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A Robot Vacuum that Really Works—and It’s Inexpensive!

NEWS FLASH. As of 11 a.m. Pacific Time the Eufy RoboVac 11 is sold out. We knew at the Deal price of $149 they would go fast, but apparently the folks at Eufy didn’t realize the power of our mighty band of cheapskates. Best advice: Let’s watch to see when the status changes back to “Available” and hope that it’s before day’s end. We’ll update right here as we learn more.  -mh

Vacuuming sucks. Literally. My idea of giving our adult sons robot vacuums for Christmas one year was intended to help them with that odious chore.

What a disappointment. I learned much later that both robots got thrown out after only a few months because they were ridiculously noisy, needed constant supervision and just more trouble than they were worth. They were annoying and couldn’t do the job.

But that was then and this is now: There’s a new robot vacuum in town and Eufy RoboVac II is his name.

From the same folks who make the Eufy Stick Vac (which we love around here), this robot has renewed my faith that robotic vacuuming is not only possible—it can be amazing.

Ask Me Anything

Power Dissolver, Best Inexpensive Blender, Hotel Rooms, Deck Cleaner

As you may know, and only because I mention it so often, I get a lot of mail. And up until just recently, it’s gone into one big out-of-control pile I call The Mailbag.

Having reached the tipping point where I was ready to pull out every last hair in my head, I’ve come up with a new three-category plan. From now on all of my mail will be sorted by three categories: Questions, Comments and Tips.

Today I’m kicking off a new “Ask Me Anything” feature where I’ll answer as many questions as space permits.

Comments will be addressed in another new feature, “Letters to the Editor,” (watch for it) and your awesome tips will continue to show up in “Great Reader Tips.”

Questions, comments and tips will be considered for publication based on their appeal, relevancy and whether the message strikes your humble columnist’s fancy!

How the Right Thermometer Makes Me Look Good in the Kitchen

Faithful readers know how much I love to cook. That has not always been the case. It was coming face-to-face with how much money we were spending on restaurants, diners, take-out and drive-thrus that forced me (kicking and screaming) into the kitchen.

All those years ago, I looked to TV shows, cookbooks and online videos to teach me how to cook. I became a marginally decent cook.

Several months ago, I ponied up about $20 (I had a coupon!) to test a subscription to Home Chef meal kit delivery service (read all about that HERE and HERE).

Best Inexpensive Stick Vacuum—Finally!

Over the past several months, I’ve received more requests for the best inexpensive stick vacuum than all other such requests combined. And I get it. I’ve been looking for my ideal stick vacuum for so long, I’d just about come to the conclusion that my expectations are completely unreasonable—my perfect stick vacuum doesn’t exist.

For me, a stick vacuum is not a substitute for a good, powerful household vacuum that can pull dirt, dust and debris from deep within the pile of a carpet. Just so you know, I am not looking to get rid of my beloved Sharky. Never! A stick vacuum has a different purpose altogether.

It’s a simple tool designed for quick pick-ups; to clean up spills in the kitchen, tracked in sand, dirt, pet hair, cat litter, dust, and loose debris when you don’t have the time or inclination to haul out a full size vacuum cleaner for such a small task.

A good way to think of a stick vacuum is that it’s an electric broom and dustpan in one. It “sweeps” up and then vacuums away debris in a single pass without the need for the user to bend over or get down on the floor.

My dream stick vacuum would be cordless with a run time of at least 20 minutes and able to stand alone. In my dreams this stick vacuum is so lightweight I can easily carry it up and down stairs in one hand while carrying a load in the other. It must have an on/off switch so that I don’t have to continuously hold down a trigger during operation.

Thanks for Asking—You’re 1 in a 1000!

Years ago I had an editor who told me that I should value highly every letter I receive because each one represents 1,000 readers with the same question or comment. Honestly, I was skeptical because there was no way to prove such a thing. But I never forgot what she said.

This many years later, I’m a believer! How do I measure? By the number of thanks I get after the fact, when I do respond to those readers who take the time to write. It’s like, “Oh, that’s exactly what I needed to know!” or “I was just going to write and ask the same thing.”

A regular, albeit random, feature of this column—EC’s Best Inexpensive—has begun to bring a lot of mail in the form of reader requests for their particular item of interest.

