Posted by: hagengreen | February 6, 2011

These are a few of my favorite things: Vacuums

Part 2 in the series of “my favorite things” is vacuums. That’s an odd topic. Yes, you’re right, it is. But there’s a good reason behind it. The latest addition to our vacuum arsenal is a game changer in several ways that is definitely worth spreading the word about… best of all, what if I told you that you’d rarely need to vacuum again? Too good to be true? Read on.

There are many vacuums out there. If you go online and search for them you’ll clearly see there are plenty of options. I’ve owned two vacuums in my life: a WindTunnel Hoover upright and, before that, a little yellow $50 vac from Costco. (Quick story on little yellow: it broke after 3 years, and took it back to Costco so they can help me recycle it; they also unexpectedly gave me a full refund!) I’ve never had a problem keeping my homes clean, but the amount of time and energy to keep them fully clean is a different story. Do you find that you spend at least an hour a week cleaning your house? Having a hard (or even impossible) time getting to those really hard-to-reach places like under dressers and beds? I know I did. Again, all this has changed for me.

I never took a bite into the Oreck or Dyson vacuums. Not that the $300+ dollar price point of the elegant Dyson didn’t immediately scream “overpriced” or the persistent commercials of good ol’ David Oreck with his flyweight “8 lb vacuum” not convince me on the spot. I’m sure those vacuums are wonderful. But for some reason I wasn’t convinced. I was looking for something different. Not just a better cleaner, but a better way to clean. Not evolutionary, but revolutionary.

I know many people that have an iRobot Roomba and swear by it. The combination of a robot and vacuum is an ingenious idea that caught on a couple of years ago. iRobot has clearly made a killing on this business. They essentially revolutionized the cleaning of one’s place of dwelling. Not only does the Roomba slide under beds and dressers, but it’ll do that all on its own! This is the holy grail of home cleaning. Never clean again? Well, almost. “Roomba” has nearly become yet another brand name in our everyday vocabulary like “Kleenex” or “Q-Tips”. While the Roomba changed the game, they aren’t without their design and quality problems.

  1. Roomba physically bumps into things to know where it can’t go. Not only is the sound of nearly constant collisions annoying, but your poor furniture and walls!
  2. Roomba vacuums the same spot up to 7 times. Yeah, that one spot gets really clean, but it’s overkill and inefficient.
  3. Piggybacking on the previous point, vacuuming a single room can take over an hour.
  4. Roomba can only vacuum one room at a time. To add other rooms without human intervention, you need to buy $40 towers – one per room.
  5. Most Roombas need human intervention to charge them – which is a constant affair.
  6. The deep dirty cleaning ability of Roombas is good, but not first class.
  7. Last, but definitely not clean, is the long-term durability of the Roomba itself. It’s quite common for folks to go through more than one, two, and even three! Talk about an addiction! You can read all about these poor folks right here.

Now, let me welcome you to Neato. Wait a second, how is this NOT a Roomba? That’s easy:

  1. Neato uses a nearly-360 degree laser mapping system to “see” the room. Look before you leap. Neato rarely bumps into objects as it goes about its business. The system works in any lighting (or lack of lighting) conditions.
  2. Per the previous point, Neato vacuums efficiently by going over any spot no more than a couple times. That means it’s done cleaning nearly 2 rooms by the time your old Roomba finishes one.
  3. Given Neato’s size, it can more effectively get into corners than the Roomba. Last time I checked, square fits into a typical wall corner better than round.
  4. Neato’s vacuum sounds like a jet engine as it warms up, yet not obnoxiously loud. This thing picks up almost as good as my 12amp WindTunnel upright. In fact, Neato cleans so well we end up not needing to dust as often. Without dirt under beds and dressers, the amount of dusting is much less than before – there’s just less junk sitting around to get kicked up into the air.
  5. You can schedule Neato to clean automatically while you’re away. It’s like hiring someone to clean while you aren’t home. The cost of the vacuum amortizes itself over time.
  6. Neato recognizes the space its in and partitions it into sections which is usually a whole room, or a big block if it’s a large space. No need to carry around the vacuum anymore. Neato takes care of our house all on its own.
  7. When it’s “tired”, Neato knows how to get back to the charger and hook itself up all on its own. When Neato is full, it “cries” and tells you to empty its bin. When it’s tangled too much hair in its brush, it’ll let you know it’s overloaded and to clean the brush out (which is really easy to do). Neato tells you when it needs help, otherwise it is an autonomous machine!
  8. Smart design. This is an important point. I call this out because Neato has lost its “robotic-ness” and machine-like qualities. It has a very human-like nature in communicating with the user. For example, when the bin is full, it says so in a casual tone on its easy-to-read screen. Neato delivers an emotional component that few other products can – an example for many of you is the iPhone (a better example is a Windows Phone Smile).

Neato XV-11 is the product of a startup in the SF Bay area – but don’t let that scare you. It’s a great product and they stand behind it 100%.

Ok, now to be fair and balanced, now time for the downsides:

  1. Price. Yes, it’s expensive. I know I complained about the expensive upright vacuums above, so it’s hypocritical that I spent what I did on Neato. Thanks to my mother-in-law’s Roomba, my wife pushed me to get the same. After some research and careful consideration, I judged the extra money spent on Neato would be well worth it. I was right. It’s just unbelievable how much dirt Neato picks up every time. We vacuum several times per week, but it somehow keeps picking up more! I sense a conspiracy theory: Neato comes with a hidden bin filled with dirt that it pulls from to make the purchaser think it’s picking up much more than it really is!! Honestly, this vacuum is absolutely amazing in its ability to clean. If you aren’t convinced, just look at the picture right here. This is NOT unusual! Ok, how did this point turn from a negative to a positive? Oh yeah, the money is worth it.
  2. It can’t climb stairs. You still need a regular vacuum to clean stairs, so don’t get rid of it just yet. I’m hopeful one day Neato Robotics will release a “stair kit” that allows Neato to cover the whole house without our intervention.
  3. Corners and edges. While Neato gets really close, there’s still some to be desired. You’ll want an upright with a hand-piece to get into the 1″ gap that Neato leaves in its wake.
  4. You’ll still need a regular vacuum for specific messes when you spill things like rice or flour. Or if you’re trying to lift a carpet stain. The Neato isn’t an upright vacuum replacement, but rather a replacement for 90% of your regular vacuuming.

I am not endorsed by Neato Robotics, I’m just a satisfied customer looking to spread the word on how it:

  1. Dramatically cut down on the time and effort I put into cleaning.
  2. Helps my family breathe cleaner air.
  3. Makes me sleep better.

Now for the commercial. Enjoy. Smile

I’m not the only one. Check out some of these reviews for yourself:

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