Pros: self-propelled, very powerful, great looking
Cons: a bit heavy, a bit loud, awful hose/attachments, made me write a verbose review
I love the Hoover Self Propelled Windtunnel! I'm quite familiar with it, as vacuum cleaners are my hobby and passion... I collect them just for fun (I have 35 vacuum cleaners)! I also sold this model at Sears for a couple years, so I worked with this machine and the bagless version of it hands on every day for 2 years. I like self-propelled vacuums. My only other upright with onboard tools is the Dyson DC14, and it's very handy, so wanted another upright with that feature too. When these first came out, they were 300 dollars! I don't feel they were worth that price, but when I found one on sale at Big Lots for 99 dollars, I had to snap it up. Mine is a re-manufactured one, hence the great price, but it works and looks like new. Though I do have the exact model this review is about, the self-propelled Windtunnels are all the same for the most part. The only differences would be color, cord length, attachments (some lack the turbo tool), presence or absence of embedded dirt finder lights, brushroll on/off indicator, and loop style or straight handle. The workings and power are the same in every self-propelled Windtunnel. I am quite happy with the feature set on this model, but more about that later. First things first...
What's in the box? Is it easy to assemble?
In the box the machine itself, the manual, the attachments (crevice tool, dusting brush, upholstery tool, turbo tool, 2 extension wands), hose, and screws are included. Hoover was thoughtful enough to include styrofoam and cardboard structures inside the box to protect it during shipping. They make great cat toys as does the box :o) Parts of the vacuum are covered in protective plastic that needs to be peeled off. Assembly is very simple, but a phillips screwdriver is required. Slide the handle onto the base of the machine and screw the two screws in. Attach the hose and pop the attachments into their appropriate holders. There is a plastic insert on the power switch to prevent it from being switch to the wrong position during assembly. That needs to be pulled straight out. There is a sticker over the self-propelled switch that needs to be removed as well. It keeps the handle in the right place so that everything lines up during assembly. The machine will come with one bag already installed. Just be sure it didn't slip off during shipping before running the cleaner!
This vacuum is about 20 pounds. Heavy for a vacuum, but because it is self propelled, it's not a big issue unless carrying it up stairs or something similar. The cord is 31 feet... most uprights have about a 25 foot cord, so that's a good length. Long enough to not need an extension cord, but not hard to manage like the commercial machines that have 50 foot cords. The hose is 6 feet long, which isn't enough, but more about that later. This vacuum requires TWO belts, one for the brushroll and another for the transmission. It uses a Hoover "Y" type bag. These bags are a bit small compared to those of a typical upright, but they are readily available at most any store and come in a variety of filtration and price options.
Is the Hoover Self Propelled Windtunnel easy to use?
Yes! The switches that need to be manipulated most frequently are right up in the and grip so they are easily accessed. Those are the power switch and the self-propelled control switch. If you've never used a self-propelled vacuum cleaner before, you're in for quite a treat. This vacuum cleaner has a transmission in it that is connected to two ribbed drive wheels on the bottom. The vacuum will actually drive itself in forward and reverse when the transmission is turned on, so the user needn't put any effort into the actual pushing or pulling of the machine. The handle is attached to a cable and it slides back and forth. The sliding motion of the handle is what tells the vacuum which direction to propel. There is a bit of a learning curve, however. The loose sliding handle feels weird until you get used to it. Also, in tight areas or on bare floors, this machine may slam into things because of the powerful transmission. That's the reason there is an OFF setting for the self-propelled function. While for me, the self propelled function is just fun, I can certainly see how it would help people who have back problems, disabilities, or are just old or don't have a lot of strength to push a heavy machine. The bag door is easy to remove, and the bag easy to change.
What about the attachments?
