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The Truth Behind the Good Old Henry Vac!
Cheap price & maintenance, large dust bags, great suction, well made, robust, large hose
Lacks user friendly labour saving features; difficult to store or park during tasks, topples over .
Value for money
How much did you pay?£79-00 from Makro in 2007
Special features?Big dust capacity, easy to use in larger homes.
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In a world determined by power these days, the consumer has been forced to adopt the belief that the higher the power a machine has, the better it is. Miele bitched and moaned that Dyson couldn’t be any more powerful given that their product lines had 300 to 400 watts more power, yet performance wise, Dyson’s original DC01 and later model DC02 seemed to excel everything in its path when it came to optimum suction and performance. Nothing much has changed 15 to 20 years later with Dyson vying for number 1 spot for the more modern vacuum cleaner - but at the expensive prices, it can be hard for buyers on a strict budget, especially if they need a large dust capacity for a home of children and pets to run after. For years Electrolux and Hoover battled reign over the “most powerful” ratings and the “best performance” claims; everyone seems to be at each other’s throats all except one main cleaning industry known as the Commercial market. ** This is a very long review **
** Model History **
"Henry," the black bowler top vacuum cleaner actually derives from Numatic’s first wave of canister/tank vacuum cleaners from 1969 which were made up of oil drums, domestic washing up bowls, furniture castors and suitcase handles – a design formula which seems to have been influenced Henry’s current design today and if ever a company was into recycling, Numatic take top spot! The first of these canisters were made exclusively for industrial use and later in the 1970’s Numatic launched their first wet and dry models. Later JVC licensed the design to become a dry dirt capacity model to sell internationally and as soon as Numatic realised there was a domestic market, they added a face to the model, cosmetically to improve sales as well as higher motors and very little else. Therefore alongside the visually and specification identical JVC, Numatic launched “Henry,” in 1981 with a smiley face and those big eyes! Halfords even sold their own version in yellow and black without a face.
A lot of Numatic Henry models which come up on EBAY second hand lack the 2 speed suction speed and instead you get full forceful fixed suction which can be a downside with initial use. The 2 speed models are far better and sit concurrently with 2011's model range sporting 1100 or 1200 motor watts. HVR200 and HVR200A are Numatic's most modern Henry vacuums to date.
Thanks to its commercial origins, Henry is available in many different versions, from a 3 in 1 design to a wet and dry model. Mostly all Numatic models have been named after Royalty such as James, Henry and George whilst some models have been released with extra layers of filters for special needs such as asthma sufferers as well as bags with extra filtration known as “Microtex,” “Twintex” and “Tripletex.” Additional filters are available such as “Odourtex” opposed to the traditional “Permatex,” filter fitted as standard to the domestic version of Numatic International’s Henry HVR200. Different colours are also available for Henry and Argos in particular from late 2010 onwards started selling "Henry" in yellow/black, blue/black and green/black versions for colour coordinated customers!
For the interests of the domestic consumer, Numatic International would do well to simplify its filter and bag filtration properties. HEPA should be considered as a filtration standard for mass public grasp instead of adapting home grown methods and acronyms even if the company does state the filters are of a hospital grade standard. As a consumer even I was initially confused as to what the best filtration bags and filters were available. Numatic use their own names to describe filtration simply because of their reliance on the commercial market.
** Putting Henry Together **
Well out of the largest box I have ever seen a dry dirt only cylinder cleaner come in (Vax boxes are the same but they come with other attachments on their basic wet & dry principle) there is quite a lot to do, but it is good that you get 2 dust bags to get you started:
The metal pipes consist of three; two extension pipes and a curved handle; all of which fit on the “friction” fit design which whilst simple also shows the full length of all the pipes in one go. Whilst tubes are easy to put together, they can easily be taken off by unscrewing and pulling. Let it be said that owners with gripping problems may find putting the pipes together on Henry. Once done, the hose can then be connected to the pipes, and then connected through Henry’s nose but this has to be screwed in. With a Vax you simply push the hose in and twist to lock. Then the universal floor head has to be installed at the bottom of the last extension pipe. Connecting up Henry takes a little time but one immediate observation is that there is no ideal grip on the handle unlike a domestic cylinder cleaner which allows users to grip the handle comfortably and the brushed stainless steel means the tubes are indeed slippery when trying to make the universal length smaller. You can rest your hand on the black end of the hose but there is no actual grip in the design which is disappointing despite the price and overall design.
