Just be aware that convenience disappears if you have to lug all 20 pounds of the 31150 up any stairs, and a clunky design makes spot cleaning and storage a real chore. If you live in a one-story or don't mind the weight, this is the upright to buy.
All vacuum testing takes place in a sealed room, so only the contaminants inside are our testing materials.
For all performance tests, we use a 90-gram mixture of dirt made of particles of varying size, from coarse sand to talcum powder. This mixture is placed on three surfaces: shag carpet, normal carpet, and bare floor. We also use uncooked macaroni and rice to simulate large debris, and cat hair to simulate a pet living in your home. After the test run is complete, we weigh the bag or canister to determine how much dirt has been cleaned up.
Standard attachments, plus a dirt sensor
The Kenmore 31150 comes with a pretty standard repertoire of accessories. There's a crevice tool, a telescopic wand, and what Kenmore calls a Pet Handi-Mate—an attachment with thick bristles, great for pet hair and stair cleaning. Conveniently, all the attachments clip right onto the back of the vacuum. Combine these with the 33-foot long cord, and the user-friendly 31150 will easily clean most rooms without the need to unplug and replug at all.
Unfortunately, a few important convenience features have been omitted. The power cord, for example, doesn't automatically retract, and that Pet Handi-Mate—useful as it is—isn't motorized.
The dirt sensor is a extra that we didn't expect. A light illuminates when an onboard sensor detects your vacuum is still picking up dirt, so perfectionists can be sure they've cleaned the floor as thoroughly as possible. Or, here's another idea: Tell the kids that their vacuuming chores aren't done "until the light goes out."
We measure the loudness of each vacuum in a sound-proof chamber, gathering measurements from 10 feet away. The Kenmore Elite 31150 is quite loud at 74.2 dBA.
We place wooden obstacles on the testing surfaces to simulate corners and furniture. The 31150 had perfect edge cleaning abilities, picking up just as much dirt against a wall as it would have in the center of a room.
Unfortunately, the 31150's bulky form prevents it from reaching under furniture. Given four-inches of vertical clearance, the bulky 31150 could only reach 6 inches underneath a couch. In fact, even given a full foot of clearance it could only achieve 19 inches of reach. That's the curse of thicker upright vacuums.
Self-propelled means less back pain for you, sort of
One of the major drawbacks of uprights versus canisters is weight. A typical upright is much heavier and requires more push force to get the job done. The Kenmore 31150 moves forward on its own, meaning you expend almost no effort pushing this upright forward.
On the other hand, you might strain yourself moving furniture. The 31150's profile gives it poor clearance. This vacuum requires at least 4 vertical inches to sneak under the couch, and even then it can only reach in about 7 inches before abutting the rest of the body. You may also have issues using this vacuum on stairs. This model weighs a little over 20-pounds, so keep that in mind if you've got more than one level to clean. The strong self-propulsion also makes the unit difficult to pull backwards.
While using the extension hose, we found the 31150 does have a tendency to tip over. Classification as an "upright" makes us think the Kenmore 31150 should, you know, stay upright. So just be aware of this design flaw if you're cleaning the Ancient Antiquities wing at your local museum.
The Kenmore Elite 31150 did well on both normal and shag carpet. On average it picked up 24.85 grams of dirt per test run. Which means it would take about three passes to get your shag clean. On normal carpet, the 31150 picked up 74.8 grams per test run, meaning only two passes over the same area would be necessary to remove all the dirt.
Here's where this Elite lives up to its name.
This vacuum captured dirt like a magnet, especially large debris. We used rice and macaroni to simulate the aftermath of a messy eater, and the 31150 cleaned up the mess entirely.
In our dirt test, the Elite left our test carpet spotless within two passes. It didn't matter if we were vacuuming up against the wall or in the middle of the room—the 31150 performed equally well.
Shag carpet is difficult for any vacuum, but this Kenmore did well compared to its competitors. We calculate it will take about three passes to remove all the dirt out from a very thick carpet.
Other than the $300 MSRP, all this suction power does come at another price: The Kenmore 31150 is one of the loudest vacuums we've tested. If you have people living below you, they'll know when you're vacuuming. Midnight vacuumers, best consider a stealthier model.
For in-depth performance information, please visit the Science Page.
The bare floor test consists of only of rice, macaroni, and cat hair. The Elite performed almost perfectly: removing all of the hair and macaroni, but missing a single grain of rice.
An ideal balance of price and performance
Above all else, a vacuum needs to to do one thing: clean your floors. That's what the Kenmore Elite 31150 does best. It's loud and heavy, but it's powerful and picks up dirt. The bulky design doesn't lend itself to precision handling, and it does have some problems with tipping over, but many buyers may forgive those flaws in light of its cleaning power.
We can also overlook some flaws thanks to its price: At $300, this model is a fraction of the cost of the most expensive models we've tested, like the Miele S7, yet performs just as well. The Kenmore 31150 is simply one of the best deals in vacuum cleaning.
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