We are super excited to be testing the Kirby Avalir 2 which came out in early 2018. This is our first Kirby vacuum and we have to say we love the way Kirbys look and feel. It’s like they came out of a different century and I guess in a way they have. Kirby hasn’t really changed the basic design of their vacuums for a long time. The differences between the Avalir 2 and the previous generation, the Avalir 1, for example, are pretty minimal, things like color scheme and really minor tweaks.
So after a week of testing the Avalir 2, I think I’m ready to do a pros and cons review. Let’s get started with the pros. Kirby vacuums are pretty much the undisputed champions of airflow. Nothing else really comes close. For example, at the floor head, we measured 5,079 feet per minute of airflow or 132 CFM which is just amazing. For context, the Dyson Ball Animal 2, which is one of the best regular consumer vacuums in the airflow category, measured only 2,126 feet per minute.
That means that the Kirby has more than doubled the amount of airflow of the most powerful model in Dyson’s lineup, which is pretty crazy if you think about it. That basically means the Avalir 2 pretty much sucks up everything in its way and can do things that other vacuums just can’t do because of its crazy amount of airflow.
In canister mode, with a hard floor attachment, the airflow is reduced somewhat, but it still measured 2,736 feet per minute. Again, for context, the Dyson V10, which has the highest airflow of any cordless vacuum that we know of, measured 1,929 feet per minute at the cleaner head. So Kirby has more than 30% more airflow than the Dyson V10, even in canister mode.
Another thing that Kirbys are really good at, and the Avalir 2 is no exception, is carpet agitation. Kirby’s powerful motor combined with a sturdy wooden roller with stiff bristles means that the brush roll agitates debris that hides all the way at the bottom of the carpet and the aforementioned airflow then sucks it all up. It’s basically designed for deep cleaning carpets and this is why they’ve been successful in door-to-door sales because they can have people vacuum their carpet with their old vacuum then run the Kirby over the same area and show them how much dirt their old vacuum missed.
The third thing that Kirbys are really good at is being incredibly versatile. It’s an upright vacuum, but with the right attachments, it can also convert to a canister vacuum, a carpet and furniture shampooer, a hard floor polishing machine, a blower, a paint sprayer, a handheld vacuum for mattresses and furniture, a mop, and a tile and grout cleaner, and probably more that I don’t know about.
As a carpet shampooer, it uses what’s called a dry foam technique which allows for faster drying of carpets. It took me a minute to figure out what I was doing and I had the foam up too high and the height adjustment all wrong at first, but when I did figure it out, I found that it cleaned all the mud off our test carpet and dried by the next morning. The setup wasn’t too bad, especially once I knew what I was doing. I plan on more tests with the shampooer in the future, but for now, we’ll just say that we were impressed and that we look forward to seeing what it does with tougher stains.
I still have a lot of positive things to say about the Kirby but they’re all kind of mixed in with the negative critiques so let’s move on to the cons. Kirbys are heavy. To be fair, Kirby has lighten the load over the years and added things like a self-propelled transmission where you can put it in drive and basically it’s like pushing an incredibly light vacuum. I have no issues with that aspect and found it worked really well, but even in canister mode, it weighs about 18 pounds, which, again, to be fair, only comes into play when you have to carry it upstairs because as a canister it follows you around pretty good. But if you do have a lot of stairs, Kirby’s weight would be a big con.
Another con would be that it’s not great for hard floors in its upright mode. As long as you turn the brush roll off, it does a pretty good job on hard floors, but if you encounter a lot of bigger debris, you need to adjust the height a lot. Too low and it pushes it around, too high and it won’t pick it up. And because in upright mode the Kirby doesn’t have a hose that you can pull out for larger debris, you’re stuck with adjusting the height to get the debris.
Kirby does have an attachment which I don’t have but it basically snaps onto the bottom of the Kirby in upright mode and apparently makes it much better on hard floors without switching to canister mode. Still though, if you have a lot of hard floors, the Kirby in canister mode is what you want. It takes me about a minute and a half to switch it over. The super-powerful airflow can be controlled with a switch on the handle.
It’s decent for carpets in canister mode but the tools provided really aren’t designed well for carpets, and though the Kirby attachments are only fair in my opinion, the good news is that the size of the attachments, one and a quarter inch or 32 millimeters, is one of the most common. So you can find all kinds of third-party attachments to take advantage of all that airflow.
So our con here is that if you have an equal mix of hard floors and carpet in your home, it can be a bit of a pain switching back and forth from canister to upright mode. Again, you can vacuum carpets in canister mode or hard floors and upright mode, but it’s better to take the time to switch modes for best results.
Also we would like to say that there’s a bit of a learning curve with Kirbys. You really need to take some time and learn how to use it. It’s not as plug-and-play as most vacuums these days are, but once you do know how to change the head or attach the shampooer or convert it to canister mode, it all seems pretty intuitive. It’s just a bit of a learning curve.
So we would say that Kirbys aren’t for everyone. They do have some drawbacks. But the huge amounts of airflow combined with the really strong agitation make them one of the best carpet deep cleaners ever built. And when you throw in that it can convert to so many different machines, it makes the Kirby Avalir 2 a really compelling vacuum.