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Vacuum Cleaner - 10 Tips For Buying

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    Vacuum Cleaner - 10 Tips For Buying

    By Randy Lee

    This is not a "What is the best vacuum cleaner to buy" article but you will find some tips on purchasing a vacuum cleaner that will save you some grief and money.

    1. <b>Match The Vacuum To The Job</b>:

    <u>Carpet</u>: Only an upright vacuum will do. Look for a machine with multiple height positions, wide wheels, reasonably light and a long power cord. Remember that lighter does not mean better.

    <u>Bare Floor</u>: A Canister type vacuum is recommended but an upright with attachments will do. Uprights are awkward and may scuff the surface of your floor.

    <u>Upholstery</u>: A hand vacuum with a revolving brush is the preferred choice. However some upright cleaning systems come packaged with an air-driven upholstery tool with a revolving brush.

    <u>Utility</u>: Any inexpensive name-brand shop vacuum will work here. Just make sure the bags and filters are readily available.

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    2. <b>Power Ratings: Fact or Fiction</b>

    Walk through a store's vacuum cleaner display and you'll soon see each one proudly displaying its power ratings. They typically show one or more ratings such as Watts or Amps.

    Watts and Amps are a measure of power consumption; how much electricity the appliance will use. Wattage and amperage only give you part of the picture.

    Imagine buying a water pump: You may be concerned with the power consumption but will probably be more concerned with the volume of water it moves, Gallons Per Minute (GPM).

    A vacuum cleaner is essentially an "air pump" and the rating you should be concerned with is the volume of air moved per minute which is rated in CFM or Cubic Feet of air per Minute.

    An upright vacuum with a rating of approximately 100 CFM or greater is required if you want to remove the denser abrasive sand from your carpet. Most household brands are grouped around 40 CFM with a small inch and a quarter fill tube and for obvious reasons do not like to display their CFM rating. The brand we like moves roughly 120 CFM, almost 3 times the average with a price tag less than one sixth of the high-end name brand household machines.

    Canister and upholstery vacuum cleaners will not move nearly as much air as the better uprights will. Canister vacs are limited because the hose restricts the amount of air that can be moved and should not be used for carpet. CFM is still important in a canister or hand vac but not as critical as it is in an upright vacuum cleaner.

    3. <b>Serviceability</b>

    Make sure bags, belts, filters and parts will be readily available for your machine.

    It is not uncommon to see chain stores quit selling supplies for appliances they no longer stock, and with models changing yearly this can be a serious inconvenience.

    4. <b>Maintainability</b>

    Look for a cleaning system that is easy to maintain. Some models require a technician to do an otherwise simple belt change.

    Avoid vacuum cleaners that draw debris through small hoses, orifices or sharp bends. Objects are prone to lodge in these areas restricting air flow. Many times this will require disassembly of the machine and in many cases will cause your motor to overheat.

    5. <b>Cost of Ownership</b>

    Always buy quality; the investment will pay you back with a lower cost per year. A good quality vacuum will extend the life of your carpeting and maintain a fluffier more vibrant appearance.

    Avoid the cheap machines if possible because they do not clean very well, are predisposed to failure and parts are not readily available.

    Some models use extraordinarily high priced filters and bags. Look for a system that uses inexpensive and readily available supplies.

    6. <b>HEPA Filtration and Performance</b>

    Filtration is good so more filtration must be better, right? Wrong!

    Too much filtration reduces the air-flow of your vacuum cleaner. If the wind doesn't blow, the dust will not fly.

    Find a vacuum cleaner that allows you to purchase optional "Premium" high filtration paper bags. You will never have to worry about your expensive HEPA filters plugging up. When you toss the bag, you start fresh and maintain a good air-flow.

    If allergies or dust control are not an issue, you may look into the bagless models but most of these have expensive filters that need to be replaced.

    7. <b>Bagless or Bust</b>

    Bagless vacuum cleaners leak lots of dust so avoid them if anyone has allergy related problems. If health issues are not a concern bagless vacuums can provide some extra convenience and cost savings.

