Kenmore PowerMate 23912 Bagged Canister Vacuum

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My True Blue Kenmore 23912 Progressive PowerMate Canister Vacuum

Feb 20, 2005 (Updated Feb 20, 2005)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review
  • User Rating: Excellent

  • Ease of Use:
  • Durability:
  • Ease of Cleaning:
  • Style:

Pros:Many, many features that make vacuuming that much easier.

Cons:Lighted Wand only works when the PowerMate unit is on CARPET. Cost of HEPA replacements.

The Bottom Line: I recommend the Kenmore Progressive Vacuum Cleaner for its good looks, many features and its reliability.


My favorite nephew moved out on his own, but without a vacuum cleaner. What better excuse to replace my perfectly functioning 1996 Kenmore vacuum with a brand new Kenmore 23912 Progressive PowerMate Canister Vacuum with True HEPA filtration?

Shopping For A Vacuum
The day after Thanksgiving is one of the 2 most popular shopping days in America. I, along with 1 million residents of Santa Clara County hit the malls that day in search of bargains. I really was looking for a new rollaway toolbox for my new job, but also keeping an eye out for a new vacuum cleaner. I found my dream tool chest and rollaway, and a clerk helped me make my $600 purchase away from the lines filled with dozens of shoppers, but I knew I would not be so lucky in the small appliances section of Sears.
I went to the displays and looked at all the vacuum cleaners available. I was able to lift, inspect, open, and roll around a large selection of the personally preferred canister vacuums. The huge price break of only $350 for the blue Kenmore 23912 Progressive PowerMate Canister vacuum made my choice easy. This was an older model, which is now replaced by the $499 gunmetal gray 25915. The lines were as hideous in small appliances as they were all over the mall so I went home and ordered the 23912 vacuum online at Sears.com.
A week later, a package arrived at my door and I was ready to try out my new vacuum.

Kenmore has made a lot of improvements since 1996
I really liked the vacuum I got in 1996. Now, don’t get me wrong, I still don’t like vacuuming, but since I have to do it, I might as well do it in style. In the 8 years since I bought my last vacuum, the following terrific features have been added:
· Telescoping Wand. This feature adds an extra 12” to your reach. Perfect for my 9’ ceilings with my short stature. The slide button for the telescoping wand is very easy to use to extend or retract.

· Light on the Wand. This light only works if you have the PowerMate or the PowerMate Jr. attached. This would’ve been a big help if it worked when the bare floor mode of the PowerMate was activated or if you were using one of the attachments. This feature is not included with the latest models.

· Stair Gripper. This is a very good feature for those of us who have stairs. A 45° cutout on the small center wheel, with a small rubber strip attached keeps the vacuum sitting on the stair instead of trying to roll down when vacuuming the upper stairs.

· Touch Pad Controls on the Handle. My old Kenmore had a push button for the on/off and a sliding button for the carpet/bare floor modes. The slider was sometimes a nuisance when it would be pushed too far or not far enough and you didn’t get the desired results. The OFF button is first, followed by the most 2nd most used button; Carpet High, then the Bare Floor pad followed by 2 new additions since 1996, the Low power control pad and then finally the Medium power control pad. Both of these last 2 pads can be used with either Carpet mode or Bare Floor mode.

· Onboard PowerMate Jr. Storage: I lost the PowerMate Jr. for both of my previous 2 Kenmore canister vacuums. The new PowerMate Jr. is smaller, but still with 12 Amps of power, and stores in its own compartment on top of the canister.

· True Hepa Filtration System: This is both a good thing and a bad thing. The good is that the Hepa cloth bags really do work at keeping dust and other allergens down, compared to other models. The bad is that the ‘bags’ are made from a cloth material and run about $15 for 3. The 2nd part of the Hepa Filtration system is the filter located at the back of the canister. This filter must be replaced, it can not be cleaned and reused.

Good Features Still Included
· The 360° Hose Rotation: This is one feature I will never do without again. I am not what you called a methodical person, and I need a hose that can keep up with me no matter which way I decide to go.

