A look at the Hoover Elite Upright (Model U5096) Vacuum

Aug 19, 2006 (Updated Aug 19, 2006)
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Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Lightweight, energy efficient, has storage area for attachments

Cons:Belts require changing often, bags might be a hassle for some

The Bottom Line: While it was in its prime, this Hoover product really did a heck of a job cleaning carpets and bare floors. Even if not flawless, it's still worth buying.

Before we bought our Bissell Lift-Off bagless upright vacuum cleaner, we had been relying heavily on two Hoover products for our carpet and upholstery-cleaning needs.

One of them is the Hoover Electric Broom, a relatively lightweight, bagless upright which, with an amperage of 3.5 watts, isn't really intended to be used in large areas...at least not in one vacuuming session. It works well enough for cleaning both floors and carpets, and the fact that it requires no bag and has few moving parts makes the Electric Broom the ideal secondary vacuum cleaner, but its limited dust-cup capacity and its smallish motor makes it totally unsuitable for cleaning an entire house or large apartment.

The other vacuum cleaner we used until late July of 2006 was the Hoover Elite, another upright but bigger, with a more poweful 7.2 amp motor, a 24-foot-long cord, an attachable hose, an assortment of cleaning attachments and tools, and replaceable bags.

In its heyday, we used to share our house with Mary Joe Cacao, a beautiful yellow Labrador retriever. This meant lots of dog hairs were on the rugs and some of the furniture, which conversely meant that we had to vacuum regularly. And of course, when the Hoover Elite was brand new it was quite a wonderful cleaning tool to have, especially since cleaning an entire house with the Hoover Electric Broom took hours...vacuuming one room first, letting the motor cool...then on to the next room, and so on and so forth.

Features of the Hoover Elite U5096:

1. Cleaning Power: With its more powerful motor, dual-brush/edge cleaning capability, and really strong suction, the Hoover Elite, at least before it suffers from wear and tear, does a very good job of cleaning most indoors surfaces. On the top of the brushes's "hood" there is a carpet level/bare floor selector; simply slide it to the desired setting and you're good to go. (Be careful, though, and don't run over the cord or, indeed, any wires or electric cords!)

2. Energy Efficiency: If you know about electricity (I don't), you need to know that this 7.2 amp machine has a cleaning efficiency rating of 17.0 per amp, according to the instruction manual.

3. Has Storage Points for the Cleaning Attachments: One of the big problems we had had with our monster Electrolux vacuum was that it had no integral storage compartments for such things as the crevice tool or the dust brush; we had to find a place for the darned things in the downstairs closet. As time went by, the tools disappeared, which meant that the Electrolux was nearly useless by the time its motor finally died.

The Hoover Elite family of uprights includes recessed spaces for each attachment, including the extension tube that increases the hose's reach, built right into the back side of the vacuum cleaner.

4. Easy to Store: One of the nice things about the Elite series is that although you do have to hook up the flexible hose to the brush/motor assembly part, the hose fits snugly into a well-designed "wrap-around" storage mount located on the handle/bag half of the unit. Once in place, the hose doesn't come loose or gets in the way while you're vacuuming, even when lugging the Elite up and down stairs.

5. Lightweight: Weighing less than 25 pounds, the Hoover Elite is easy to handle and moves rather easily except when dealing with thick, plush carpets. It's also light enough to vacuum stairs with, although our house's staircase and landing are too confined to use this vacuum cleaner easily for this chore.

6. The Cord: The 24-foot cord allows you to vacuum large rooms and hallways fairly easily, as long as you remember not to stray past the 24-foot mark. It is a wrap-around storage-type cord, unlike the retractable one we were used to on the Electrolux.

Liabilities: The Elite upright has many advantages, of course, but it also has its share of liabilities. It's light and easy to handle, but it can also be fragile.

For instance, the headlight bulb on ours only lasted one month. Not a big deal; we vacuum here during the day and most of the house is well-lit, but what about seeing what's under beds or in dark corners? We could have, of course, purchased a new bulb, but it was too much of a hassle in our pre-Internet days and it was a low priority item.

The belt in the brush motor is also problematic at times, especially if we had to use the Hoover Elite to vacuum more than once a week, which, because our dog shed a lot of hair, was more the norm than the exception. The wear-and-tear effect of normal usage is stressful on the rubber belt, and constant use accelerates the deterioration, so we had to be buying two to four replacement belts a year. Also, the physical act of putting the new belt on is tricky for some people, so to us this is an off-putting liability.

The bags...I hated the bags. They are more or less easy to find and affordable, true, but if you have limited dexterity due to arthritis or a disability, they are a pain to install. Concept-wise, it's easy: Just unzip the outer bag, place the bag in its holding clip, make sure it's secured, then zip the outer bag closed. And I suppose for most people this isn't a problem. Still, it's tricky and it was hard for us, which is why we always had to ask someone to help us.

Removing the bags is actually not hard, but you do have to make sure they aren't completely full. First, they are harder to take out; if you pull a full bag off the clip the wrong way, it can tear along the back and all that dirt, dust, and pet hair pours into the cloth outer bag and onto the floor you just vacuumed. The best thing to do is to replace bags when they are a bit over two-thirds full.

Another problem (which wasn't Hoover's fault) is that our stairs and the landing are very confined and laid out in a fashion that makes vaccuming this high-traffic area difficult. Even when laying the Elite flat as its design allows, there's no room to maneuver and use the hose and cleaning attachments.

Final Thoughts When this vacuum cleaner was in its prime, it did its job marvelously. Although it wasn't exactly quiet - few vacuum cleaners are - it didn't make radically louder sounds than the Electric Broom and far less noise than our old Electrolux machine. It left carpets thoroughly clean no matter if they were thin throw rugs or deep-pile wall-to-wall carpeting, the hose and attachments allowed us (actually me) to clean dust and other dirt from couches, chairs, tables, and bookcases, and did a better job on bare floors than the lighter Electric Broom. There were almost no limits to how and where we could vacuum, with the glaring exception of the stairs.

If you're looking for a vacuum cleaner for less than $120 and want to get something from a reliable brand such as Hoover, the Elite U5096 is a viable alternative to a pricier, heavier machine. If used with care, it will last for years and do its job efficiently.

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