Dishing the dirt on Dyson

9 Jul

This impressive mound was collected by the Dyson in about 90 seconds, from one 5’ by 8’ area rug. No cans of soup were harmed in the making of this photo.

July 9, 2007

By Geoff Meeker 

You’ve seen the commercials, with the suave James Dyson pitching his newfangled vacuum cleaner.

He is convincing when he says, “I just think things should work right.” But the more persuasive the ad, the more skeptical I become.

Speaking of skeptical, I know what you’re thinking: ‘A vacuum cleaner? In a technology column? What will he review next – an egg beater?’

Well, I might if someone came up with a truly brilliant one. Technology, as I’ve said before, is about that which makes life easier. The telephone, for instance, was invented well over a century ago, yet the latest version of it – the iPhone – is the technology story of the year.

Okay, so could a vacuum cleaner be cool as an iPhone?

Perhaps so, if you have plenty of carpet, pets that shed and herds of dust bunnies marauding about the house.

Our old Hoover upright finally gave up the ghost and I was back in the market for a new machine. The Hoover had never done a spectacular job. Nor had the Eureka central vac before it, or the Kenmore before that. They were sort of adequate, I suppose, but left the impression that vacuum cleaners were really a conspiracy hatched by the Ministry of Fitness to give our arms more exercise.

In his commercial, James Dyson complains that other vacuums didn’t work properly – no argument there – then claimed that his works so much better. This lofty claim is based on Dyson’s patented Root Cyclone technology, which uses centrifugal force to create suction. The Dyson is bagless, which is smart (if it works), and there are no belts in the power nozzle, another plus (belts break easily and can be hard to replace). There is a built-in hepa filter which allegedly expels allergy-safe clean air.  It looks great and has been exhibited at several museums, including the Museum of Modern Art in San Francisco.

Okay, so they had my attention. I did then what I usually do when contemplating a major purchase – went to epinions.com and did a product search. This turned up more than 500 reviews of the Dyson submitted by regular folk (though you can bet there are a few plants in there). Without exception, the reviews for all models were stellar, with no less than four stars and sometimes five.

I narrowed my search down to the DC14; a canister model, not an upright, with a smaller head that makes it easier to vacuum under furniture. I shopped around and Future Shop had the best price at $539, along with a decent return policy in case I didn’t like it, so they earned my business.

Now, the moment of truth. We have a small area rug in our living room, measuring 5 feet by 8 feet. It has been vacuumed every week since we bought it, more than a year ago. There was dirt in the bag each time we vacuumed, so we assumed the old clunker was doing its job. However, it was useless on pet hair – a trait I had observed in other vacuums – so I also cleaned the carpet by hand, with a lint brush. I had done this just the day before, and wasn’t expecting to be impressed.

My first observation was the quiet operation. After all the hype, I was expecting it to howl like a jet engine. Then I noted how the power nozzle chewed down into the carpet like a cat into tuna fish. It moved smoothly, but had a resistance that was strangely reassuring. After about 30 seconds I glanced back at the transparent canister, which – to my total surprise – had already snared a warren of dust bunnies. By the time I finished the small rug, the canister was pretty much full.

I haven’t been this impressed by a pile of dirt since I was three years old. I poured the contents onto a piece of paper and snapped this picture, using the soup can for scale.

Yes, the Dyson is an impressive piece of technology – a genuine breakthrough. It’s priced a little higher than many other machines, but worth every penny.

Geoff Meeker is a communications consultant with a soft spot for technology. He also writes a blog about the local media scene, which is hosted at http://www.thetelegram.com.

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