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Powered motorised electric beater bar heads (or "power heads" as they are more known in the U.S) on cylinder vacuum cleaners are largely unheard of in this country with only a few brands able to offer customers the facility of permanent "rolling" power as opposed to air driven floor heads that start to lose momentum due to suction or loose carpeting. Miele and Sebo have for some time now offered optional floor heads on many of their cylinder vacuum cleaners but not many buyers may be aware of the options available. This is a long review based on experience!
If you own a Sebo K3 Vulcano, it comes with an electronic suction tube and electrified telescopic height adjustable tube as standard giving you the option that just one day you may buy an additional separately controlled power head to justify the additional cost. K3 Vulcano models have been quite popular since they went on sale a couple of years ago now and at £175 to £225 they are quite expensive but well made compact vacuum cleaners for buyers who have been let down and need a healthier bagged vacuum that is compact, lightweight and relatively easy to use.
At 5.5 kg total, all of the K1 series vacuums are extremely light to cart around helped by three smooth castors that pivot themselves over hard surfaces and being rubber-coated means they aren't destructive to floors. Quality is a word that Sebo are very good at displaying too. Soft touch plastics, easy to use tubes and a generally easy to dislodge filtration system and high filter 4 layer bags that lock in with a slight push of a finger means maintenance and general use is extremely easy and rewarding. Then there are the safety caps you can fit to seal the bags once and for all for no dust escaping. With a long 6 metre cord on board helped by a just-as-long 1.5 metre hose, the travel of a Sebo K1 compact vacuum really gets around with ease, able to additionally clean up to ceilings because of its lightweight telescopic height adjustable tubing and is lighter than Miele's standard metal tubes. The K3 Vulcano and Premium models have slightly heavier tubes and an additional swivel neck built into the hose with a plug at the top to counteract the fixed design of the plug-in electric hose on the machine whereas non-electrified hoses on the K1 range have a much better swivel neck hose on the standard machines. Sebo offer an increased amount of hose at 2.1 metres for extra reach though.
With all this extra reach the K3 Premium should be an easy vacuum to use. Having the ET-H floorhead on board means complete edge cleaning on each side of the roller brush and a wonderfully easy oiled movement thanks to four wheels on the underside of the floor head means carpet cleaning is extremely efficient. Everything gets picked up with this electric floor head and like the rest of the Sebo range, if you get a clog you lift a flap on the base to get rid of it. If the brush needs cleaning you can press a button on either side of the floor head to remove two sections of the roller brush. In terms of maintenance the ET-H is very easy to fix without the need of screwdrivers. It also has two lights on top to show you when it is powered up and an additional orange light that acts as a warning if something gets clogged. There's also a rotary control that allows the floorhead to move from hard to soft floor coverings that you can manually adjust. It is also quieter than the ET-1 floorhead that comes with my Felix upright so it is a welcomed cleaning component that does what it suggests. If you have to leave the vacuum for a moment, the floor head also allows the hose and tubing to sit locked in an upright position just like an upright vacuum too. Once cleaning is done simply pull the cord at the entrance and the cord automatically rewinds back in. So much quicker than manually pressing a pedal for retraction on other vacuums, here.
In terms of performance, the K3 Premium has fantastic suction and there's 1500 watts to 1800 or 2100 watts high whine free noise available here! Once the 6-metre cable has been taken out and plugged in, all it takes is a press of the main On button and a green light on top of the machine is shown. This effectively means the K3 Premium is ready to go. The hose and tubes already have an additional two way plug fitted that controls power between the main power from the hose and sends it down the tubes to the main floor head. Then just slide the suction control on the handle and you're ready to clean. All this takes milliseconds to do and the ET-H starts up instantly. The noise level of the K3 is just as good as the more basic K1 models in the range - very quiet and without hesitation to suppress more suction noise through it's patented and ingenious "cloth bumper," air belt design that also sends cleaner air to the sides of the vacuum rather than up top like standard cylinder vacs. You see, if you think the asking price of £250 is expensive here you only need to consider the user thoughtfulness that goes into the product. An additional parquet floor tool also comes with the K3 Premium as well as a dusting brush and clamp, a long crevice tool that sits snugly at the rear of the vacuum and an upholstery lint tool that can be slid onto the crevice tool for extra compactness and versatility.