None of the Numatic models feature "domestic friendly" height adjustable telescopic suction tubes. There are two different types - a grey aluminum tube that is sold with the back
Pictures of Numatic Henry HVR200
Numatic HVR 200 Henry - HEPA FLO synthetic disposable bags are a must - minimises odours and don't burst open - also easier to fit!
to basics "James" model and heavier 2 piece stainless steel tubes on Henry, not forgetting the third "bent handle" suction tube which is handy to go around corners.
Infact if there is one downside to Henry; it’s the simple fact that there is a lot to do when you get everything connected out of the box. His size is the largest I have ever seen (other than Vax canisters) where a cylinder cleaner is concerned but he is quite a large squat machine and shouldn’t be considered if you are looking for a small to compact sized cylinder vacuum for your home.
** First Impressions & Peformance **
Everyone who has used a Henry loves Henry; I’ve worked with cleaners and have friends who run businesses who use Numatic’s best favoured model; simply the cost of parts and spares are very cheap thanks partly to the fact that Henry is by far one of the simplest machines to maintain. Now that production has moved out of the UK, spares and brand new machines are cheaper to buy than before. But this is essentially a commercial vacuum first and foremost. Numatic have made no intention to re-design key elements which would make Henry suitable for a domestic customer. Henry for example is void of technological features that make domestic life easier – many features which are standard fit on smaller and cheaper priced cylinder vacuum cleaners (Miele also produce a model which can take large capacity bags like Henry) such as:
• No automatic rewind function of the cord; On Henry there is a manual cable winder, and with 10 metres of cord it can be quite a work out having to wind all of the cable back into the machine. • Filters are not HEPA identifiable and have to be purchased optionally. • The handle and hose are not comfortably designed for grip. • The “high efficient” floor nozzle doesn’t feel light enough on carpet textures thanks to its suction design. • There is no bag fill indicator which could show a full bag or clog problem. • Three of the cleaning tools cannot be stored on the machine for integral storage and tidying away; there is only one clip for one tool. 2011 models however now have a 3 tool storer point system on the back - but you need to know your year of model before you purchase as older machines only have one clip to slide a tool on. • The hose cannot be stored or parked on the machine during use. When it comes to storage, there's tons of hose to compact up and it isn't easy - you need a large space for a Henry to occupy.
The number one aspect that this machine has is the suction that it provides – even with a half bag or a brand new bag that been put into the machine. Suction is extremely powerful compared to other rivals I have used. My Vax has 100 watts more power than Henry but the suction isn’t so good when it’s picking up dry dirt. Henry certainly knows what he is doing as a basic vacuum cleaner and Numatic have made this vacuum cleaner to a high standard with sealed suction design built into the dust bags and dust channel so that very little dust escapes. Even on the lowest suction speed (the On Button is located at the back of the cleaner in black, the Variable power button is in red and 2011 models have a smaller LED added rocker switch that does the same job) there is a lot of suction coming out of this cleaner when an empty or half bag exists in the machine. Switch to “HI” and the machine motor raises in pitch and suction. At times, you’ll find that everything such as stones and heavy grit rattles off the pipes, but thanks to the fact that the pipes are crush proof as well as rust free and durable, there is no reason to worry that this machine cannot cope with heavy dirt. Don’t forget now – Henry is built to industrial standards.
Noise suppression is good particularly if the machine has been set on the lower speed but on the high speed, it can become quite annoying if you are going from room to room. The noise is something that I can cope with, because in general cleaning up shop floors and large homes is something that Henry excels at helped along by the massive wheels at the back and the castors at the front. Suction can be further reduced by opening the air inlet valve which is located on that curved handle. It has to be used when a new bag is fitted otherwise the suction is so great; the floorhead becomes a chore to push if air isn’t allowed to escape which brings me onto the next foible about Henry;
** The 2 Way Universal High Efficient Floor head ** Weight: 700grams.
As with all types of cylinder vacuums that use this suction head, to clean hard floors you need to push your foot on the rocker pedal to put down bristles and press the pedal again to pull them up for carpets. In general because of the metal soleplate, if you forget to put the bristles down on hard floors, damage can occur because of raised screwheads in the floor plate and you'll instantly hear scratching against the floor. The floor head is well made however, made of the thickest PVC that can withstand a lot of abuse. I've used Henry vacuums where the floor head is about 10 years old - they are sturdy and tough and can take a lot of abuse. However, on carpets the floor head is a struggle to push and pull. Added brushes against carpet pile can speed up cleaning time, but if you try it with this floor head, the head will just jut about in protest and its design means the floorhead tries to tip up on its rear.
