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JANUARY 14, 2011

Dyson design flaws

I got my first Dyson vacuum cleaner the other day, a refurbished DC14 All-Floors Upright from Amazon.com. It looked brand-new when I excitedly pulled it out of the box, snapped it together—so for, so good—and fired it up.

It seemed a little quieter than my ten-year-old Hoover, and did a good job of picking up visible dirt on the carpeting. I wheeled it into the kitchen and went to change the setting from "Carpet" to "Bare Floors". This turns off the beater bar.

Problem #1: the big red knob is easy to see, but the settings themselves are small, poorly labeled, and quite close together. I had to get down on my hands and knees and look carefully to get it right. The Hoover has a big ol' black slider that you move to one end or the other. Mouse over the image above to see the difference.

Sure I'll get used to this, it's a relatively minor issue. But Dyson is a company that has built its reputation on design excellence. That's not what I'm seeing here.

Does it suck?

According to MachineDesign.com, James Dyson decided to build a better vacuum cleaner because his Hoover didn't "have much suck."

I'm sure you've seen the commercials in which Mr. Dyson makes a big point of how well his machines are designed to do their job. He claims that his vacuums don't lose suction.

Maybe so. But that's not all that's involved in cleaning a floor. My new Dyson efficiently sucked up visible dirt on my kitchen floor until I went after what was under the cabinets. There I literally bumped up against another more serious design flaw.

What were they thinking? In this photo you can see that the design of the front of the vac keeps it from reaching under my kitchen cabinets. No matter how I angle it, the housing hits the cabinet and keeps the front an inch away from the crumbs at the base. Mouse over the image and you'll see that my old Hoover easily accomplishes the same task.

Thumbs up or down?

It's too early to know whether I made a bad choice or not. I'll be annoyed every single time I vacuum the kitchen but I'm hoping that I'll learn to love everything else. The way the hose and attachments are integrated into the unit seems a bit easier to use. The longer cord ends my frustration with the Hoover's that always stopped me about a foot short of the far wall of the living room. These are small improvements.

The main reason I decided to replace the Hoover is that over the years the gaskets and seals around the dust container have worn out. Visible puffs of dust blow out through these connections every time you use it. So for now the Dyson has eliminated this major problem. But...what about a year or two from now? Will I be back in the same situation as things start to wear with age.

Only time will tell.

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