Thursday, March 12th, 2009
Review: Oreck Halo Ultraviolet Germ-Killing Vacuum
Got allergies or asthma? Behold the Oreck Halo germ-killing vacuum.
We all clean our baby’s room a little more diligently than the rest of our home, right?
Indoor air quality is a serious and often overlooked issue. What concerns me is asthma. My wife has it and I dearly hope it doesn’t befall my kids. The EPA labels it as “one of the most common serious chronic diseases of childhood” and 1 in every 10 school-aged kids has asthma [PDF source].
Our first line of defense is called trigger avoidance, avoiding dust mites and other nastiness that triggers an asthma attack. [Read more on this in my final thoughts at the end of the review.]
Now you can go on a murderous rampage killing untold thousands of mites and their eggs, mold and other baddies when you fire up your vacuum. Deplete the population and halt procreation!
Who makes it possible? David Oreck, that kindly old gentleman you see on TV. What sinister bug-hating thoughts must linger behind his friendly smile.
If the Halo sounds familiar, it’s because we reviewed the first generation Halo UVX launched by an upstart two years ago.
It was a solid product with a few usability issues, enough that we became a two vacuum household. Today I’m happy to report I’m kicking my Hoover to the curb and donating our old Halo to a friend whose child could really benefit.
Oreck has acquired the rights to the Halo, quashed all my qualms with its predecessor, and added some nice improvements.
- UVC germicidal light
- HEPA filter bag
- 3-year vacuum warranty, 5-year UVC light bulb warranty
- Hose attachment with brush and crevice tool.
- Three free “tune-ups” at any of 450+ Oreck Clean Home Centers (I thought my town didn’t have one, but discovered one independent retailer is an Oreck service center)
An Ultraviolet Primer
There are three types of ultraviolet light that come from our sun. UVA and UVB rays make you use sunscreen on a sunny day. UVC rays mostly don’t reach the Earth’s surface, being dispersed by our ozone layer.
UVC is called “germicidal light” because it disrupts the cellular DNA of microorganisms. It can kill mites and their eggs, fleas, mold, germs, bacteria and so on.
Today, UVC light cleans air inside hospitals, purifies water and kills foodborne pathogens. It’s been applied to industrial uses for years and within the last few has begun showing up on a retail level. Simple light. No chemicals. No gimmicks. There is real science behind it.
Right there. Two ultraviolet bulbs on the bottom of the vacuum.
How effective is it?
A common refrain among manufacturers is the claim that UVC “kills up to 99.9%” of their chosen micro-bad guy. Oreck’s predecessor said it, and Oreck says as much regarding bacteria, and cites 90% for dust mite eggs.
Oreck has gone further though, having tests conducted and revealing some real numbers… “a 53% to 88% reduction in bacterial load was observed in laboratory testing.”
Check this nifty video with a petri dish after two, four, six swipes of the vacuum showing an increasingly barren wasteland.
That’s really the truth behind it. You’re not going to blast this light for extended periods of time on your carpet to kill absolutely everything in one go. And who would want to? Every room? It would take forever.
In real usage, on your first time, you’ll do a slow, methodical pass over your carpets. Thereafter, you’ll use the UVC light as part of your routine cleaning and over time keep mites and other baddies under control.
Here’s a list from the Oreck manual of how many tenths of a second it takes UVC to kill viruses, bacteria and mold.
Seconds for 99.99% kill:
- 0.33 Bacteriophage-E. Coli
- 0.40 Infectious Hepatitis
- 0.33 Influenza
- 0.33 Poliovirus
- 0.44 Bacillus anthracis – Anthrax
- 0.33 E. coli
- 0.50 Mycobacterium tuberculosis
- 0.38 Salmonella enteritidis
- 1.10 Penicillium expansum
In the end, the Halo is really about adding a powerful weapon into your existing arsenal for managing your home’s air quality. And if you have an 11-month-old boy like mine, who will happily lick a carpet, well, it’s also about surface sterilization.
How it Works
The Halo is like any other vacuum, except this one blasts UVC light directly into your carpet via two bulbs located on the bottom of the unit.
1. Unhook the power cable from the unit’s backside and plug it in.
2. Press a foot lever to incline the unit’s body.
3. Turn on the vacuum by pressing a prominent button on the front of the handle. This is genius. No bending to turn the power on. Flick it with your thumb.
4. Optionally engage or disengage the roller brush by pressing a second button on the handle. The button glows blue while in use.