And so for Jeannine, Francine and Brenda—and the 999 others who haven’t asked yet—here are the EC picks for Best Inexpensive hairdryer, electric mixers and clothes steamers.

HAIR DRYER: Conair 1875 Watt with Cord Keeper. This hairdryer has it all and by “all” I mean the things on my particular must-have list: three levels of heat, two speeds, cool shot button, diffuser attachment and retractable cord (awesome). This is a powerful dryer that comes in a choice of two cool colors. About $35. 

Best Inexpensive Computer Printers

With so many technologies and capabilities available, choosing a printer isn’t easy. And don’t assume you’ll find the perfect printer anytime soon. No matter the cost, printers get paper jams. They run out of ink/toner. Network connectivity can be challenging. That’s just the nature of printers. I don’t know why, but it’s important to understand and accept.

Now that I’ve lowered your over all expectations, let me give you the good news: There are some great affordable printers out there, depending of course on exactly what you need a printer to do. Here are my top three picks for your consideration:

Best Inexpensive Black and White Laser Printer. The Brother HL-L2380DW is a great choice for people who need to print, scan, or copy term papers, tax forms, concert tickets and other black and white documents from home, home office or dorm room. This printer handles automatic two-sided printing; it’s pretty speedy too, at 32 pages per minute, with a cost-per-page of about 2.3 cents which includes wear and tear on the drum.

This Brother model is quite easy to set up and will be a reliable addition to your home’s computer network. Expect this printer to work well with any current laptop, desktop, smartphone or tablet including Chromebooks.

The paper tray holds 250 sheets of paper and the printer itself has a draft or “save more” setting that allows you to conserve toner when the document you print does not require professional quality. But when that is needed, this printer outputs sharp, professional black and white pages at up to 2400 x 600 dpi resolution. About $129.

Best Instant Pot Tips, Recipes and Accessories

Last week I turned to use my microwave oven only to have it glare at me with a fatal error message in its little display screen. What?!

I googled “Whirlpool” plus the error code and learned that the cost to replace the electronics that had blown out would be far greater than replacing the whole thing. Great. But not this week. Surely, I could get along without a microwave until some more convenient time to replace it, right? Wrong!

Every time I turned around it seemed I was reaching for that microwave. Within a couple of hours I realized that a microwave oven has become a staple item that is quite necessary in my typical American kitchen. But it wasn’t always that way.

I remember in 1971 when roughly 1% of households in America had a microwave oven. Most everyone liked the idea but it was also terrifying. The fear was radiation and the danger of standing within five feet of the thing and getting nuked. In 2017 a microwave oven is a minimum requirement.

Here’s my take: Instant Pot is the future’s “microwave.” While the Instant Pot company can barely keep up with the demand having sold more than 50,000,000 units so far, many people are still fearful that a pressure cooker is going to blow a hole in the roof, set the house on fire or any other number of irrational fears. Sure, pressure cookers are nothing new, but Instant Pot has taken this fabulous way of cooking to new levels of technology and safety.

Soon, I predict, Instant Pot will become an ordinary basic  kitchen appliance. New homes will come with Instant Pot built into the countertop. Top-of-the line cooktops will come complete with Instant Pot. And we’ll laugh about the days when people were afraid.

Instant Pot comes with an owner manual and recipe book. Both should be considered required reading but honestly, I found them to be unbearably boring while only marginally useful. What follows are the websites, tips, tricks and accessories that put me onto the fast track to falling in love with my Instant Pot IP-DUO60 7-in-1 Multi-Functional Pressure Cooker, 6Qt/1000W. I was cooking dinner the very first day, that’s how doable it is to master Instant Pot.

QUICK START

Perform the Instant Pot Water Test. Do not skip this.

Best Inexpensive Cordless Handheld Vacuum

To say that I have had a love/hate relationship with handheld vacuums for many years would be to put it mildly. I love the idea of a handheld cordless vacuum that is charged up and always ready to make a quick pick-up—in fact, that’s pretty much on my list of life’s necessities.

But I hate when the thing runs for only a few minutes before it needs to be recharged and has such weak suction it really doesn’t do a very good job of picking anything up. It’s enough to make me want to pull my hair out!

I’m sure it’s been 30 years or longer since I got my first handheld Dustbuster. It would hold a charge for maybe two minutes if all the stars were properly aligned and I held it in just the right position. And the thing completely failed after only a short time—refusing to hold any charge at all.