity your vacuum will use. The most amperage a vacuum in the U.S. can have is 12 Amps. Some companies use the term "21 amps of cleaning power". It does not mean the vacuum uses 21 amps. Your house is only wired for 15 amps!

On a canister vacuum look at the quality of the hose [ Are they easily crushed, and expensive to replace? ] Do they have good suction, (Putting your hand over the end of the hose,) and air flow (Sticking your finger into the hose and feeling the air move around pulling it in.) Air flow is what picks up the dirt from the floor.

On an Upright, the major complaint is they do not reach under furniture. Please look at how an upright vacuum works, not just how it cleans. Many of the upright vacuums have a system in which the dirt is taken from the floor and blown up into the bag. Thus a penny could break the impeller of the vacuum ($35.00 and up to repair) Price is not what you look for in finding a quality vacuum. (Kirby [$1800.00], Hoover Elite [$80.00], both have a "dirt hits the fan" system. We have enough that hits the fan in life, lets not have the vacuum do it too.

Also, when it comes to the bagless vacuums, please check on the continued cost. Just because you do not have to buy vacuum bags does not mean that you have no cost. Some of the filters cost as much as 79.95. (Recommended to be changed at least once a year.) A dose of Talc powder (Carpet Fresh, ash, or sheet rock dust) will clog them instantly.

I prefer Sharp brand upright vacuums. They work great on dog hair, easy to change bags, and for the most part easy to change belts. (Their weak spot is their handle release petal so if it is treated rough it can break.) I have been selling Sharp and Panasonic Uprights for the past 10 years and have had very few problems. They have a clean air or bypass system. (The dirt gets in the bag before the air gets to the vacuum motor.) Also attachments are easy to use and there are models that can be used to clean bare floors and cars. The vacuums have lasted 5 to 10 years so far, and range in cost from $175 and up.

If you have allergies, own your own home, and are willing to spend about $1,000.00, a central vacuum may be for you. Many central vacuums have self cleaning filters, and can be exhausted outside. Thus no dust is released indoors. It is much better the Hepa or any other filter system. The Central vacuum also will have a more powerful motor than the other vacuums. Central vacuums are a long term investment in your home. Every 10 years or so you may have to replace the carbon brushes in the motor, but that is about it for continuing costs. ($12.00 parts) The main complaint regarding Central vacuums is lugging the 28 to 32 ft hose around.

Check sale prices for Central Vacuum Systems on Amazon.

Remember there is no perfect vacuum. Unless someone else vacuums when you are not a home.
Ralph Wakeman
owner -
Fix-It Small Appliance Repair
Edinburg, VA 22824

The Research Shows...

I did my homework on vacuum cleaners just last year. After researching the consumer reports magazine, which recommended the Eureka Megaboss, I decided to test it out, as I was originally convinced that the Phantom was the best.

The Phantom was $299.99, with on board attachments. The wheels were large, and the whole thing was a whopping 21lbs. The suction seemed good, but it was very bulky for those hard to reach places, like corners. It also promoted a clean air filter, which is nice, but once the container is opened to empty it, all of the pollutants are released.

The Eureka was $99.99, with a free Stickbroom with on board attachments. It was 17 lbs. This vacuum was the consumer reports recommended "Best Buy." I determined that the suction on this vacuum was better than the Phantom, by testing the two vacuum cleaners around my litter boxes. The Phantom took approximately 7 swipes to completely clean the sand around the outside of the litterbox. The Eureka only took 3 swipes. I was sold!
J. H. of Newport, RI

Likes Electrolux

I have had an Electrolux vacuum cleaner for 24 years. It is still working, my girlfriend bought a Kirby (more expensive) at the same time and hers bit the dust 14 years ago, she then bought a Kenmore, and it too is now gone.
Chris B.

Rainbow Cleans Best

A Rainbow is the best, I had one and I traded my daughter for hers. I miss the Rainbow, use it with water and you will never have dust and later your house really feels clean and it is simple to use. A little work with the water situation but it is worth it. My house was very clean and now I feel the dust. I will have to borrow it. The Rainbow is very expensive, but worth it.

Negotiate Price

Yes, the Kirby's are worth it. However, the price is negotiable. Don't pay full price. The Kirby dealer came to my door and in a weak moment I let them in. I had just thoroughly vacuumed and shampooed my living room with my Electrolux, which is also a good brand (and good value when you buy used.)

Anyway, they demonstrated and I was amazed (and disgusted) at what came up. I also knew my husband would have a fit when he saw the price ($1600). But the salesperson insisted I try it and reminded me I had three days to return it if I changed my mind or my husband objected. I was very upfront and said there was a 99% chance he would object. They sold me anyway.

I was right, my husband was not happy in the least. But we both figured we would try it out and get some use out of it. I vacuumed like crazy. I shampooed the whole house---again. It was wonderful! I never thought I could be in love with a vacuum but it made the job so much more pleasant.

On the second day I send a return receipt registered letter to the salesperson stating I needed to return the machine. I also complimented their product. I truly was happy with the results.

They contacted me several days later and made an appointment to pick up the machine. When they arrived however they were prepared to deal. They gave me the machine for 50% off the original asking price! Of course they asked me not to tell but that was nearly 8 years ago.

After eight years, I've found some things I'm dissatisfied with but overall I still enjoy vacuuming with the Kirby. I continue to believe the product is worth every penny I paid and the bags are very good at filtering dust.

Would I pay full price? No. But if you can deal on the price, the Kirby is your best bet.
Deb M.

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