While bagless vacuum cleaners, which we cover elsewhere in this report, are great for their convenience, many people feel that they simply can't match the cleaning and air-filtering performance of bagged vacuum cleaners. A vacuum with a bag offers one extra layer of filtration that allergy sufferers, or anyone who wants cleaner air, can appreciate. You also don't have to empty a bag as often as you have to dump a canister -- something that, in itself, many worry could reintroduce microscopic dust particles and allergens to the air
Kenmore is a well-respected name in all types of appliances, and vacuums are no exception, which is why it comes as no surprise that the Kenmore Elite 31150 (Est. $300) rises to the top for this update. The 31150 is at or near the top of every expert and professional test we reviewed, earning a lot of praise for its super suction. In one professional test the Kenmore earns an Excellent for bare floors, and a Very Good for carpet, but Jonathan Chan at Reviwed.com praises its performance on both surfaces. Owners agree, saying this is by far the most powerful vacuum they've ever owned and that it's no match for any mess, fine or chunky.
The Kenmore 31150 is a terrific choice for asthma or allergy sufferers because of its integrated HEPA filter system, which keeps small particles like pollen and other irritants in the bag (or filter) and out of the air. Again, in that same test, the 31150 earns an Excellent for emissions. The replacement bags are highly affordable too, just look for the Kenmore 53292 HEPA Vacuum Bags (Est. $10 for a 2-pack).
One thing almost everyone loves about the Kenmore Elite 31150 is the dirt sensor. It's an LED light that glows when it's still sensing, and picking up, dirt and debris, and goes off when it's done. This is a great way to be sure you've gotten your carpet as deeply clean as possible. Other than that, the accessory list is fairly standard -- a telescoping wand, pet hair attachment, crevice tool and four-position pile-height adjustment. The 35 foot cord manually wraps around the cord hooks.
We did see a few quibbles about the Kenmore 31150, but an examination of two of those issues sort of makes them non-issues. First, experts say it's pretty noisy. However, as we've seen over and over with anything that makes noise, that's in the ear of the beholder. While some owners say it's loud as heck, we saw plenty of reviewers describe it as quiet. Second, it's considered heavy, but, when you compare it to other top-rated bagged vacuums, it's no heavier than most comparable vacuums. Yes, you can get a lighter vacuum, and you should if you need to haul it up and down the stairs or have strength issues, but a heavy-duty vacuum like the Kenmore 31150 is what you'll want for the deepest clean.
And, speaking of heavy vacuums, our former Best Reviewed bagged vacuum, the 22-poiund Miele Dynamic U1 Twist (Est. $450), is still a great choice for a lot of people. In expert reviews its right up there with, or close to, the Kenmore. A variety of factors this go-round dropped it to runner up status: newer test and reviews that give the Kenmore the edge, more durability (and customer service) complaints regarding the Miele, and, of course, the price.
Still the Miele U1 offers easy-to-change filtration bags with a large capacity, so they don't have to be replaced very often. However, HEPA filtration doesn't come standard but an optional HEPA filter is available, the Miele AirClean 3D Efficiency Dust Bag (Est. $20). Some retailers even offer specials with a package deal that includes a HEPA filter. Miele vacuums can be found online, but you'll get the best deals if you shop at a brick-and-mortar store that is an authorized Miele dealer.
A good array of included accessories adds to the Miele's versatility, such as an extra-long crevice tool, dusting brush and upholstery tool. It also features an automatic pile-height adjustment, four levels of suction power, a 12-foot hose and telescoping wand. Combined with a long, 39-foot power cord, it can reach just about anywhere you may need to clean.
Where the Miele gets its biggest raves is for its extreme maneuverability. Its swiveling technology helps it navigate around furniture, counters, corners and other tight spaces. Its 12-inch cleaning head is considered a plus, helping it to get into narrower spaces where larger vacuums can't fit. Where it gets its biggest complaints is in durability; we saw more complaints of problems with this vacuum than with the Kenmore, and many owners say it's a hassle to find, and often a distance to drive to, a service center for repairs.
Hoover is another well-known name in vacuum cleaners, and we saw excellent reviews for the Hoover Platinum UH30010COM (Est. $250). Owners rave about its performance on both hardwood and carpeted floors, and say it's an amazing value for all of the features it includes. One of the favorite accessories it includes is a small, lightweight canister vacuum that reviewers say is perfect for baseboards, upholstery and dusting ceiling fans.
Unlike the Miele, but like the Kenmore, the Hoover has standard HEPA filtration. This requires HEPA dust bags, the Hoover Type I HEPA Bag AH10005 (Est. $8 for a pack of 2) The Hoover also has a full bag indicator that users like. This vacuum is significantly lighter than the Miele or the Kenmore, at just 11.4 pounds, and it earns accolades from owners for its maneuverability. It includes a crevice tool, dusting brush and upholstery tool, although they're stored on the canister vacuum, not the upright vacuum itself. Some owners say this is an inconvenience when you need an attachment while using the upright.
The Hoover has a 35-foot cord and an automatic height adjustment. However, it lacks an on/off switch for the brushroll; rather, you're supposed to use the bare floor attachment with the canister, it's included, but some users say that's less convenient than just being able to vacuum directly from carpet to bare floor with a simple flip of a switch or knob.
If you're really on a tight budget, we have a couple of other Hoovers to recommend, both at the lower end of the price range in this category. The Hoover T-Series UH30310 (Est. $120) is a top-performer in one professional test, even beating out vacuums that cost much more, earning an Excellent for bare floors and pet hair, a Very Good for carpet. It's HEPA-certified and, in that same test, earns an Excellent for emissions.
Users love the Hoover T-Series, saying it's extremely easy to use, thanks to its one touch bag system that doesn't require the fiddling of some other uprights, it also has a bag full indicator, so you know when to make that change. The brushroll features an on/off switch so you can move seamlessly from carpet to bare floor and there are five height adjustments for various floor/carpet types. There aren't a lot of included accessories -- just a crevice tool and pet hair/upholstery tool -- but the latter gets a lot of love, and most say you don't need any more than those basics. The hose is 12-feet long, the cord is 30-feet long, and the cleaning path is a generous 13.5 inches.
If you want to make even fewer passes with your vacuum, check out the Hoover Tempo WidePath U5140900 (Est. $100). It lives up to its name with a wide 15-inch cleaning path to get the job done more quickly. It comes with two extension wands, an upholstery tool, crevice tool and dusting brush for various cleaning tasks. The dust bags are made of allergen filtration media, but are not HEPA-certified.
With easy-to-use controls, including a manual pile-height adjustment, the Hoover Tempo WidePath can be used on both carpets and hard flooring surfaces. Thousands of owners posting feedback to Amazon.com say it's an excellent value for the low price, although many feel it's not as effective on carpets as higher-end vacuums. It has a shorter power cord than the Hoover Platinum, at just 25 feet, although most users don't seem to mind. It's very loud, users say, and some say it feels cheap and flimsy.
The Hoover Tempo WidePath is backed by a limited, one-year warranty. Owners say its belts break frequently, it tends to eat throw rugs, and it starts to break down after a few months of use. Others, however, have owned this model for a few years with no problems, and say it's just a matter of learning its "quirks."
Elsewhere in this report: