Premium vacuums help Chicago consumers keep it clean

Premium vacuums help Chicago consumers keep it clean

Curt Conklin of Chicago knows his vacuum costs about the same as an iPad or two premium box seats at a Cubs game, but his affection for the $550 German-made Miele remains unabated.

"Vacuums are not sexy things," he says. "I recognize it is difficult to imagine spending that much money on them, but I'm sold."

He's used it for 11 years on the carpet, rugs and hardwood in his 4,000-square-foot home, and he'll buy another Miele when this one dies, "which I don't think will be for another 10 years," he says.

That kind of longevity is one of the reasons people buy premium brands typically sold only at independent vacuum shops, says Mark Davis, president of highly rated Best Vacuum in Chicago and a 2010 Super Service Award winner.

In the world of vacuums, it's easy to provide good suction, Davis says. He recommends shoppers look beyond that. "It's about filtration, longevity, durability and the way the tools are designed for the flooring," he says.

Angie's List member Jeff Cheng chose a nearly $300 Dyson Slim to battle dog hair in his Chicago home. He likes the bagless design and says "it's great to drag it around with its slimmer size."

Davis sells Dyson, but says serious allergy sufferers should invest in bagged models, which do the best job of containing allergens. He recommends models that meet EN1822, a European standard that "guarantees the whole device is airtight," he says.

He disputes the Consumer Reports' vacuum emissions test because it gives high marks for machines that don't contain smaller particles, such as pollen. "What they have are vacuum cleaners that leak hundreds of millions of particles that they are equating with vacuums that leak virtually no particles," he says.

Bob Markovich, senior home editor for Consumer Reports, says the test uses wood flour (very fine sawdust), and it's repeatable and effective. "If it can capture those small particles, it can certainly capture a particle as small as an allergen," he says.

Floor type also affects vacuum performance. Roller brushes work well with dense pile carpet, but can damage looped wool or twisted nylon, Davis says.

Common vacuum problems include clogged filters, especially those in bagless machines because they must be removed and rinsed periodically. "Most people don't clean them, so when they come in they have to replace the filter," says Jim Byrne, owner of highly rated B & V Vacuums in Chicago. "They bought a machine for $59, $69 and they are shocked when I tell them the filter is $29."

Belts typically break when objects jam the roller brush, Davis says. "Vacuums are made for dust and debris," he says. "They aren't made for Legos and chew toys."

Cheng learned that the hard way when he sucked up a chunk of wood. He paid Best Vacuum about $75 to take the machine apart and clean it. "It was worth it," he says.

Both Davis and Byrne say they'll repair all types of machines, if possible. The cost for labor in the Chicago market ranges from $50 to $80 plus parts. For quick jobs like a belt replacement, Davis typically charges $5 to $10.

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