The Hoover H-Free 500 cordless vacuum is refreshingly compact, making it ideal for space-starved homes. Or indeed any home where storage is in short supply, i.e. every home I have ever lived in.
After agreeing to switch allegiances from my premium brand cordless for five weeks to test the Hoover H-Free 500, I seriously put it through its paces on all the many and varied floor types in our (approximately 180sq m) four-bedroom family home. We’re talking solid wood and rugs downstairs and mainly carpet upstairs, plus tile in the bathrooms, utility and hall.
Boasting Hoover’s ‘greatest EVER cordless suction power’ and ‘up to 40 minutes of power’, according to the manufacturer’s blurb, the Hoover H-Free Cordless Vacuum makes bold promises. But, considering its impressively low price tag, can it possibly deliver beside others on our best cordless vacuum list?
Read on to find out how I got on living with the Hoover H-Free 500 cordless vacuum, then check out our best vacuum cleaner guide for more potential contenders for your next vacuum purchase.
Hoover H-Free 500 cordless vacuum specifications
- Model no: HF522BH 001
- Bin capacity: 0.45l
- Power source: 22 volt Li-Ion battery
- Cleaning time: up to 40 mins
- Charging time: 6 hours
- Power modes: 2
- Weight: 2.2kg
- Dimensions: H107.9cm x W25.2cm x D19.5cm
- Warranty: one year
Who will the Hoover H-Free 500 suit?
Those lacking storage will love the compact parking mode, and it’s very light and easy to maneuver, which is great for anyone suffering from strength or mobility issues. Owners of smaller homes will love it more than those with ample space, as it won't allow you to vacuum large areas quickly.
Delivery, unboxing and setting up
I had absolutely no complaints with the fast, efficient (and free if you order before 3pm) delivery of the Hoover H-Free 500 cordless vacuum. The box was compact, as you might expect from a compact stick vacuum, and the packaging was environmentally considerate with no polystyrene and only a small amount of plastic.
Unboxing was also largely hassle-free. I didn’t need to look at the instructions to connect the various parts together or get the battery on charge, which is always a promising start.
However, I was a tad confused when I came across two rubber blades, like mini windscreen wiper blades, in the box and had to consult the instruction book to discover they attach to the floor head. The process is easy enough but involves removing a velvety soft strip at the rear of the floor head, and the instructions didn’t make it clear which is best for different floor types. It says the wiper blades obtain the best crevice and carpet performance. I searched Hoover’s website for fresh intel but drew a blank so decided to pop them on and hope for the best.
Finally, it was just a case of waiting for the battery to fully charge, which is always frustrating when you’re ready to get stuck in.
Powering up the Hoover H-Free 500 cordless vacuum for the first time, I noticed two things. Firstly, it is rather loud, and, secondly, it is rather light. Since you’ll only be vacuuming for about 40 minutes max, the loudness is worth suffering to enjoy the lightness. This vacuum is so light, I didn’t need to bother switching to the handheld mode to clean sofa cushions and the top of our padded ottoman, I just hoiked the floorhead up (with one hand) and carried on cleaning.
On the right, the lights indicate what mode you’re in; white for standard floor cleaning with the motorised brush head, green for standard without motorised brush head, light blue is Handheld Mode and dark blue is Turbo. There is a battery light too, which is fairly useful (the Blue 70% light isn’t really necessary), but the power color codes would not stick in my head, and I didn’t really see the point of them. I knew what mode I was in because I had pressed the button/removed the floorhead to action it.
The first time I pushed the floorhead along (on the wooden flooring), it didn’t seem terribly smooth, and when I came upon larger debris – for example dead grass from the recently mown lawn – it just pushed it around rather than vacuuming. I tried carpet and was met with even worse resistance and debris avoidance. Not a great start. However, I then remembered those weird wiper blade strips I’d installed and took them off, reinstating the velvet strip. Problem sorted.
