Saturday, July 3, 2010

The Vacuum Experiment

So anyone who's friends with me on Facebook is probably quite familiar with my vacuum dilemma. The one that we have is great except that it only runs for five to ten minutes at a time before the roller/brushes shut off. Then you have to turn the vacuum off and let it rest for a while before it will start to work again. It's a pain, but it still vacuums really well. The only problem is that now it takes me several hours to vacuum the whole house because I can only work for a few minutes before I have to stop. Buyers don't always give you a lot of lead time before they drop in to see the house. I've had as much as 24 hours to get ready, and as little as two minutes (ie, the Realtor called to request a showing FROM HER CAR PARKED IN MY DRIVEWAY). So it's important that I be able to vacuum the house quickly and at a moment's notice. After all, we do have a dog and two cats.

So after much deliberation, I finally convinced James to let me get a new vacuum cleaner. I really wanted to wait until after the move so we could leave the old one here and pick up a new one after getting into the new house, but things just didn't work out that way (nothing new). I'd seen an infomercial for a Shark Navigator (manufactured by Euro-Pro) and was quite impressed. It boasts a cyclonic-no-loss-of-suction capability that allegedly rivals a Dyson. Now I know that I'm a sucker for a good infomercial (especially the ones I watch early in the morning before the coffee has finished brewing), but I confess that the demonstrations I saw really were remarkable. The best part? The Shark Navigator can be bought at Walmart for $160 while the Dyson will cost you $400-$600. Yikes!

So I bought the Shark Navigator (I already have the cordless stick vac and LOVE it), went home, and decided to do a little experiment to compare the two side-by-side.

First, the incumbent: the Bissell Lift-Off Revolution Pet (purchased circa 2007?)

The Challenger: the Shark Navigator (purchased circa two hours ago)

The first difference I notice about the two is that the Bissell is much bigger and heavier. I'm too lazy to get out the scales and weigh the two for direct comparison, but suffice it to say that it takes two hands and significant effort to lift the Bissell while the Shark can be easily picked up with just one.

The second thing I notice is that the Bissell is much wider than the Shark (14" versus 11"). Obviously the wider the vacuum, the fewer passes it takes to clean a room. But that also makes the Bissell slightly harder to maneuver and limits the number of places it can be stored.

Next I noticed that the Bissell can be leaned back completely flat, making it easier to vacuum under my coffee and end tables. The Shark, however, only goes almost all the way back. I can fit it about halfway underneath my coffee table, so I'd have to vacuum under there from both ends. Not a huge problem, but a small annoyance.

Turning them both on, the Shark is definitely MUCH quieter than the Bissell and has a lower pitched sound. As someone who's hoping very much to bring a baby home soon, that's a pretty big deal.

So now for the fun part, the field test! The last time I vacuumed was two days ago. I selected the large open space in the middle of our living room as my testing area. I vacuumed one half of the area with the Bissell and one half with the Shark. The results are below:



The initial results look pretty similar. If I were working in a lab, I would have carefully weighed the debris from each dust cup. But I'm not, so I'll have to use anecdotal observations. The main difference I noticed was that the Shark picked up a lot more super fine dust than the Bissell did (hello allergens!). My mother-in-law is allergic to our two cats, so this is a big plus. And since no vacuum is perfect, the next thing I did was to let each vacuum check the other's work. So I used the Bissell to go over where the Shark had been and used the Shark to go over where the Bissell had been. Here's where you can really tell a difference in performance (in my opinion).

Bissell checking the Shark

Shark checking the Bissell

Look at the difference! And, again, the Shark picked up a lot more of the super fine dust that's buried deep in the fibers of the carpet. Gross! I'll admit that I'm mildly horrified that this was just two days after I vacuumed last. Ew.. and oops.

So the final conclusion is that, although the Shark is not perfect (ie, narrower rollers and does not fold back flat) it still does a much better job of vacuuming than the Bissell. Keep in mind, though, that my Bissell has been through a lot and has not been especially well cared for. We replaced the filter for the FIRST time just a few short weeks ago (oops). So these results may be more a reflection of age and wear-and-tear than inferior engineering and performance. Plus, I'm a little reluctant to give it up entirely because the new filter we bought for the Bissell is infused with Fabreze scent and makes the whole house smell great by the time I'm finished. That's pretty cool. But the big thing is that the Shark will allow me to clean the whole house all at one time. I need to be able to do that as long as we're showing the house, but I will especially need that once I'm back in school and we've got a little one to take care of. Who the heck can waste eight hours trying to vacuum??! Not me.


  1. That is awesome and VERY helpful! Having two labs in this tiny apartment (Oh how I miss our houses!!!), we are looking to replace our current vacuum with something that can keep up with these pups. Thanks Jenny!

  2. You are quite welcome, my dear. It was actually really fun.


I'd love to hear your thoughts on this.