* Prices may differ from that shown
I celebrated my recent birthday with good effect but in the back of my mind I was hankering for a vintage Hoover upright to have at home led by a birthday "surprise" visit led by friend of mine's whose grandfather still owns and has a rather vintage 1930's washing machine that I mistook for a cooker! I prepared to hunt around for an old "inflating bag" Hoover upright but the collector's prices online or sellers being so far away in England who "don't post to the Highlands," where my town isn't really located, hasn't helped. When you consider that a refurbished Hoover Junior can cost up to £70, there's still good performance available if you just require a super smart deal to keep the dust from your carpet contained well.
But when I was let wind of a Vax VCU-02 upright vacuum on sale at a local hardware store for just £39-99, I knew it was probably going to be a very good compromise when I spied it in the shop window - it has a soft, inflatable front bag just like my old vintage vacuums! With Oreck just going into administration in the U.S, the Vax has at least an excellent back up service due to the Vax company in the UK. The average retail price for this Vax VCU-02 can be purchased from £70 to £130, making it a bit of a bargain compared to the cheek that Oreck UK have in selling their XL based uprights at a starting price of £229 to £349!! You might not get a free "separate" hand held vacuum with the Vax, but the design is very similar to Oreck's upright at a fraction of the cost and similar to Vax offers a traditional upright vacuum only without tools or a hose.
Nar2's Quick Skip Product Spec
* Brand & Model: Vax VCU-02 Commercial Upright Vacuum cleaner.
* 12.5 metre cable length, 2 stage dust bags and HEPA outer soft bag.
* 4.2kg total weight with grab carry handle & 450-watt motor.
* Twin bristle plastic brush bar with side brushes (2 x fixed).
* Rubberised wheels for hard floor protection.
* 7.5/7.8 litre paper dust bag, 5 bags included and a spare drive belt.
* 2-year guarantee (UK only).
* My price £39-99, average prices £70 to £170-00 dependent on seller.
* Upright vac only design, no hose or tools.
About The Product & Reason To Buy
The Vax VCU-02 is an extremely lightweight commercial upright vacuum cleaner that Vax in the UK sell under their separate commercial floor care division. I say "extremely lightweight," because it is one of few uprights I have been surprised to find I can dangle off my finger with the entire vacuum off the floor from the main carry grab handle at the rear of this upright! I doubt you can do that with many brands.
Although the vacuum in the UK may say "Vax" on the badge, this product stems from the Chinese home owner company, TTI (Techtronic Industries) who also own Hoover in the USA as well as other American brands like Royal, Dirt Devil, Homelite, Ryobi and AEG (outdoor divisions). TTI have produced this upright in several different brand versions, but it is clear from its design that it has had Oreck set in its sights, as this upright vacuum is very similar to the Oreck upright vacuum cleaner and sports a massive dust bag capacity as well as the inflating dust bag trick I miss as a child! Because it is like an Oreck upright, it means that this vacuum cleaner is of a "dirty fan" design where dust and dirt is passed through the fan's impellers. It also mirrors Oreck's dust channel process where dust flies up inside the hollow two part tubes at the back of the vacuum that makes up the spine entering the bag at the top. I've been quite impressed with the more modern counterpart offered here, with a few surprises along the way!
Assembly/Design, Quality & First Impressions
Out of the box, you get quite a bit of value for your money as the model comes with a dust bag already fitted and a pack of five dust bags and a spare drive belt with an A4 user manual. Fear not on the spares availability - Vax already have dust bags for this machine since it was only launched a few years ago and spare drive belts are also available to find and buy, freely. Okay so the user manual isn't a bonus, but the spare belt and dust bags certainly are as the dust bag is around 7.5 litres by capacity alone and to the eye, looks like a 10 litre black bin liner by size and length alone.
The first immediate impact I get from the Vax VCU-02 is that it isn't cheaply made. The motor head is well protected with a thick and ribbed bumper at the front able to sustain thumps pretty well and the main wheels at the back are rubberised. Being commercially based, the metal and plastics on offer here are a bit thicker to sustain daily use as well as protect the home or areas where this machine requires to be used. Though the main handle is a short affair, it has a good design element to it and the power switch is handily located at the top of the handle with a 360° swivel top cord hook to unravel the plethora of power cable, or just take as much as you require at the time of cleaning per size in your home.