The efficiency applied to this nozzle is actually 12” in measurement which is bigger than standard canister floor heads in general. This can be very helpful when cleaning large expansive areas of flooring but in a small home where tables and chairs are predominant; you may find that the floor head gets stuck a lot. The floor head will happily move in a 360° angle but because of the length of hose and the additional steel pipes, cleaning in a small home can become cumbersome and the size of the Henry’s bulk suddenly becomes apparent.
The sole plate also has two lint pickers on either side of the main dirt mouth which help to pick up threads. At the sides of this main floor head, there is also edge suction capability. But oh what a bother if you need extra brushes to get rid of trodden in dirt on a carpet mat and god help you if you forget to put the brushes down on a hard floor!!
** Using Additional Tools **
The main floor head works well if you remember the basics but to get into nooks and crannies, the three additional tools work really well; its just a shame Numatic have stopped including the rather overly produced long bristle upholstery brush which has been replaced with a naff oval ring with short bristles which must be connected either to the short crevice tool or can be additionally placed at the end of the metal curved handle. This is what really annoys me about Henry or indeed any of the Numatic cylinders – whereas other smaller cylinders and larger machines (Vax comes to mind here) have a handle where all tools can be switched around quickly, the Henry can’t. In short for just the use of the hose, you need to use the curved metal handle as well to be able to fit the 32mm smaller tools which limits small space cleaning, especially in the car! A brushed flat tool comes with the machine too but this is really only ideal for stairs and soft furnishings. An adaptor to enable these tools to fit on the end of the black hose is also enclosed with the machine brand new but I think this is again, cost cutting – Numatic would do well to just release tools that can be used on any part of the hose and tubes and don’t bother with putting an adaptor on.
** How Do I Know When The Bag Is Full? **
There’s no bag indicator to show when the bag is full, but if there is reduced suction on the highest setting, there could well be a blockage (keeping bamboo sticks is so handy) or that the bag is nearly finished. Sadly there is no concrete way to find out if the bag is really full or not; particularly if you have vacuumed up dust from concrete itself as stone dust is particularly fine.
** What About This Cord Winder? **
A stub on top of Henry which turns will retract all 10 metres of the electric cord back into the machine, similarly to take out the cord just pull on the plug until the cord comes out. At least you can limit the amount which comes out, but in reality this is no better or quicker than with any other cylinder cleaner which has an auto cord rewind function fitted.
** Weight & Roundedness **
At 6.6 kg Henry is hardly the heaviest the canister cleaner I have used. I’d say that he is reasonably light, more so apparent with an empty bag and less so with a nearly full bag. He is very light if you remove the whole hose assembly but in times of need and speed clean tasks, he is heavy to lift up with the hose and tubes as well. Cleaning on stairs is a big problem thanks to his rotund roundedness. There are no stair locks on the wheels and unless you have particularly wide steps you can use Henry well. On other stair cases, Henry has to be left at the bottom but the long 2.5 metre hose comes into its own here, only problematic if you want to switch the suction down low and have to walk down or back up to where the machine is located.
A downside to the actual rounded design means that Henry can fall over if the wheels meet the power cord or carpet frames. He can also fall over if the hose is pulled roughly - so it is just as well that the thick PVC plastic construction all over his body is enough to withstand the abuse when he does fall over!