The attachments are easy to use, but using them is not a pleasant experience. The only good things about the attachments are that the suction is very powerful, and the hose is easy to activate. To use the hose, the user just needs to pull it up from where it sits in the cleaner during normal upright use. The suction will be there immediately. There are no settings to change, no ports to plug the hose into. This is due to the way the vacuum cleaner works. It is what's called a "clean air" system. Despite the misconceptions, that doesn't have anything to do with the air filtration. It means that the suction always goes through the hose, even when using the machine as an upright. The dirt goes through the hose to the bag, and only clean air goes through the motor/fan. That protects the fan and motor from getting damaged. Fan first systems (or "dirty air" systems) suck everything through the fan first, and then blow it into the bag. That's good for sucking up spiders and chopping them to bits, but if a coin or toy enters that kind of system, a costly visit to the repair shop becomes necessary. There are several problems with the attachment/hose setup on this cleaner. The first problem is that the hose isn't very long. 6 feet. That would seem adequate, but the suction is very strong in this vacuum. The user really has to fight the hose to keep it extended for use due to the powerful suction. As if that wasn't bad enough, putting an attachment on the hose and touching that attachment to the surface to be cleaned causes the hose to snap tight. That makes the vacuum cleaner violently crash to the floor or slam into the user. That can hurt the user, the machine, or the household surfaces! When using the hose now, I lay the vacuum down on the floor before starting. It's going to end up there anyway, so I'd rather do it gently myself than have the alternative occur. Hoover does sell an extra 20 foot hose for the machine that helps a bit, but the included one should AT LEAST be tolerable and it doesn't even come close. The hose is anchored to the back of the machine about halfway up the cleaner body. Because of this, when pulling the vacuum, it will fall instead of follow! The attachments aren't very good quality either. The dusting brush has a thin short row of plastic bristles. The upholstery tool doesn't have any brushes or velvet on it to help grab hair, and it sticks to surfaces it's used on. I normally don't like turbo tools, but the one this machine has works well in combination with this machine. A turbo tool is a small attachment that goes on the end of a hose and has a rotating brush that is spun solely by the suction power of the vacuum, having no motor of its own. Typically, they are very loud and don't clean well because when touched to the surface they are cleaning, they stop spinning. Due to the tremendous suction power of this machine, the turbo tool spins very well and is great for cat hair! I use it on the sofa and "crushed velvet" ottoman all the time and though loud, it whisks the cat hair up in no time flat. Still no fun to use due to the hose fighting issue, but it works well with this machine.
So, what exactly is "Windunnel Technology" anyway? Doesn't that mean it's bagless?
Many people think that the word Windtunnel automatically means a bagless vacuum. It doesn't! While they certainly do make bagless Windtunnels, many of the vacuums in the Windtunnel series are bagged. Windtunnel refers specifically to the nozzle design down where the brushroll is. There are 3 different channels for the suction down in the agitator cavity. There is the main one where the brushroll itself is. There are separate smaller ones in front of and behind the brushroll. In theory, this reduces scattering of dirt and helps the cleaner pick up better. I don't think that design makes it pick up any better or worse. I think it's more of an advertising gimmick. But, at least you know what WindTunnel means now!
So, how does it clean?
This machine is VERY powerful on carpets. The contoured brushroll has very stiff bristles, and that combined with the tremendous suction make this vacuum a true winner on carpets of any height. This machine excels at whisking away surface litter and digging out deeply embedded dirt. My most common messes are cat litter, dirt from outside, cat hair, paper shreddings, food crumbs/ingredients (rice/flour/sugar), and it does a great job on all of them on carpet. Some people even say this vacuum is too aggressive for certain kinds of carpet, and that is definitely possible. There is no way to regulate suction or brushroll speed with this cleaner so it's always on "full blast", which can be a problem for use on delicate surfaces. This machine can be set to do bare floors as well. Just turn the brushroll off with the slider on the front, lower the height adjust, and turn off the transmission. The wheels are rubber coated so they don't scratch or mar or make an awful noise on the bare floor. This cleaner will pick up medium sized litter from a hard floor, but struggles with really fine or heavy debris. Uprights aren't the best for use on bare floors, (canisters with bare floor nozzles do better there) but this one is adequate for quick pick ups. The hose/tools clean well if you are patient enough to win the tug of war battle with the hose long enough to actually use them!
What about edge cleaning?
Many people want to know if a vacuum cleaner does edges well. I haven't found any that are great, but the system on this machine works better than many others I've seen. Instead of falsely claiming that the brushroll can clean edges, Hoover put fixed rubber "bristles" on the front edges of the cleaner. They kind look like the pegs on those commercial rubber door mats. As you move the cleaner back and forth, they dislodge junk from the edges and enable the vacuum to pick it up. The crevice tool on the hose will work better, but there are definitely worse edge cleaners out there than this one.