Whilst looking and feeling like an Oreck copy, the Vax VCU-02 has twin side fixed corner brushes that are designed to scoop dirt in when the upright is cleaning up to skirting boards and corners have been fitted on both sides. The main roller brush roll is a soft and bushy type to the fingers, with no worries of damaging hard floors. I wasn't surprised at all to find how effective the VCU-02 is at cleaning hard floors even if the brush roll doesn't ever turn off and if the drive belt breaks, only two cross head screws need to be undone on the base plate for replacement and removal.
Assembly wise, this reasonably well made Vax VCU-02 comes in six pieces - motor floor head, two suction pipes, a rear grab handle mount with the outer dust bag attached, main push handle with power cord "pig tail" and separate 12 metre length power cord. Just by looking at the machine out of the box, one aspect is immediately clear - you don't really require the well written user manual enclosed to assemble this upright together - it is fairly logical and easy, though you don't need any screwdrivers for assembly either, you just need a spare hand with a tight grip!
Thus, it only took me a couple of minutes to put the Vax VCU-02 together. From the base motor head, one suction pipe is required to slide in at the bottom of the floor head and screwed in with the round ring bolster. The pipes have splits in them that meet corresponding pins set into the design. Once the bottom pipe is locked in, the grab handle partition is next which already incorporates the front outer bag, sliding and locking with the bolster to ensure a tight fit before sliding in the top pipe with the handle already added to the design at the top and tightening the bolster ring in the middle leading from the base of the grab handle at the top. All that you do afterwards is attach the power cord. This is because this upright vacuum cleaner has been designed for the commercial market; you get a replaceable industry strength bright orange double protected cable that has a three-pin plug that connects with a "pig tail" connector already added in from the power handle.
A secondary loop is located just below the top suction pipe at the top of the handle where the excess cable can be pushed into the loop and locked in, to ensure that the power cord does not slip out in use. This kind of design point is standard with most commercially based vacuum cleaners and it is good to see Vax have retained it here. Lastly the front outer dust bag only requires to be clipped to the bottom of the pipe above the motor head, since its design is already incorporated into the grab handle connection post between the top and bottom pipe.
Although the Vax VCU-02 upright mirrors Oreck on the process of dust being carried up the hollow pipes, the Vax versions are much bigger to ensure less clogs and you don't need screws to undo as you would find with Oreck if a clog does occur through the airflow system. Rated 450 watts overall, the Vax VCU-02's dirty fan system and a lack of tools means power usage is economical over "clean fan" vacuums that require 1000 watts or more. Generally the trade off comes with performance and general usage, not just the lack of tools.
General Impressions & Performance
Like an Oreck upright vacuum and others, the Vax VCU-02 is fitted with auto adjustment on the floor head, which basically gives a very light weight push & pull feel across carpets and hard floors. What a pity it doesn't have the same "Helping handle," like an Oreck even though steering this vacuum is a real breath of fresh air, helped along by the fact that the outer dust bag is made of permanent HEPA material that contains the smell of stronger dust such as pet hair, in the bag and also within the paper dust bag acting as a second filter. Again because of its old fashioned design, the air generated from this vacuum is a lot lower, minimising the scattering of papers that much higher vacuums past 1200 watts tend to do when cleaning by tables or general furniture. Generally though, there are no filters to replace on this vacuum, which is unheard of these days - the bag just gets wiped inside with a damp cloth should dirt collect on the fibres in time.
Like a Dyson upright and countless others, to get the floor head flat you just put your foot on it and Vax have already applied a suitable sticker on the main hinge of the vacuum to indicate this and the handle swings all down to the floor without a secondary foot required to unlock it. But, what a revelation the VCU-02 is in terms of a lightweight and easy to control upright! With the dust bag at the front and a handy pocket at the bottom by the rear a la Oreck design again, this Vax is a really easy upright vacuum cleaner to use with a general overall lightweight feel at 5kg. It is slightly heavier than a general Oreck XL upright, but only because the motor head is slightly bigger to accommodate the 450-watt motor (100 watts more than the usual 350 watt Orecks).
