But what if you didn't have to choose?
Our testing proved the Kenmore Elite 21814 (MSRP $449) to be a well-rounded bagged vacuum, competent in cleaning everything from dusty corners to high-pile carpets. Plus, the Pet PowerMate attachment is ideal for cleaning up after Mittens takes a catnap on your couch.
And you don't have to spend a fortune. If you're willing to shell out $450, this vacuum could be ideal for your home.
In this section we delve into the numbers and the stories they tell. The results from the tests told us the Kenmore Elite 21814 cleans normal carpet relatively well. Although the 21814 fell a little short on high-pile carpet, we thought the performance in other categories more than made up for it.
To test how loud the 21814 is, we placed the vacuum in an audio chamber. Our instruments picked up a maximum volume of 72.9 dBA. That result lands the vacuum smack dab in the middle of our sound test's possible outcomes. It's not extremely loud, but it's certainly loud enough for everyone in the house to know when you're vacuuming.
The standard lineup
If you've purchased a Kenmore canister in the last decade, none of the 21814's attachments will surprise you. The crevice tool is located on the handle, as is standard with these Kenmore canisters. On board the canister, you'll find the Pet PowerMate brush, a horsehair brush for dusting, and another horsehair brush for cleaning the floor.
For bigger jobs, this vacuum comes with three powered heads. General carpet will require the Crossover head, which is the primary and largest vacuum head included. It also happens to store the other accessory heads inside itself. So when you need to clean bare floors, the bare floor nozzle pops right out by depressing a pedal on the back of the Crossover. For cleaning overhead, there's a ceiling-fan attachment too. Each head has LED lights to illuminate dirt in your home.
The swiveling Crossover lets you turn a corner with ease. You can switch from short carpet to high-pile with tap of a pedal. If you encounter a dirty lamp shade, there's a delicate dusting tool on board the 21814. And with just one button you can release the handle from the brush head, and switch between cleaning tasks without issue.
However, if want to use the telescopic wand, the process becomes a convoluted mess: After lots of trial and error, we found the best way was to push the tool release button at the end of the wand, press the release lever on the side of the wand, and pull up. That's a lot of separate motions where one button usually suffices.
Overall, the 21814 is straightforward and simple when you want to switch between carpets and the hose. But if you want the telescopic wand? Fuhgeddaboudit.
The 21814 did not have perfect suction all around. It didn't start picking up dirt until a quarter inch from the sides of the head. However, it did have suction all the way up the head's front edge.
Cleaning the gap between the bottom of your furniture and your floor is one of the key annoyances of vacuuming. Thankfully, the 21814 has a fairly slim profile. If the gap underneath your furniture is 6 inches or more, the Crossover head will reach all the way in. But if that gap is only 4 inches, the head will only reach 6 inches in before becoming obstructed.
An Elite through-and-through
During testing, the 21814 lived up to its "Elite" moniker.
The 21814 earned its strongest results on normal carpet, where it picked up roughly 75% of all the dirt we put out for it. During our test run, it also tackled 83% of all the cat hair we placed on the carpet.
Although the vacuum struggled more with high-pile carpet, its scores still only fell slightly below average. It picked up around 16% of the dirt we gave it to grapple with, only 2% below the 18% average of all the vacuums we've reviewed.
We tend to test vacuums that cost more than $250. In the case of the 21814, you'll get your money's worth. The $449 vacuum will outperform vacuums in lower—and higher—price brackets. Among the Kenmore vacuums we've tested, the 21814 is one of the best.
For in-depth performance information, please visit the Science Page.
We test a vacuum's cleaning ability by giving it a combination of dirt and large debris to grapple with. The dirt mixture is composed of granules of sand in varying sizes. To test the machine's ability to clean large debris, we use uncooked macaroni, rice, and cat hair.
The 21814 earned its highest scores on normal carpet. It picked up 83% of the dirt we laid out for it. The vacuum also got every bit of the large debris. It didn't matter if it was rice, macaroni, or cat hair—the 21814 had it in the bag, literally.
The scores dropped a bit when we switched over to deep carpet. The performance fell to 16%, slightly below average.
The bare floor test is used to simulate a kitchen floor. Uncooked rice and macaroni stand in for the crumbs that inevitably end up on the floor as you cook, or the debris you track in. The Kenmore 21814 picked up all the rice and 85% of the macaroni. This ranks the 21814 among the top canisters we've tested thus far.
Worthy of the Elite brand
The Kenmore Elite 21814 is a fine vacuum cleaner. It combines a few high-end features with lots of powerful suction.
A diverse arsenal of cleaning tools cleaned everything from dusty ceiling fans to fur-covered carpets, although we did find them difficult to attach and remove. It may not be a big problem for those who don't switch tools very often, but others may find it quite an annoyance, especially at this price point. Still, it's nice to know your vacuum can effectively clean so many kinds of debris from normal carpet.
Although the handling was a bit clunky, we can't dismiss the 21814. Vacuum cleaners need good suction, and this one has it in spades. If you're looking for a straightforward, powerful vacuum, the Kenmore Elite 21814 is worth checking out.
Meet the testers
Jonathan Chan currently serves as the Lab Manager at Reviewed. If you clean with it, it's likely that Jon oversees its testing. Since joining the Reviewed in 2012, Jon has helped launch the company's efforts in reviewing laptops, vacuums, and outdoor gear. He thinks he's a pretty big deal. In the pursuit of data, he's plunged his hands into freezing cold water, consented to be literally dragged through the mud, and watched paint dry. Jon demands you have a nice day.See all of Jonathan Chan's reviews
Checking our work.
We use standardized and scientific testing methods to scrutinize every product and provide you with objectively accurate results. If you’ve found different results in your own research, email us and we’ll compare notes. If it looks substantial, we’ll gladly re-test a product to try and reproduce these results. After all, peer reviews are a critical part of any scientific process.Shoot us an email