Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Best Vacuum I Could Find

SEBO X4 - the best vacuum I could find.
A while back, I wrote a post about the best medium-duty shredder I could find. The moral of that story was that I was tired of burning out the motors on cheap shredders or sitting in front of them feeding one sheet at a time, so I spent a little more on a better quality shredder. I ended up with a powerful little machine that destroys junk mail like a savage, shreds 12 sheets at a time and has been doing an incredible job of protecting me from ID theft for over four years now. By paying more for a quality applicance, I actually saved myself money in the long run and it really cemented my philosophy that you should be prepared to pay up for a quality appliance. Buying one well-made (and likely costlier) product that you don't have to replace is ultimately cheaper than buying five cheap ones, and it is also so much more satisfying to use.

At the end of that post, I mentioned that the next appliance I had on my radar for an upgrade was my vacuum. There are few appliances as basic and essential to a clean, hygenic dwelling place than a vacuum.

My old vacuum was a piece of junk bagless upright. I threw it out a while back and I don't remember the exact model name or number, but it was a sub-$100 model similar to the Dirt Devil UD40285 Featherlite Bagless Upright.

It was great at first. Nice suction, always worked, had shiny new parts and attachments. But after a few months, it started getting on my nerves. It seemed to have a weak motor and wouldn't pick up the little stray pieces of lint and string I could see in my carpet. I felt like I was following my vacuum around picking up whatever it missed.

It was also a major pain to clean. When I bought my previous vacuum, I didn't give it too much thought. I figured it would be great to get a vacuum without bags because I'd save on the price of buying new ones when the old ones filled up. I figured when the dirt container got full, I would just dump it in the garbage, put it back in the vacuum, and get back to cleaning up. Right?


The dirt reservoir was an incredible pain in the neck. Cleaning it made me feel like Mike Rowe in an episode of "dirty jobs." After you've tired yourself out by vaccuming (in my case moving furniture out of the way to get under tables and chairs), you bring this container chock full of dust over to the garbage can, turn it upside down, and watch as a mushroom cloud of dust rises from the can, putting the stuff you just took out of the carpet back into the air in tiny, microscopic particles. I tried everything to keep the dust down when cleaning out the container- putting it inside its own plastic bag, emptying it really slowly, covering the garbage can as quickly as possible... but nothing I did got rid of the fact that cleaning the vacuum put the dust back into the air.

Not to mention the fact that it was impossible to get the entire container clean. Dust stuck EVERYWHERE inside the vacuum, on the sides of the reservoir, in the little mesh cover at the bottom of the intake, on the underside of the lid... it was dust city inside that thing and the problem only got worse over time.

The vacuum also had a cheap belt which started slipping after about 6 months of normal use. For those of you who have had a vaccum with a slipping belt you'll know what that meant- burnt rubber smell every time you use the vacuum.

I began to dread vacuuming and I cursed that machine every time I laid eyes on it.

I finally gave up and began looking for a replacement. I wanted something like my shredder- a quality workhorse. I was willing to pay whatever it took (within reason) to get an animal of a vacuum. I figured if I had to replace a $100 vacuum every year, I could pay $800 to $1000 for a quality machine that would last me 8-10 years, and I would have a cleaner house and less stress in the meantime.

After doing a lot of research online, I realized a few things. The first is blasphemous because I'm writing this post on Google's excellent blogger platform and I think the company does amazing things, but I realized that when you are trying to research a consumer product, google search results are becoming pretty bad. I'm not going to get into it, but I think that link sums up the problem pretty well.

Once I got around that issue, one name keep coming up again and again when I looked for a quality vacuum. Yes, it was expensive, but it seemed like everyone who touched it raved about it.

That vacuum? The SEBO Automatic X4.

You can check this vacuum out elsewhere on the web. I've found a targeted search for the Automatic X4 brings up a lot more useable results than just looking up "vacuum cleaner reviews," due to the issue with the google mentioned above.

I've used this vacuum for over a year now and I have to say it has been awesome. In no particular order, I'll tell you what I like about it:
  1. The bags- gone are the days of fighting with my wife over who has to clean out the vacuum. The bags are great, they hold a lot of dirt, and I havent found the need to replace them very often. (I used 2 this year).
  2. The power- this vacuum sucks up everything my old vacuum missed, partly due to the motor and partly due to....
  3. The automatic height adjustment- when you turn on the X4, a little green light goes on that says it is either raising or lowering the height of the vacuum according to the floor it is sitting on. This ensures that the rotating brush is at the ideal height to agitate the carpet and knock loose any dust, dirt, paper, pet hair etc... so it gets sucked out of the carpet and into the bag.
  4. The engineering- there are so many little design elements of this German made vacuum that show you someone put a lot of thought into it. For starters, the entire brush comes out with the click of one button. This makes it incredibly easy to clear off all of the hair and string that accumulate on a vacuum roller brush over time. There is also something called the "instant use wand" that I've found very convenient for getting into tight spots without messing around with external attachments. You just grab a handle on the vacuum and pull it out, then when you're finished with the space behind the computer or on your baseboards, you put it right back in to reactivate the main unit.
  5. It lays completely flat- I've never had a vacuum that went completely flat before and it has been handy in a number of situations, particularly when vacuuming under furniture.
  6. It works great on carpets as well as hard floors- I think this is because of the automatic adjustment. It goes from my livingroom to my kitchen without a hitch.
  7. The belt has a lifetime warranty- the belt, the part that transfers twisting power from the motor to the brush, is guaranteed for life. If it ever slips, smells, or breaks, I know I can get it fixed for free from a Sebo dealer (and surprisingly enough there is a dealer pretty close to me. I'd never heard of SEBO before so I figured it would't be easy to find.) I think part of the reason they are able to offer this warranty on the belt is because it has an automatic shutoff feature. For example, if you suck up the power cord from your computer and it jams up the roller, the sebo will detect this and shut it down. I think that other (ie cheap) vacuums would overheat or strip the belt when this happened. 
  8. Overall durability- this is not the prettiest vacuum on the market. In fact, I have the blue model and it looks almost antiquated. It doesn't look like a spaceship with the Dyson ball inside of a clear, futuristic-looking case, but it is extremely well made and I think it is going to last for a long time.
  9. It works- even though I've devoted a lot of words to this review, vacuuming isn't something I like to think about very much. When you have a vacuum that doesn't pick up all of the dirt, or smells funny, or is hard to push around, or takes a lot of time to adjust on the fly, it becomes a small, but unnecessary source of stress. I don't have to fight with this vacuum. Plain and simple, it does the job and creates a clean home for me and my family.
I've been trying to think of some negatives about this vacuum and I'm not coming up with much. However, here is what I dislike about it sofar:
  1. Looks- as mentioned above, the X4 is not the most attractive appliance I've ever owned, but I really don't care how it looks. It sits in the closet when not in use.
  2. Replacing bags- this will cost money over time, but as I discussed at length above, I think the cost is minimal and vastly preferable to fighting with a bagless.
  3. Takes time for the height to adjust-  if you go from a hard floor to a carpet, you will have to wait a bit before you start vacuuming. Not a big issue, but something to keep in mind.
  4. The price- Make no mistake, this is an expensive vacuum. However I think in the long run it costs less to buy a high quality appliance like this than a bunch of cheap ones that will have to be replaced over time.
Overall, I've been very happy with this purchase, and even though I've only had it for a bit over a year, I'd highly recommend you consider it the next time you want to buy a vacuum. I'll post updates over time to let you know how it has been holding up. If you have any other comments (good or bad) please feel free to leave a comment.

Happy vacuuming.