I still don’t know the point of the rubber strips, but once I’d sacked them off, the floorhead moved smoothly and suctioned up everything in its wake. Switching to handheld, the uncoupling action was also smooth and effortless. You push in a red, square button to detach the floorhead and the hose pops out easily.
The integral dusting, crevice and furniture tools hosted on the handheld part are pure genius. Instead of having to carry around various nozzles, they just slide down into position when required. Flip the tool to change from dusting nozzle (brushes) to furniture (cushioned rim) and slide it back out of the way to use the regular crevice tool, which is essentially an angle cut into the end of both the hand-held and long hose. If you are looking for the best handheld vacuum, this cordless is a great contender.
The furniture and dusting tool can also be used at the end of the long floor hose, for reaching up to curtain pelmets and lightshades etc. The vacuum is supplied with a separate long nozzle attachment, which sadly isn’t stored onboard, so you’ll need to pop it in your back pocket if you’re planning to tackle cobwebs. But it does lengthen the hose sufficiently to get right up to ceiling height.
In general, I found the Hoover H-Free 500 cordless vacuum very pleasant to use, easy to flip between the various permutations and it was also nice not to have to keep the power button held down while you clean, unlike other more expensive options. Admittedly it was a tad louder than I am used to, or enjoy, especially in Turbo mode but by no means ear-splitting.
But what about the cleaning results? In the main, I found the suction in normal power mode was good (in Turbo mode it is exceptionally good) and more than capable of dealing with the mountains of dog/child hair we tend to accrue every day meaning I would recommend it to those after a good pet vac.
At times, the Hoover H-Free 500 cordless vacuum was a bit too good suction-wise, especially on the large flatweave rug in the kitchen. I had to execute an awkward lifting and dragging back motion because the floorhead was too sucky to move back and forth without ruckling the rug up (we also advise standing on the edges in our guide on how to clean a rug). On my own cordless vacuum there is a low power mode, especially for rugs of this type, which I sorely missed.
Overall, I’d say the cleaning performance was decent, particularly given the price of this vacuum. Activating the motorised brush made light work of carpet cleaning, with all those annoying feathers and fluff coming up without too much back-and-forth action, and there was always a reassuring amount of dirt in the dustbin.
In terms of power duration, you can expect to get roughly 25 minutes in normal (not turbo) mode when the motorised brush-head is engaged, and 40 minutes in normal mode without the brush-head whirring. And a paltry eight minutes in Turbo mode. Basically, I wouldn’t advise using the Turbo mode during a long clean – but it is excellent for tackling quick clear-ups.
As most of our ground-floor is hardwood or tile, I was able to do the whole 100sq m (no motorised brush) with plenty of battery life to spare. However, if I tried to do the whole house, therefore adding four bedroom carpets and the landing runner upstairs (which needs the motorised brush-head) as well as the two tiled bathrooms and staircase, I had no chance of completing it on a single battery.
And here’s the rub, recharging the battery takes six hours – count them. So, unless you live in a two-three bedroom bungalow (or vacuum at sonic speeds), you would probably need to get the model that comes with two batteries (and two charging cables) and keep them both fully loaded in readiness for a whole-house session. You can buy a spare battery for £59.99 but it doesn’t include the power cable, so keeping two charged would require good organisational skills. Personally, I don’t want to be thinking about switching around batteries six hours after I’m done cleaning.
In reality of course, many households retain a cabled vacuum cleaner for doing longer cleaning sessions, leaving the cordless for those quick daily scat-abouts that keep you on top of things. If you are not intending to buy the Hoover H-Free 500 as your one and only vacuum, then the six-hour charging situ becomes much less problematic.
Maintenance and storage
Ease of bin emptying is a high priority for many people looking to buy a cordless stick vacuum. The good news for anyone considering the Hoover H-Free 500, is that the bin lid is a joy to open. It doesn’t stick, or require a tricky twist and pull technique that is impossible to remember; you just press a button and it pops open.
