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At last it seems I've hit a raw nail with the "powers to be," and of whom I've been renting property from, who should pay a visit out of the blue to deliver amidst a proper tool kit when the boiler breaks down again and a brand new vacuum cleaner. I was overjoyed at the prospect. Since August I've been using my own vacuum cleaner (and I have quite a few to choose from) that is up to the job of cleaning carpets. Perhaps it would surprise you that the model of choice happens to be a cylinder vacuum cleaner with an air driven turbo brush. Rather than using an upright vacuum which has a more aggressive brush roll, I have to be careful with the brand new thick pile "wall to wall," carpeting that this flat is made up with, worse that it is a light beige and shows up dirt and foot prints all too easily (I have boxes of Sebo's Duo P dry cleaning powder at the ready.) and needs constant cleaning to keep it looking smart and fluffy.
The owner has not bought a Tesco vac - which was quite a delight to find and for the last couple of weeks my flat has seen much cleaning in the shape of the Electrolux Powerplus Z4499. Purchased at a cost of £49-97 (Yes, he bought it at Tesco!), the landlord has left the receipt with me should anything go wrong.
Electrolux as a brand are in a terrible mess at the moment though, not that they will care to admit it. Most of their floor care range hasn't been updated on their UK website, Comet have stopped selling their bagged vacuums and for all that the company have gone to great strengths to try and inject some "fun" appeal into their existing floorcare range, the Powerplus range has been on sale since 2004 and is desperately needing to be replaced with something a bit more functional and versatile. For those who don't mind the design the Z4499 Powerplus looks quite cool dabbed in white paint with bright orange decals and a matching rotary suction control dial. All new and cool colours hasn't done much to the original blue and silver models Argos used to sell many years ago however!
Out of the cardboard box, setting up the Z4499 or "Ziggy," (as I've since nicknamed it) is very easy to do, thanks in part to friction fit telescopic height adjustable tubes onto the end of the rather cheap feeling hose and handle. A hook on the back of the floor head means Ziggy is easy to store away since there are two park positions available on the vacuum. The contrasting grey suction-only 2 pedal standard universal floor head hasn't been improved in 6 years and it was of no surprise that since using it in barely a month, the neck of the floor head is starting to come away from the main floor head neck. Electrolux's cheap floor head is one of those parts you'll find on mostly all UK spec Electrolux vacuums except those in the top ranges. If they are trying to single out budget buyers, they really couldn't have done it any better with this cheap, plastic floor head that really doesn't last terribly long. The pedal that is supposed to put hard brushes down on hard floors for example (I have two vinyl floors fit for cleaning purpose) has already cancelled itself which means it needs a hefty push of my foot to ensure the pedal snaps the brushes down - otherwise I'm left with pushing a very stubborn floor head that refuses to move along vinyl. An air outlet hole is provided on the handle to loosen suction but it doesn't open up very much and only provides little ease if suction is dialed down to the minimum level. The dial itself lacks German precision here of Miele or Sebo, wobbling about in it's fixing and doesn't really raise the power until I put it in the middle selection.
General installation of the vacuum is easy to do since a brand new synthetic material disposable dust bag is already fitted and you get 2 extra dust bags to get you started. A replacement pack of four bags are available with an extra Microfilter for the inside of the machine by the dust bag (Electrolux code ES53) but they are rather expensive from £7-99 to £9-99 and so far I've found them difficult to source. They may have tried to copy Miele or Sebo but Electrolux don't put seals on these bags which means when you take it out dust can fall out! Luckily they are easy to put into Ziggy although lifting the lid reveals some sharp edges on the lid itself and the bag needs to lock in before the lid can be closed over. There's also an SMS fabric washable dust bag equipped if you can't find paper dust bags yet frankly in this day and age although the SMS bag is handy to have, Electrolux could have supplied two so that whilst one is being used, the other can be washed and dried ready to go.
The general design of Ziggy Z4499 is okay but it isn't particularly well made and for the £50 asking price from Tesco in it's "final days," of selling this model, Ziggy trundles along quite the thing leaving thick track marks from his large and thin plastic wheels at the back which annoy me no end onto my carpets and the "three" cleaning tools on board under his flap by the hose rattle about in their housings. Still, it is better to have a proper tool storer where you'll find reasonable quality PVC plastic tools in the form of a noisy short crevice tool with a slideable brush that acts as an upholstery brush and a T shaped upholstery lint added tool. Not particularly worthwhile though when in actual use; the bristles on the crevice tool sometimes slide back which makes no sense in cleaning fragile or delicate items without fear of getting them scratched! Another tool of surprise you'll receive is Electrolux's excellent pet hair mini turbo brush design but it is an all encassed unit lacking the acclaimed "Risor Visor," changeable angled head. There's no where to put it on Ziggy and as such it has to be put somewhere else where you can get at it when you need it. Great for cleaning stairs and upholstery without much strain to your hand, it is a pity that once again Electrolux have retained the older design of employing two cross head screws on the back of the brush that have to be undone should any pet hair clog up the well spaced bristles.
