Monday, August 6th, 2007
Review: The Halo UVX Germ-Killing Ultraviolet Vacuum
Update!!! This vacuum has been replaced by the vastly upgraded Oreck Halo. Click to read our Oreck Halo review.
Ooh, a germ-killing vacuum. It’s the perfect thing for parents.
Did you know that as many as 30,000 dust mites can exist in one ounce of house dust and your carpet is like Disneyland to these critters? Well, a version of Disneyland where they procreate with wild abandon and live in their own excrement.
Babies crawl on carpets, mouth toys on carpets and generally turn parents into germaphobes. And if you have allergies, maybe you’ve already pulled up your carpet and installed laminate flooring.
The Halo UVX Ultraviolet Vacuum is a new and easier solution for bug and allergen busting that came on the market this summer. It kills a variety of things that hide in your carpetâ€”dust mites, fleas, lice, mold, bacteria and even viruses, and it does it fast, without chemicals.
I was skeptical, but the technology checks out.
An Ultraviolet Primer
There are three types of ultraviolet light that come from our sun. UVA and UVB rays are the reason you lather up with sunscreen on a sunny day. UVC rays mostly don’t reach the Earth’s surface, being dispersed by our ozone layer.
In the late nineteenth century, UVC was discovered to be great for killing microorganisms and could be reproduced by a special bulb. Today, UVC light is used to clean air that circulates and recirculates inside hospitals and other buildings. It’s is known as “germicidal light” and works by disrupting the cellular DNA of microorganisms. Watch a 1 minute 35 second video about germicidal light from WebMD.
UVC is also known for its use in water purification systems, and may have applications for food safety.
Halo’s Basic Specs
- Bag for debris collection
- 6 bags (1 preinstalled)
- HEPA filter
- Telescoping handle
- UVC germicidal light
How it Works
The Halo is like any other vacuum, except this one blasts UVC light directly into your carpet via a bulb located on the bottom of the unit.
- Switch the vacuum from “Off” to an “On” or “On with brush” setting via a switch on the backside of the unit’s torso.
- First time: Set your carpet height via a button on the handle (low, low-medium, medium, medium-high, or high). This setting is saved for your next reuse.
- First time: Pull a lever on the unit’s base, then raise the telescoping handle to its full height. Or, use the vacuum in its compact form if you prefer.
- Press a foot lever to incline the unit’s torso and telescoping handle.
- Press a palm trigger in the handle to activate the UVC light. A logo on the top of the unit’s base glows to indicate the UVC is engaged.
- Run the vacuum over your carpets as you normally would, committing mass murder upon millions of unseen undesirables.
- Practice your best maniacal laugh.
I’m obviously not qualified to evaluate Halo’s germicidal effectiveness, but from what I’ve read online, UVC is capable of killing microorganisms in under a second.
The company’s web-based statistics (or as I call it, the kill chart) are difficult to read, so here’s a summary from a company representative from an e-mail interview:
“Due to the design and engineering of the bulb chamber and it’s components, dust mites, viruses, bacteria, fleas (and their eggs), lice (and their eggs), mold and mildew are taken care of “instantly” – or under a second. So operating the vacuum at a normal speed, with normal strokes, will kill these germs and organisms without any extra effort on your end. It’s doing two jobs at once – cleaning/sweeping the dirt away AND disinfecting your home.”
The first thing you notice about the Halo is its unassuming presence. The unit’s base is noticeably smaller than other vacuums at 12 inches wide. For example, my other vacuum, a Hoover Windtunnel, has a 15-inch wide front bumper.
Likewise, the Halo stands 3 feet (36 inches) tall until you extend its telescoping handle to its other height setting, 45 inches. (My Hoover has only one height, 43 inches.)
You might assume bigger is better, but I found vacuuming with the Halo be essentially the same, and actually easier around and through toddler-sized furniture (a toddler table, chairs, doll house, etc.)
The Halo also stores easier than the Hoover in our utility closet. Three inches makes a big difference. Plus, height-wise, the handle shrinks down 9 inches.
The vacuum weighs 15lbs, about 5 lbs. lighter than my Hoover.
Maintenance and Warranty
Traditional bags are used for debris collection. They appear to be significantly smaller than traditional vacuum bags (5.5″x11″) probably due to the unit’s overall compact size. The manual recommends replacing the bag monthly whether it’s full or not. I would be surprised if you don’t go through at least one bag a month. Six bags ship with the vacuum. They can be bought online, five for $8 presently.
A HEPA filter in the front of the unit has a listed life of three years. HEPA filters are not yet sold through the web site, but I was told the preliminary cost is $15.
The vacuum unit has a one-year warranty covering household use, excluding misuse, accidents and so forth.
The UV bulb has a lifetime warranty, although it is not referenced in the manual or on the web site. The warranty was confirmed in an e-mail interview:
“The ultraviolet bulb has been tested by Phillips (the manufacturer) to last for over 8,000 hours â€” well beyond even the life of the vacuum (which has been tested to 500 hours â€” competitors generally test theirs between 100 to 200 hours). As a result, we have established a lifetime warranty on it.”
