With a bad back and problem hands I needed some way of vacuuming the stairs without having to resort to our weighty and cumbersome Dyson. I wanted a handheld machine which I could use to clean up small problem areas or which would allow me to get to those places which the bulky Dyson found impossible. I needed something which would effectively swallow all the dog hair and dirt which accumulates in our car - and I didn't want to spend a lot of money. There was an added complication too - one of our dogs has an allergy to house-dust mite, so I needed a machine with a HEPA filter. A HEPA filter is the one that removes most of the pollens and dust motes from the air rather than recirculating them.
What I bought was the Home-tek HT807 also known as "The Hunter" and I got it from Lakeland Ltd for £29.95. The packaging was appropriate and all recyclable. What I got for my money was a retro-looking machine 17 x 30 x 20cm weighing no more than a lightly filled shopping basket. It comes complete with a motorised brush, dusting brush and crevice tool.
The manual with the machine is comprehensive and bearing in mind the necessity to give warnings to fools ("Do not pick up anything that is burning ") is as short as possible. I read it in a few minutes and had the machine fully-operational in less than ten. I've now been using it for about six months.
It comes with 6m of flex, which is comparable to many full-sized vacuum cleaners and means that there's no problem when cleaning the stairs. I can start at the top and work my way right to the bottom without having to change sockets. There's no automatic cord re-wind or even anywhere specifically to store the flex and it ends up looped around the body, which looks untidy. Nor is there a clip on the flex to hold the plug secure, so when you're carrying the machine you have to hold the plug or the flex unravels. I'm not unduly worried about the storage of the flex, but a clip would have made life easier and cost only a few pence.
In operation there's a choice of using the motorised brush or the hose, which operates with the crevice tool or the dusting brush. The motorised brush operates much like any upright cleaner (except you're going to be on your hands and knees to use it) but it's unfair to make a direct comparison. This machine has a 730w motor. Some of the newer Dysons have 1400w motors, so performance is never going to be on a par. The Hunter has about half the power for roughly a tenth of the price. Having said that, the suction is good. In a couple of sweeps on each tread of the stairs it removes all the accumulated dog hair and fluff. Because there's a revolving brush it leaves the carpet looking smart rather than flattened.
The height of the machine does mean that you can't use the brush under low furniture - particularly as you're actually holding it at the highest point, but I've found it very good at getting into places like the space between the loo and the wall in the cloakroom. It also works on hard floors. I did worry about how I could get to the brush to remove the long threads which seem to bedevil the Dyson, but in six months it's never happened.
Using the dusting brush or crevice tool is a little more complicated. The dusting brush is a permanent fixture on the hose and when you want to use the crevice tool this fits into the middle of the dusting brush. It's also necessary to remember to close a flap over the motorised brush to stop air being sucked through that area. If you forget you find yourself enveloped in a cloud of dust. I speak from experience here. I've found the dusting tool excellent for removing the dust and fluff from curtains which aren't in regular use. A pair which I though were going to have to go to the cleaners got a reprieve last week after The Hunter left them looking smart again. At rest the hose is just 24cm long but extends to over 80cm in use. Holding the machine in one hand and the hose in the other it was the work of only ten minutes or so to thoroughly vacuum the curtains.
The crevice tool works well on the edges of the stair treads and is good for getting down the sides of the cushions on the sofa, where dog hairs seem to accumulate. I've a minor quibble that there's nowhere to house the crevice tool on the machine, so it has to be stored and carried separately.
Debris is collected in a clear pod - there are no bags to change. I've two quibbles here. The first is that the pod is easy to remove but difficult to replace. It's been the cause of more bad language in our house than almost anything in the last six months. There is a knack to doing it, but I have to work it out every time that I empty the pod. The second is that the pod comes in two pieces but debris doesn't always move smoothly through from one part to the other. The pod can look as though it's empty whilst fluff is backing up elsewhere.
The HEPA filter seems to be effective. Our dog with the problem skin has not complained. The filter needs to be washed about once a month and replaced about every six months at a cost of £4.99. I've only found the filters to be available from the manufacturer but my recent purchase was trouble-free. Obligingly you're supplied with an order form pre-printed with the filter details on the back of the manual.
Some thought has gone into the design of the machine. The on/off switch comes very neatly to hand as you hold the machine and it's nicely balanced when you carry it. I do feel though that functionality has been sacrificed to design in the overall look. There are two wheels at the front of the machine just behind the brush head, but just one roller in the middle of the machine. When the hose is extended it's very easy to unbalance the machine. It tumbles very neatly down the stairs and catching it by hauling on the hose should be a one-off, I think.
I know that I've produced quite a few niggles about this machine but I'm going to recommend it and give it four stars. It's value for money, does a good job and the niggles don't really affect that. My husband will even use it to vacuum the inside of the car. He thinks the machine is noisy. I don't, but that's perhaps because I've got a greater tolerance to the sound of a vacuum cleaner, particularly when it's being used by someone else.