When it comes to use, the VCU-02 has the power to gobble up pet hair from carpets as well as deep down trodden in dirt. It does dirt pick up instantly and light as a feather to glide! It feels exactly like my old Oreck XL that my parents gave me many moons ago (sold to Jesi on Ciao UK who constantly fought me on price when she relented) with the result of its outer dust bag inflating the moment the Vax is switched on.
Compared to the Oreck which does come with a 9.5 metre length cord, Vax provides the commercial length of 12.5 metres, making it super easy for travel and reach for anyone who happens to own a private B&B and needs an upright just to deal with carpet care and cleaning alone, or for buyers in a home that has long hallways limited by mains power sockets. If you can't be bothered to wind up all that cable, simply detach it from the upright and wheel the vacuum away - unlike Oreck's XL uprights, the Vax has open wheels at the back for the "wheeling" away action at the end of clean up and the detachable long commercial power cord length can be changed by buying any matter of length you require should you find the original cord too long.
The motor noise is also quieter than I expected, though this isn't the vacuum of choice to use in the early hours of morning after a party as it may wake people up. Instead, this is a fine alternative to use in a home during the day with the threat of impending visitors, the kids coming home from school, or simply if you want a quick clean up.
Compared to quite a few more modern upright vacuums, what I love about this Vax the most is that it leaves my short wool carpets looking fluffed up and groomed after use.
Maintenance & Downsides
Access to the dust bag is incredibly easy with this soft outer bag having a double strength zip, located at the front of the Vax where a "C" shape zip reveals the top half of the dust bag. As the bags are quite large I was disappointed to find that the bags don't have dust pull seals on them. The bags however can be pushed on a main suction channel into locking lugs and pulled off once the bags are full. With this design you won't get an idea of whether the bag needs changing or not, but just by feeling the paper fibres means you can make a general guess, or take it off and have a look. After a month's use, I've not been very surprised to find that the Vax's first bag is one quarter from the bottom full which is just super value. Online dust bags vary at prices, but the cheapest I have found so far is on Amazon for £4 for 5 of the dust bags whilst Vax stock the bags from time to time, with the product code being Ref 1-9-128597-00.
The downsides to the Vax VCU-02 are dependent on how you look at this vacuum though. It lacks a hose and smaller cleaning tools, so it is really suited primarily just for cleaning floors and carpets - but with its handy outer pocket located at the rear, there's nothing stopping you from putting a duster or a pack of wet wipes for picking up dust as you go along.
The Vax VCU-02 isn't very stylish looking either, even if the floor head is black and the main design is grey and clinical, pointing towards its commercial origins - as well as Vax's original orange colour to the cord, power switch and main decals. Everyone will know you have a "Commercial" vacuum because it says so in large letters running down the front of the outer bag!
If there is one other downside to the Vax VCU-02 that I don't like, it is the grab handle at the rear. Whilst it is looped, large and easy on the hand where lifting is concerned, the handle sits out too much and gets in the way if the Vax is made to clean flat to the floor. Sadly there isn't anything to the design where the handle can be taken off as its permanent design forms part of the connector for the dust channel pipes to the bag.
Lastly, avoid greedy commercial cleaning companies who have a cheek to charge £200 or more for this upright vacuum - it simply isn't worth that price at all!
I am delighted with the Vax VCU-02, not just because of its inflating front dust bag! Better made than the old Hometek "light n easy," upright (it isn't on sale anymore in the UK unless you buy second hand) as well as being far cheaper at cost than the price of an Oreck upright, this commercial vacuum cleaner is perfect for large homes and or for buyers who want something as nimble, quick and light as a Gtech cordless sweeper but with mains power, strong suction and a huge dust bag with the experience being beautifully easy with a feather light weight and touch. Tie in its general performance and the ability to change the cord length should you want more or less AND the bonus dust bags you get at purchase, and this commercial upright vacuum is more than worth a second look - it's the best alternative to an Oreck, yet! Thanks for reading! ©Nar2 2013.
Video - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SKATlxIf​PdA
Short name: Vax VCU-02