5. To engage the UVC light, press a blue trigger handle inset in the outer handle you are holding. The outside handle is long enough that you can slide your hand forward to use the UVC and backward at other times with it still feeling natural.
You know when the UVC is engaged because a large Halo logo on the front face of the vacuum glows deep blue (it only appears white in the photo at the top).
6. Mouahahahaha! Maniacally laugh as you kill bugs.
Six bright LED “headlights” in the vacuum’s base cast significant light on the carpet in drapes-drawn-closed situations. I’ve never considered headlights on a vacuum to be useful until now, probably because most vacuums use traditional bulbs behind defracted windows making them almost useless.
Holy cow. The hose extends to 13 feet. It’s an amazing claim and it’s equally amazing to see it stretch across your living room. Albeit, on hardwood floors you angle the vacuum sideways otherwise the vacuum slides toward you’re in a Charlie Chaplin sketch.
Appearances are deceiving. That hose really does stretch 13 feet!
Unlike most vacuums which feature a suction hose ready to use (after you slap on a crevice tool), the Halo requires an extra step. You flip up a compartment door in the base of the unit, insert the hose and it click-locks into place.
The idea behind this design is that vacuums operating with a hose always attached require more amps, more sucking power, more energy to do the job. Because the Halo has a closed system, it can operate on fewer amps, less energy to achieve the same effect. My Hoover uses 12 amps, the Oreck uses 5.2 amps.
Is one better than the other? Give me a multimillion dollar testing lab and I’ll tell you. However, don’t miss my final comments at the end of this review.
If I have a complaint it’s that I’d like a second tube to extend the length of the crevice tool as is commonly available on other uprights.
Several safety features prevent you from exposing yourself to the UVC light… First, the light is on only while the handle trigger is engaged. Second, the light automatically turns off when:
- the vacuum is inclined into its 90 degree standing mode.
- the vacuum is tilted, raising a wheel off the carpet.
- when the hose attachment is in use or the attachment door is open.
The bulbs are behind a thick plate of quartz glass which can take a great deal of stress without breaking. In two years of use, my first-generation Halo doesn’t even have a scrape.
I’m told Oreck made more than 100 design and performance improvements to the Halo. The first-generation non-Oreck model is shown below on the right… a smaller, hard plastic exterior. The Oreck has a zippered chamber for the vacuum bag.
Here are some other key changes that stand out:
2. Hose attachment. Without a hose I had to keep my Hoover as backup.
3. A more informative, easier-to-read manual.
4. The filter bag is much longer and includes a fill line indicating when to replace the bag so that filtration and the vacuum’s suction are not impacted.
5. There is a standard height adjustment knob for your carpet height rather than buttons. It adjusts quite easily, unlike some vacuums I’ve encountered.
It’s a no-brainer for me to use the Oreck Halo exclusively because the Hoover I bought a few months before receiving the Halo is severely dilapidated with multiple issues after 2 years of use and needs to be replaced. My first Halo is still running fine.
Cost and Final Thoughts
The Oreck Halo costs $600 direct from the company with free shipping. An optional turbo brush attachment (not reviewed here) for the hose is $50. The cost is above an average family, but if air quality is your concern or you have asthma it’s an easy choice.
This Halo was provided to Thingamababy for review, so the question is, would I otherwise buy this vacuum?
I asked my wife, making a point to not remind her of her answer two years ago (then saying the price was “a little steep”). This time, with 2 years of the first generation Halo under her belt, her response was entirely different:
“It’s difficult to say because we’ve never paid more than $250 for a vacuum. However, it’s an Oreck and historically they have very good value and longevity. My grandmother had one forever and then we inherited it when she died.”
In my review two years ago I wrote, “the last thing I enjoy seeing [my wife] do is puff on her inhaler while our 7-week-old baby (fetus) is inside her.” Not until this moment has it occurred to me that her inhaler episodes are dramatically down.
Today she says her inhaler episodes are once every 2 weeks, or less. I thought the rate was more like months because I never see her use it around our house. That damn inhaler was a big mental part of my life, an ever-present reminder of her ailing health. Now I don’t even think about whether she remembers to carry it while we’re out of the house. The only thing we’ve changed in our lives was the addition of the Halo. Well, hot damn. I’m sold.
Oh, and for the record, the photo at the top of the review is totally staged. That’s my wife’s sock you see. I do the vacuuming in the family.