There are lots of little things on this vacuum that help to tell the user what's going on. The first important thing is the bag check indicator. That is on the front of the bag cover door. It isn't an electronic light, however. Instead it is a pressure gauge. As the suction power in the vacuum gets reduced due to the bag filling, an orange meter will fill the clear window of the bag check indicator. When it is completely orange, you know it's time to change the bag. This will also turn orange in the event of a hose clog. Place your hand over the hose end while running the cleaner and see what I mean! This indicator is handy because many people forget to change their bag. Especially with it being hidden behind that solid door. Older vacuums with soft bags would sag, so when they were full it was obvious. Most of today's modern machines aren't that simple, so the indicator is a nice thing to have. Sometimes, the the suction will be reduced due to the fact that really fine dirt or powder have been picked up in the machine. That will cause the indicator to turn orange as well, which is a good thing. A person just looking at the bag and seeing that it wasn't up to the "full line" might try to keep using the vacuum even though the suction isn't good anymore, but there's no more guess work with this indicator. There is also an indicator on the bottom of the machine down by the height adjust and bare floor sliders that will tell the user if the brushroll is on or off. The brushroll is normally on. The only times it will be off are when the handle is in the upright position (shuts off automatically so the user can use the attachments without damaging the floor), or when the user turns it off in an effort to clean bare floors. Nice to have the indicator, but it's not necessary because there is a window over the brushroll that will let the user see if the brush is spinning or not. That window is handy for letting the user know if the belts are broken! The final fun indicator is called the "embedded dirt finder". These are red and green lights (looks like Christmas with them flashing back and forth!) on the bottom of the vacuum just above the headlight. There is a microphone in this vacuum cleaner right at bend where the hose enters the machine (close to the bag inlet) that "hears" the dirt entering the machine. When it hears dirt rushing in], it will cause the red light to turn on. That tells the user to spend more time in that area of the carpet. When the microphone hears no more dirt entering the machine, it will cause the light to turn green. "Green means clean" to quote the text printed on the machine. This can be a handy feature, though it can also be distracting. I almost ran over my cat's tail because I was watching those silly lights instead where I was going with the cleaner.... not a good to do with a self propelled cleaner!
The vacuum does have a headlight, though it is placed in a bad spot. It is placed too high up and too far back on the cleaner. Instead of shining on the floor, it shines on the vacuum nozzle itself, and casts a shadow directly in front of the cleaner. Poor design. The two belts are simple to change, but require removing 4 phillips head screws to get the bottom plate off. These machines are often found with the bare floor or height adjust sliders broken off. That is because people try to manipulate the sliders with the machine just sitting on the carpet like normal. With a self propelled Hoover (any of them, even the old ones), the cleaner should be tipped forward when adjusting the sliders on the bottom front. It takes pressure off of them and makes them slide much more easily. Hoover doesn't make that very clear in the manual. Most vacuum cleaners should be tipped backward when adjusting the height, so this defies normal logic.
There is a carrying handle on the machine in the back, by the upper cord hook. When lifting the machine, it should be carried from there. NEVER lift a self propelled propelled vacuum by the hand grip. They are much heavier than a regular vacuum and doing so could snap the cable that makes the vacuum self propelled! The upper cord hook is a quick release cord hook; it twists down so that the cord may be more easily removed. The cord can be pulled off instead of manually unwrapped. However, there is no assistance for wrapping the cord back up!
There are 2 air filters on the machine, both made from the same material. One just below the bag (pre-motor filter) and one on the side of the vacuum opposite the hose (post-motor or exhaust filter). The one that comes with the machine isn't that great, it is made of a material very similar the "scrubbie" side of a 2 sided scrubbing kitchen sponge. It's a little softer and a lot thicker than the sponge scrubber, but not the best filter in the world. It is rinseable. It should be replaced once a year. A better paper accordian style "HEPA" type filter is available for these machines, but is can't be washed and is more expensive than the one that comes with them.
One flaw that many of these machines have is that the transmission will stay engaged just a little bit on the back stroke when set to off. It's annoying, but VERY common with these machines. Mine does have this problem, and so did the floor models at Sears when I sold vacuums there. The machine is a little louder than a normal vacuum, but it's not obnoxious. I'll take a little more noise, because with it, comes a lot more power (in the case of this machine, there are cheap terrible vacuums that are also loud)!
Isn't bagless better?
That all depends. While it's true that bagless machines don't require the purchase of bags, they are very messy to empty. Most of them (including the bagless version of this self-propelled cleaner) have a paper filter right in the dirt chamber that clogs very quicky. They will lose suction quickly and those filters are a nighmare to clean. If you're going to go bagless, get a Dyson. They seem to be the standard to which all other vacuums are compared and for good reason. They are easy to empty, don't clog or lose power, and the attachments and hoses on Dysons are FABULOUS! It is fun to see the dirt in a bagless vacuum and have that visual satisfaction of knowing it's no longer in your home, but there is a cost for that pleasure. You are mose exposed to the dirt! People with allergies especially should avoid bagless vacuums. Since bags for this Hoover are easy to find and change, there's no reason not to consider it just because it uses a bag. For many people, that's actually a benefit!
This is a fun, easy to use, attractive and effective powerhouse of a vacuum cleaner. If you are considering it, get it by all means, but don't over pay!