The bad news is that in order for the dirt to fall out just as effortlessly, you really need to empty the bin frequently. If you don’t, you’ll need to engage the dirt removing tool (resembling a long flat toothbrush) that is supplied with the vacuum and ferret all the dirt out. This is a messy, awkward job that then requires extra cleaning of both your hands and the floor around your wastebin. I found that emptying the bin every time I used the Hoover H-Free 500, and never, ever allowing it to get beyond the (teeny) max capacity level, was the only way to make the bin emptying experience as easy as it should be.
By contrast, cleaning the filters is really well thought out – the main canister comes apart easily and it’s simple to see how it all reconnects, too. Washing is done under a running tap, and there’s a spare filter supplied to ensure you’ll always have a clean, dry one on-hand. With two long-haired daughters that moult more than the dogs, I especially loved how the roller brush in the floorhead clips out, allowing hair to be snipped off quickly and effectively.
Storage is a dream, thanks to the cool clipping system that allows you to connect the handheld part of the vacuum onto the main hose of the floorhead. There is also a bracket for wall-mounting if preferred. Another clever feature is the clip-out battery that can be charged solo. It’s smart because it means you don’t have to store the vacuum near a socket, opening up all manner of stashing spots around the home.
How does it rate online?
On Hoover’s own website, where reviews are powered by Reevoo, customers give the H-Free 500 a reassuring 8.1 out of 10. Like me, the majority found it easy to use, light and comes apart easily. Others mention how good it is for the less abled, and lauded the pure brilliance of being able to pop it in an under-counter cupboard.
The negative feedback largely focuses on the short battery life and teeny-tiny bin that needs emptying and cleaning more than anyone should reasonably expect. Elsewhere on ao.com and Amazon, the responses are very similar.
How does the Hoover H-Free 500 compare to other vacuum cleaners?
Hoover’s H-Free 500 range features two cordless models, the Home (which we tested) and the Pets, which is the same as the Home but with the addition of a mini turbo brush. Both models are then also available in a twin-battery pack version so, technically, that’s four choices. Still with me? Essentially, you just need to decide if you want a mini turbo brush, and/or an extra battery. I can’t comment on the former as I didn’t test one, but in the case of the extra battery pack, I’d say 100% yes you do.
Beyond Hoover, the closest competitor within a similar price-range would be the Gtech HyLite 2, which is lighter and shrinks down to a similar footprint but lacks some of the functionality of the H-Free 500. If you are looking for battery life and a bigger bin, and have a bit more cash to spare, we’d recommend considering the Karcher VC 6 cordless.
Should I buy the Hoover H-Free 500 Cordless?
The Hoover H-Free 500 excels on many important points, namely cleaning (the big one!), weight, storage and ease of use. Sure, it lets itself down a touch on bin size and battery life, but those in smaller homes or apartments probably won’t even notice.
I found this vacuum much lighter, and more flexible than my regular cordless vacuum, and I found it went far deeper under the sofas and other leg-based furniture. It was also perfect for doing the stairs – I clipped the floorhead into the handheld nozzle to make it the ideal width for the stair runner.
Admittedly, the H-Free 500 is a little flimsier, construction-wise, than I am used to, but this was only really noticeable when pushing the floorhead over uneven surfaces like our terracotta tiles (it kinda rattles along). Otherwise, the accessories and connections felt very robust and clicked firmly into position.
If you have a large home, I would recommend you buy the H-Free 500 as a secondary vacuum to grab when speed and convenience are required. It simply doesn’t have the bin capacity or battery life to manage a full house clean involving more than two or three bedrooms.
About this review and our reviewer
Linda Clayton is a professionally trained journalist who has specialised in home tech, interior design and fitness for more than two decades. She’s a fastidious product reviewer, design obsessive, serial renovator, and amateur runner.
She was sent the Hoover H-Free 500 to test in her Devon home, to find out how well it performs across various floor types and how well it copes with busy family life, and her three super-fluffy, world-class-moulting dogs.
We are not given any compensation for our reviews, but Hoover did not require the product to be returned, so Linda will sell it and donate 100% of the proceeds to this charity.
Read more about how we test products for Real Homes reviews.