    Most bagless vacuum cleaners have expensive filters that need to be replaced periodically. On many models if these filters are not changed regularly you may damage the motor.

    Bagless vacuums usually have a higher initial cost so it may take a while to realize any cost savings.

    8. <b>Warranty</b>

    Like anything else you purchase, look for a machine that offers a parts and labor warranty for more than one year. Our personal pick is the blue line Sanitaire "System_Pro" upright series which offer a five year factory parts and labor warranty at no extra cost.

    Many brands offer an extended warranty for an additional charge but avoid these machines. If the manufacturer is confident about their product they will include the warranty with the original purchase price.

    9. <b>Mass Market Hype</b>

    Almost every household has at least one vacuum cleaner and the mass market is taking advantage of this. You can expect the lifespan of the typical chain store vacuum cleaner to be around 2 years or less.

    The majority of these machines are underpowered, unable to remove embedded dirt and have a short life span. Forgetting the replacement cost every 2 years, consider the damage that embedded dirt will do to your carpeting. Sand is abrasive (think sandpaper) and will cut the fibers of your carpet leaving wear patterns in the high traffic areas of your home. If you do not remove the sand from your carpeting, you will lose approximately one half of the life of your carpet.

    Purchasing a cheap chain store vacuum cleaner may be an expensive mistake, especially if you are a home owner.

    10. <b>The Swiss Army Knife - Add-ons You Need (or don't)</b>

    You have seen all of the cool gadgets that are added to some vacuum cleaners. Everything from shampooers and paint sprayers to turbo driven upholstery brushes and self-propelled power drive units are available depending on manufacturer and model.

    The truth is that most people never or rarely use most of the optional accessories. Do you picture yourself painting a fence with a vacuum cleaner?

    Now, there are some very useful add-on tools available for purchase separately at modest prices. We recommend buying a basic good quality vacuum and then purchasing tools separately that fit very specific jobs such as a ceiling fan brush, vertical blind brush, turbo driven upholstery brush, etc.


    When shopping for a vacuum cleaner, match the tool to the job. Buy the best quality you can afford because it will give the greatest return on your investment and have a direct impact on the appearance and life of your carpeting. Look for a decent warranty and make sure that support and supplies will be available in the future.

    Happy Vacuuming!

    Randy Lee has been associated with the vacuum industry for over 30 years with experience in vacuum sales and service. He currently owns and operates <a href="">A-1 Vacuum and Sewing Center</a>

    Thanks for the tips... It helped me a lot while purchasing...


      $ Saving HS Freshman


        floor models = good

        My method:

        I do a goodly amount of research & price comparisons online... all before ever going into a store to actually shop. I amass a list, a handful of top choices (at least 3-5) and a slightly longer list (10-12) that are not my preference, but are also acceptable.

        Then, and only then, do I go to the stores... hunting for floor models. Most stores are willing to markdown/discount floor models. They don't tend to volunteer markdowns; you have to ask, sometimes being persistent (keywords: ask for the supervisor). Many people are afraid of floor models, for fear that they may be damaged or discontinued. I say: never fear... that's why extended warranties exist.

        My goal: receive enough of a discount on a floor model so that you can afford to buy a good (at least 2 years) extended warranty (and still be well under the MSRP).

        My last find... a bag-less HEPA multi-floor-setting Dyson with an MSRP of $500. My price $275, plus a 2 year warranty for an additional $100. The floor model was missing the stair brush attachment, but no worries... I live in a 1-story house.


          Thanks for the tips! I am in the market to buy a new sweeper. I've had a Hoover Windtunnel for 9 years. Many family members have the Dyson Animal but lots of others tell me it's not worth the money. I need the most bang for the buck!


            Thanks for the praiseworthy information. I like your posting very much it is helpful for everyone.


              Thanks jeffrey, probably the best guide for buying vacuums. Even tho I don't understand much of the technical aspects of a vacuum, I assume that canister type is probably the best since it is the most versalite. Taking your recommendation, I will probably buy mid-range Miele with 7 years of warranity. Seems pretty solid, 7 years is a lot of time.