** Prices **
Here the present HVR 200 model Henry (which is on sale at Comet, Currys, John Lewis, Index and Argos stores in the high street between £93-50 to £93-95) is the newer model which was launched briefly 7years ago. We got our HVR200 from Makro which cost £79-00 including VAT charge in 2007. Online prices are cheaper though so it does pay to shop around if you are looking for the cheapest price for a brand new machine as opposed to reconditioned. Tesco for example are great fans of the Numatic Henry vacuums and prices as low as £70 have been seen on the website but you do need to know your metal before you buy - the "yellow" James model for example is a cut price down version of "Henry," and lacks the longer hose, longer cord length and manual cord winder, where you just lasso the cable manually and toss it on the top of the machine where more helpfully a rounder recess ring allows you to store cleaning tools and even tins of polish - making it far more space efficient.
** Getting Inside Henry **
One catch on either side of the middle of the machine where the bottom of the black motor sits must be pulled out in order to unlock the machine. The first time that I did this, was when I was pulling the sides out and managed to get the skin on the back of hand trapped between the lock and the bottom area of the motor. It was not a pleasant experience so please be careful when pulling out these lock catches. The older Vax canisters are better in this respect than Henry whilst the overall weight of his motor will be revealed when you lift his top off.
If you lift off the motor by pulling up Henry’s handle which thankfully is recessed at the top of his head, you’ll see the giant Permatex filter. Other models such as the “Henry Micro” features a carbon based “Odourtex” filter which is ideal if you have pets as it keeps the smell of pet hair down. These filters are all material/fabric type filters which can be washed (but must be allowed to drip dry fully and not placed in an electric tumble dryer) or shaken free to allow fine dust to dispel. There is a material criss cross woven “handle” which emerges at the top of the filter so that this can be taken out. After you have done that you have the worst job of all – putting the bag on.
** Fitting a Bag **
In my experience Henry dust bags used to be available with a simple hole which just slid onto the plastic dust channel feeder located inside the drum where the hose outside the tub connects to. But in recent years, no doubt to improve on dust leakage Numatic has fitted a rubber seal mouth to newer bags which is a pain and a test of patience. Putting a bag onto this connector is a real test and the bag will not simply glue itself to the connector once the machine is switched on. I know because we tried that and all the dirt came into the bin as opposed to the bag!! Once the bag has been slid on fully the filter has to be placed in and then the motor of Henry which is quite a bulky and heavy item on its own. As I may not have said before, this isn’t a machine which would be suitable for elderly people or people with serious lifting problems.
There are two types of dust bag available for Henry - simple brown 2/3 layer filtration brown bags that have been on the market for years. These come in a pack of 10 at a general cost between £8-99 (Comet) and £10. The brown bags are the hardest to fit as well as have known issues of bursting - particularly in Henry if the bag fitted is brand new and the highest suction control has been used from the off. Numatic improved this design when they brought out the "Miele copied" synthetic disposable HEPA FLO bags that minimise odours as well as appear to be a lot stronger. HEPA FLO bags come in a box of 10 for £5.00 They are called HEPA FLO because of their material and the ability to seal in odours, especially pet hair - and they do not rip on either suction setting when fitted to Henry. Infact I prefer the HEPA FLO bags because they have a plastic dust channel cartridge that is so much easier to fit onto Henry's suction dust channel as opposed to the cardboard of the brown bags.
Henry isn't just a vacuum cleaner; he's an institution and there's plenty of fans out there who adore him for his simplicity. It’s not hard to see why Henry sells in droves or that his model range has become stronger in recent years with additional models sporting air driven brushes or electric ones (“Henry Hound”) but the burning question remains, on whether this is a cleaner which is suitable for all types of homes? Well it’s a difficult answer; For a shop, or a large one level home Henry will excel and save you money in the long run particularly when the 9 litre bags last between 4 to 6 months before needing to be changed. You won’t need to replace that filter either as its entirely washable too. Just make sure it is dry first before putting it back in!
If it’s a large home which has more carpet than anything, I’d get an upright rather than a Henry although if you have hard and soft flooring such as short pile rugs, Henry is best for larger domains. I’ve tried the “Henry Hound” model with the electric brush and find that there is some improvement with the excellent suction but the electric brush head is too bulky and pulling this along with the model behind you anyway starts to add weight and stress, particularly cleaning large areas of carpet. For DIY tasks Henry is a good all rounder though and its here that if everything is taken into consideration then Henry still commands number one for a cylinder cleaner which offers the basics as well as offering top notch quality and great build, That and the large dust capacity and long cord and it's easy to see why Numatic's Henry is so popular, not just the bonus of his smiling face!