There are of course other design "highlights" such as the back exhaust filter that features a rather large paper HEPA/High Efficiency Particulate Air filter cartridge. Good news here for those who want fresher, cleaner air from the vacuum as it hides the odours of old dust and rotting, oily pet hair contained in the three stage filtration dust bag. The bad news is that despite the fact that the filter is washable, it's location means the rear of the cleaner gets really hot and for a cylinder vacuum where its general compact size is a boon to use on stairs, unless you want your carpets to be burnt, Ziggy Z4499 can't be put in the upright position for fear of his burning bum! And if you wash that HEPA filter it has to be fully dry until it can be installed back in - and unhelpfully Electrolux don't supply an extra HEPA filter to use in the mean time.
Performance wise, Ziggy is quite a powerful lightweight vacuum (approximately 5kg) even though he isn't particularly small with a large 4 litre dust capacity on board with the new and latest high filtration synthetic dust bags that Electrolux hope reduce the amount of bags used and prolong the machine's suction. In respect of this, you can still buy paper dust bags for your Powerplus but the downside is that because it has a HEPA filter at the back and a very strong 1800 watt motor, if the motor is raised all the way with a brand new less filtration fitted paper dust bag on board, expect the bag to burst because of the high force of suction. I learnt the hard way thinking I could use older bags for older Powerplus machines! This is why Electrolux have built new synthetic material bags with a 10% claimed longer use factor. I'm still using the original synthetic one on board the vacuum and for the moment suction is very strong and quite reliable.
The noise level of the Powerplus Z4499 is quite noisy when set to the highest suction available although I find it doesn't need to be set at the highest for general day to day or weekly cleaning. When the dial is set at the lowest the motor is nice and quiet but then you have limited suction and a cheap floor head to contend with. If that wasn't bad enough there's the smallest amount of cord available on this vacuum; less than five metres of cord is available and I can't stand that, even in my very compact flat that needs double that to get around without changing plugs. My own Miele has 6 metres but it also has its handy Extender flex hose built in on the back of the standard hose for extra reach, therefore not needing to be unplugged elsewhere for other rooms.
As with all Powerplus models, there's a tiny little hole just aft of the main tool storer flap. This is the mechanical dust bag indicator but so far I need to bend down to the machine to get a proper look of the condition if the bag is needing changing or not. For all that Electrolux are really trying to be user friendly here in their aim of improving their machines and general products, it is surprising that something as basic as a dust bag indicator to help out the owner should not be improved upon. Then there are the telescopic height adjustable tubes that are made of stainless steel so you'd think they'd be good to use. Unlike Sebo or Miele they all fit friction style onto the handle or floor head at the time of use. When I've increased the suction all the way to clean with the turbo brush, the tubes can sometimes loosen themselves, which makes for a rather frustrating time of it. Also Electrolux are a Swedish company and I'm sure most of their men are quite tall. For my 6ft frame however the pipes don't adjust high enough and I'm left stooping when cleaning with the pipes attached to the hose in normal floor cleaning modes. When it comes to pulling Ziggy behind me, the hose connector that sticks out of his hood sometimes sticks which doesn't allow the hose to travel up properly and needs a hand for the hose bayonet to twist around properly. Sometimes the hose connector squeaks and it reminds me of the Hungry Hippos game you could get for kids as the plastic mouths scratch and squeal across thin plastic to grab the marbles. Then there's the power pedal - sometimes it needs a hefty shove before the machine switches on whilst a similar procedure needs to be employed to get the auto cord rewind function going. No wonder Tesco has reduced the price of this vacuum cleaner!
All in all the Electrolux Z4499 isn't a bad vacuum cleaner to look at but it is costly when factoring the expensive hard to find synthetic dust bags and put up with ill design that should make a standard cylinder vacuum cleaner's design like this a lot easier to cope with. Whilst it has loads of power on hand, the tools are simply not up to the job and despite the large size of the actual vacuum cleaner; not fitting a longer power cord that justifies the geographic space this larger cylinder vacuum cleaner can cover is simply not acceptable. Build quality is also missing, evident from a lack of protection where scrapes are shown up badly and controls that wobble or need a hefty shove to get going. Giving Ziggy a paint job and uprated power doesn't ensure automatic success, Electrolux! Thanks for reading. ©Nar2 2010
The Electrolux Z4499 Power Plus cylinder vacuum features variable power control to suit the surface you are cleaning / It also includes HEPA filtration for allergy sufferers and a reusable cloth bag as well as a number of tools bagged 4.5m Cable 4 Litre dust capacity 1800 watts Turo brush / Short name: Electrolux Z4499