My major disappointment was with the Halo’s manual. It adequately describes the function and maintenance of the vacuum, with plenty of emphasis on safety precautions. But it devotes only two paragraphs toward educating you about UVC and the germ-killing power of the product. That’s fine for consumers purchasing the vacuum from Halo’s web site because there is a lot of information online. However, before this vacuum hits retail store shelves the company needs to develop a second booklet extolling the virtue of murdering bugs.
The manual includes a long list of cautionary statements about safe use. Many are boilerplate for all vacuums, (“Do not drop, throw or hit your Halo Ultraviolet Vacuum”). Others pertain to safe use of the UV light (“Never place any body part within 6 inches of the base perimeter of the vacuum while the Halo Ultraviolet Vacuum is on.”)
There are a variety of safety measures built into the unit to prevent you from looking directly at the UVC light.
- Light shuts off if hand trigger is not continuously pressed.
- Light shuts off when the vacuum is tipped 30 degrees or more.
- Light shuts off when the telescoping handle approaches upright position.
That last one I figured out when I noticed the light kept flicking off during operation. As I would pull the vacuum toward me during my normal cleaning pattern, the light shut off as it neared my feet, which happens to be when the telescoping handle is approaching a perpendicular degree angle.
The manual advises you to test the vacuum on a small section of carpet due to a theoretical risk of burning or fading the carpet. However, the company told me, “We have tested the Halo on a plethora of materials with no harm done.” But it’s still a good idea to follow the instructions and not keep the vacuum stationary in one spot for a long time with the light engaged. Really, killing bugs doesn’t take more than a second, so don’t go crazy.
My manual also contained a sticker Californians have seen many times: “Warning: this product contains chemicals known to the State of California to cause cancer and birth defects or other reproductive harm.” I’m told it’s due to a small amount of mercury inside the UVC bulb (mercury vapor is also in standard fluorescent bulbs). I’ll take that over the lead found in virtually all Christmas tree lights and lawn water hoses.
So, with some mercury in there, you’re probably wondering, how strong is the clear plate shielding the UVC bulb? I asked the company:
“The glass plate encasing the ultraviolet bulb is actually a thicker material called quartz glass. It has been tested through dropping the vacuum and striking the glass with a ball-peen hammer and if used under normal operating conditions, there is no true risk of breaking the glass and exposing the bulb chamber’s contents.”
- The glow of the HALO logo, indicating the UVC light is engaged, is reassuring and easily noticed.
- The compact design aides maneuvering around toddler furniture and the unit stores easier than traditional vacuums.
- Obviously, killing dust mites and other bad stuff is a good thing. You can try to vacuum up bad bugs and their eggs with a regular vacuum, but it’s not nearly as effective. That’s why prior to the debut of the Halo, common advice for allergy sufferers has been to eliminate carpeting from your home.
- These bugs die without the use of chemicals. I grew up in a house that had two to four cats at any given time. During a particularly bad flea infestation my parents bombarded the house with flea powder and I’d rather not think what noxious chemicals were in it. It’s weird to think that fleas and their eggs could be combated today simply by vacuuming.
- The lack of a hose attachment on the vacuum (see UVST Affordability notation below), for me, means we will remain a two vacuum household. I’m told future models will have attachments with various tools, but that the first generation of the Halo is focused on carpets and mattresses where dust mites and other allergens primarily reside.
- In freestanding mode, the unit tilts slightly backward. This isn’t a functional concern, only a psychological issue. I noticed because most vacuums I’ve used stand at 90 degrees or tilt slightly forward.
- I love the handle trigger for activating the UVC light. It makes me wish the on/off switch for the vacuum was on or near the handle.
- The manual is functional, but undersells the vacuum’s germicidal properties and lacks “pride of ownership” appeal. Hey, tell the consumer in detail about UV light and why he or she just bought this special vacuum. Don’t assume we’ve visited your web site.
Affordability and The Next Model on the Horizon
These days you can buy a vacuum that costs $50 or $1,000. The Halo’s
MSRP is $400, which seems appropriate for its unique features. If you
have allergies running in your family, it’s that more attractive.
In October 2007 a new model, the Halo UVST, will be sold at Best Buy and Bed Bath and Beyond. The new model will have a 13′ hose with a crevice tool and dusting brush. It will also be a larger unit with a 14″ cleaning path, a larger vacuum bag and a manual height adjustment (instead of buttons and electric lights). The cleaning attachments will not have UVC bulbs in them for safety reasons.
The Halo was provided to Thingamababy for review, so the question is, would I otherwise buy this vacuum? My wife and I talked about this a bit. She felt the MSRP of $400 is a little steep. I had to counter, “But, uhh, this thing is unique. No other vacuum kills bugs with ultraviolet light.” On top of that, my wife has allergies and the last thing I enjoy seeing her do is puff on her inhaler while our 7-week-old baby is inside her. So yeah, I’d insist on buying the Halo.