· On/Off Controls At My Fingertips: Having the on/off switch where my hand is saves a lot of time and effort. I can shut off the vacuum before I accidentally vacuum something not intended to be vacuumed; like curtains, thin floor mats, pennies, vacuum cleaner cords –to name a few.

· Retractable 26’ Cord: When I visit my mother and I help her out by vacuuming with her Hoover, I remember why I despise Hoovers and love Kenmore appliances. My cord just pulls out, as much or as little as I need, and then with a press from my right foot onto the button on the back of the 23912 canister, the cord quickly retracts. On my mother’s Hoover, you have to manually wind the cord up and down on the back of the unit and sometimes the cord doesn’t want to stay wound up. Also, the Hoover vacuum cleaner cords aren’t as long as I would like, requiring stopping and plugging in to a new outlet many times before her condo is all vacuumed.

· Lighted PowerMate: The light only works in the Carpet mode, but is great for spotting areas needing attention in darker corners. The PowerMate works in all 6 modes, and provides a 14” path of cleaning. When the PowerMate is in Carpet mode, it feels like a self-propelled unit. I do have to use some push when I use the Bare Floor mode on carpets. I use the Bare Floor mode to vacuum as much of my very long hair so that I won’t burn up the motor by having the beaters bound up by almost 3’ of hair. On my hardwood floors, the PowerMate glides smoothly, using the Bare Floor mode.

· Quick Disconnect in 2 Places On The Wand: With the quick disconnects I can easily switch uses of the vacuum cleaner. I can go from vacuuming carpet to dusting windowsills or cleaning the overstuffed recliner in no time at all. I can also get to areas that the PowerMate is too large to reach with a push of my foot for the longer wand or a push with my finger for the shorter wand reach. Both disconnects quickly reattach the wand without having to struggle. The 1980s models were a bit of a bear, trying to reattach, but 2 decades later, they’ve got it right on this one.

· Onboard Tool Storage: There are now only 3 tools onboard, compared to the previous 5, 2 of which were basically duplicates. The Combo Brush, the Floor Brush and the Crevice Tool are neatly packed under the blue plastic dome.

· PowerMate Jr.: I have lived in a house with stairs since 1987. The PowerMate Jr. is perfect for stair cleaning, but like the PowerMate can be used in all modes: Carpet High, Medium, Low and Bare floor High, Medium and Low.

· Pile Height Settings: This new 23912 vacuum cleaner comes with the same 4 settings that my previous Kenmore vacuum cleaners had; HI (for shag, deep pile or throw rugs), MED (for medium to deep pile rugs), Lo (for low to medium pile rugs) and XLO -the one I use for my Berber carpets and hardwood floors. The Height Adjustment is a foot lever on the right side of the back of the PowerMate

· Dirt Sensor: The dirt sensor consists of a line of red and green LED lights on the PowerMate unit. The more red lights, the larger quantity of dirt being picked up. When the lights are green, then there's no more particles being sucked up into the PowerMate.

· Performance Indicator: Between the tool storage and the PowerMate Jr. storage is a red light that remains unlit as long as the bag has more room, the filter is still clean or the wand is not blocked. As soon as the light comes on, one of those 3 items needs to be checked.

My Feelings and Recommendations of the Kenmore 23912 Progressive Canister Vacuum Cleaner
I know, I know, all of my friends and family are getting the Dyson models and loving them. I stick with Kenmore because I’ve never, ever changed a belt, had to take a vacuum in for repair or had mechanical problems. All of my previous Kenmore Canister vacuums have been given away to my younger generation of relatives for their first homes –saving them from buying $99 uprights that break down in just a short time. The Kenmore Canisters are still in use by the younger generation, even though one of the vacuum cleaners is almost 20 years old.

Besides reputation and reliability, I do love all the extra features, (aka: Whistles and Bells) that make a grueling chore that much less unpleasant. More cleaning actually gets done with an appliance that's easy to use.

I do recommend the Kenmore line of colorful Progressive Vacuums.


Recommend this product? Yes


Amount Paid (US$): 350

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