The bad news however is that life with the K3 Premium isn't as good as the more basic K1 vacuums and it's all down to electrics and handling. For a start the ET-H floor head has been in production since the early 1980's when it was available for the larger and heavier C series cylinder vacs. This means an additional weight of 2kg onto the electrified hose and single telescopic suction tube. Despite retaining a wonderfully light gliding factor, I've often felt compromised because of the extra weight, not just by pushing the floor head across carpet but simply by having to pull the excess weight of the K3 behind me as I "power" through carpets. Sebo could make the floor head lighter here to make it easier to pull the K3 along. It isn't as light as Sebo's cheaper K vacs but then again none of them have electronic power heads stubbed onto the end of their pipes. Quite why Sebo don't allow other floor head "options" on this top of the range cylinder vacuum to become standard remains a mystery as the K3 Premium is much lighter with a main turbo brush fitted instead of the electric one. Whilst the K3 Premium has an undoubtedly excellent electric floor head, it lacks the stop button function that would allow the roller brush to stop spinning for hard floor cleaning. As a result the more modern ET-1 floor head that you get with the Felix upright makes a lot more sense here and changing the height is a lot easier and faster too. You can buy the more modern ET-1 floor head but it will cost you £200!
The ET-H also has other problems. Even though the actual vacuum cleaner has good swivelling action by its built in swivel at the top of the hose, the actual floor head doesn't turn enough from left to right even though it has the same neck as the Felix upright. In terms of actual weight distribution I find using the Sebo Felix upright a heck of a lot more manageable even though that vacuum weighs 7kg. The handle on the hose is also much smaller than the handle on the more basic K1 range, which is very unexpected. Those with Miele S5 cylinders may pay homage to Sebo here but Miele's handles are far more comfortable to hold onto as well as being a great deal bigger!
The plug socket that connects from the main handle to the top of the tubes is also a weak element and it often breaks the circuitry, which means no power to the power head. Replacement costs are between £24 to £48 for this part and it can go wrong from as early as a couple of months to a year. Now it should come under Sebo's claimed five year guarantee as well as 2 years parts and labour but don't think that every time something goes wrong with your Sebo, you'll automatically get a free repair here and there. Across the net it seems that this part in particular is one of the most unreliable plugs that have problems and it's about time Sebo rectify this.
In terms of additional costs, here's where Sebo versus Miele with a few surprises. Those with K3 Vulcano models and a wish for electric power may feel the older ET-H will be enough. However against Miele options where Miele doesn't even produce the same kind of floor head, but a rechargeable battery operated "electric" floor head for it's similar Sebo sized S4000 range, it will cost £90 for the powered brush and then an additional £70 for a separate battery pack. Now on the basis of cost, I've been here before with Sebo versus Miele and for all that Miele are more modern, I'd prefer continuous power at my fingertips against batteries that need to be charged!
Sebo filtration consists of optional Hospital Grade S Class filters (and there are two filters on the Sebo like Miele) at a yearly cost of between £11 and £14-95. This is roughly the same as Miele's HEPA type filter. Or the cheaper £7-95 to £10-95 Micro filter cartridge coupled with the 4 layer fleece filtration dust bags and an additional HEPA type motor filter keeps most odours out of the vacuum. In recent years though I've realised that the Hospital Grade S Class filter is a lot healthier than the green Sebo filter and keeps a lot dustier smells out producing cleaner air. The filters don't have to be changed until 16 to 28 bags have been used either which makes a better bet than Miele's yearly change statistic. Miele's dust bags also come in boxes of four for roughly £9-95. Sebo's K bags come in a box of 8 and cost £8-95. Sebo are cheaper here and the K series have a 3 litre capacity which might be small on statistics but like the rest of the Sebo range, the paper bags have a great filling capacity and shouldn't be changed until the vacuum tells you or that the bags are completely full up. Over Miele, one box of Sebo K bags has lasted me on average a year and a half which makes the whole ownership much more economical - which is just as well given the actual cost price of the K3 Premium.
The truth behind the Sebo K3 Premium is that despite it's quality and power I don't think it is as good as the rest of the lightweight range even though it has the option of an electric power assisted brush. It is true that whilst the option is there, if Sebo are marketing this as a flagship vacuum then they should include all the floor tools as the K1 Komfort model and should also address the weight of the ET-H and the handle design with its inherent electric plug problems. Until then the K3 Premium is compromised and on its very blue print of being a lightweight vacuum cleaner, adding a 2kg electric head onto 5.5kg makes for a very awkward and heavy cleaning proposition especially at its full asking price. Thanks for reading. ©Nar2 2010