Long time readers may recall my vacuum. I acquired my vacuum in 2003 when I realized that, you know, I had carpets and they were monumentally disgusting and I did not have access to a vacuum cleaner. We stuck together, my old vacuum and I. As appliances do, it started to get recalcitrant and cranky in its old age, but I managed to chivvy it along with new belts and filters. Every six months or so, I would break it down for a thorough cleaning.
It was a pretty solid vacuum, really. When you have animals, it’s kind of hard to find a vacuum that can withstand the conditions in your house, but the Hoover was a trouper. Even as the cord started to fray, it put in a good faith effort.
A few weeks ago, though, it became apparent that my life support was not working, and the Hoover was on its last legs. I’d been doing a bit of research on vacuums to prepare for this moment, but it was still a sad day when I noticed that it was making a disturbing whining noise as I vacuumed, while failing to pick up, uhm, anything.
My research process for buying new products goes like this:
- Recognize that I need to start thinking about buying a new product, usually months before said purchase needs to occur.
- Do a lot of research. Look up reviews, ask people for recommendations, see a physical model and test it, if possible, etc. Repeatedly ask friends for recommendations until they get tired of telling me what to buy.
- Come to the cusp of purchasing something, usually several times. (For example, I will go through all of the steps of an Internet order, and then not click “submit.”)
- Basically make an impulse purchase, buying the one product I didn’t research and test.
- Somehow manage to be completely happy with my purchase.
That’s pretty much how things started with the vacuum replacement, except that I noticed a number of trends during the course of doing vacuum research.
The first was that, as a general rule, vacuums seem to be either really cheap (comparatively speaking), or extraordinarily expensive. It’s $80-$120, or upwards of $400. And, you know, my philosophy is that I don’t have a problem with spending a lot of money on something if I know that it’s something that I am going to use and enjoy, and that it’s something that will hold up in the long term. I was not, in other words, opposed to paying over $400 for a vacuum, but I wanted some good solid information to back up my purchase to make me feel comfortable.
Which is where I ran into my next problem: It’s really hard to find good vacuum reviews. I can find reviews of new vacuums at sites like Consumer Reports which provide me with information about how vacuums work right out of the box, but that’s not actually the information I need. Pretty much all vacuums work at least reasonably well right out of the box. The question is not “will this vacuum function when I assemble it and use it for the first time,” it’s “will this vacuum still be working equally well in six years.”
And that’s a hard question to get answers to. I tend to be wary of consumer reviews on sites like Amazon, for a number of reasons ranging from the fact that reviewers give bad reviews when they get defective products instead of recognizing that, hey, defects happen, to the fact that most of these reviews focus, again, on out-of-the-box performance. (And also because Internet commenters are, well, I mean, I love you guys, my commenters, but comments/reviews on sites like Amazon, Yelp, etc, are pretty much horrific. They’re all people who just want someone to pay attention to them and they provide incredibly biased and often erroneous information.)
This led me to be faced with a tough choice: Should I buy a cheap vacuum and hope I can get something out of it, or should I bite the bullet and buy an extremely expensive luxury vacuum? Not knowing how either will perform in five years, I decided that the critical information I needed for my decisionmaking was information about warranties; basically, how long would I have to see if the vacuum really works before the company stops supporting it?
Hence, I ended up doing something rather unusual: I bought a product which I actually had researched, rather extensively.
I ended up buying a Dyson DC17 Animal. Dyson has a very good reputation as a manufacturer of high quality vacuum cleaners, and, more importantly, they have a five year warranty. I bought from the local Sears store, which is under new ownership, and they also have service/support. I felt like, given the information I had and the choices available, the Dyson was the best choice for me.
When I told people I bought a Dyson, I got one of two responses: “OMG I LOVE MY DYSON IT IS THE MOST AMAZING VACUUM EVER IT WAS THE BEST PURCHASE I EVER MADE YOU ARE GOING TO BE SO HAPPY” and “wait, you paid HOW MUCH for a vacuum?!?!?!?!”
So, for the benefit of people who may be weighing vacuum purchases in the future, I thought I’d have a little ongoing series on my new vacuum; every few months, I’ll do a brief checkin to let y’all know how well it’s performing, and whether or not I really think that the very high price tag was worth it.
Out of the box, I have to say that I am quite chuffed with my new vacuum. I went with the DC17 Animal because although it’s not as maneuverable as the Ball vacuum line from Dyson, the canister is larger, and it has more suction. The Animal also comes with a multitude of attachments (so many, in fact, that I have not yet had time to test them all out).
It took me a while to figure out how everything worked, but here’s a quick hit of the things I love about my new vacuum:
- The hose attachment, which you just pull out of the vacuum to use. This is a nice change from having to flip and move a bunch of things to get the hose attachment out, and it makes it a lot easier to hit all of the cracks and crevices because it’s not a big procedure to switch from the floor vac to the hose attachment.
- The suction. Holy Gods, the suction. This vacuum sucks like you would not believe. The day I brought it home, I had vacuumed earlier, but I felt compelled to test it out, and an unbelievable amount of gunk got sucked out of the carpet. The suction also stays strong all the way along the hose attachment, which means that I can really get under bookshelves and the bed and behind the fridge and so forth.
- The canister; it’s easy to open and clean, you just push a button and it pops open and ejects the contents. (Hint: Do not try to figure out how the canister works over the floor you just vacuumed. Do it over a garbage can.)
- The noise. The Dyson is actually a pretty quiet vacuum. The floor vacuum sometimes makes a noise like a cat getting ready to fight, but for the most part, it’s not very noisy. This is a marked change from the Hoover, which caused the whole house to rattle.
- Maneuverability; the Animal is heavy, but it moves very well. It kind of pushes itself along, and you can get some extreme angles with the handle when you are using the floor vacuum (I can even push the whole deal under the bed!). I don’t know how this vacuum would be to handle for folks with chronic fatigue and pain conditions, but it’s fairly easy for me to handle.
- It’s fun. It really is. I enjoy using my new vacuum a lot.
The cats, of course, hate it. Loki hisses and tries to bite it when I wheel it out of the closet, and Mr. Bell regards it with deep skepticism. I doubt that cat vacuuming will be occurring with the Dyson (honestly I’d be worried about hurting him with the suction, because it really is quite strong).