I’m not a big fan of vacuuming, I really dislike changing vacuum bags and the usual vacuum cleaner noise is really unpleasant, I just wish my house never got dirty! That being said, how do I make a wise choice of vacuum cleaner since now we are all told that a HEPA vacuum cleaner is the thing to buy?
Nowadays, allergy sufferers can choose from a wide selection of models and brands. In my experience that this is one of the few appliances where paying a bit more, yields dividends in terms of reliability and performance. Choosing a new vacuum cleaner can now be a daunting prospect, as all the major vacuum cleaner manufacturers seemingly offer the same choices and it is only when you take a closer look do you start to see the fine differences between so that you can choose a vacuum cleaner that best suits your needs and tastes.
Things to consider:
1. Basic Style
Do you want a canister or upright vacuum cleaner? Do you have mostly carpets? If you a ton of carpets, then a traditional upright vacuum cleaner might be the best choice for you as uprights have a beater bar which churn up dirt embedded below the surface of carpeting. On the other hand, if you have mostly bare floors and a few scatter rugs, then a canister can move seamlessly from one to the other and not make wheel marks on your hardwood floors.
2. More Vacuums
Central and Handheld. I feel compelled to mention both these types of vacuum cleaners. Handheld vacuum cleaners to my mind are only good as gifts for Father’s day or if you live in an apartment and it is the only way to clean your car. Some people swear by them but for sweeping crumbs up off the counter a paper towel does well and just one of those Flymop or equivalent does quite an adequate job on a few extra floor crumbs. I suppose that vacuuming the stairs in a hurry could be a use but I just do not like them. They last for about 10 to 15 minutes and then you have to shake the dirt out of a microscopic container.
Central Vacuums are wonderful for allergy sufferers and all those who want to change the bag only twice a year. The hose also extends a long way, somewhere in the region of 30 plus feet. I love our central vacuum cleaner- but I have mixed feelings about it mainly because the tools are often hard to find and I still haven’t gotten used used to carrying around yards of hose which is never hung up in a nice orderly fashion, is your garden hose?, and even with the improvements to the weight of the hose they are just inherently awkward. That being said, central vacuum cleaners are the most allergy friendly vacuums of all, because there are no local room emissions of particles of any kind, that all takes place quite a distance away and probably in the basement where the noise is deafening. They also last for years but need professional installation. Believe it or not they can be retrofitted to an existing home.
3. HEPA Filters
I used to sneeze like crazy when I vacuumed, but nowadays a good post motor HEPA filter and if possible an entire sealed unit, the vacuum’s encasings do the trick. One common feature of HEPA filters in Miele vacuums is how easy it is remove and replace them.
4. Weight and Comfort
Some vacuum cleaners feel pretty heavy, like many uprights, it can often feel like moving a huge rock around which is why I personally favor canisters, but even some canisters are like great lumps with no real swivel ability and others obey you without a hitch. Some handles fit into my hand nicely, and my favorites have all the speed and mode controls right on the handle which has me actually use the controls as the manufacturer intended rather than bending down all the time to adjust controls. Of the uprights the Sebo Automatic X4 is by far the lightest.
Are you a basic floor type of vacuum cleaner user? If so, then attachments, their number and quality, will not make any difference to you. On the other hand, no good vacuum should be without a small army of cleaning attachments. In regards to attachments, I have found that Miele vacuums offer the best selection and in uprights that honor belongs to Sebo. Canister vacuums are much easier to use with attachments. For upright vacuum cleaners, it is clearly an afterthought since the tools have to go in the closet instead of the vacuum and the hose is so short that the vacuum cleaner tips over when you use the attachments. If you have decided you are an attachment user then be mindful some manufacturers offer nice big dusting brushes with a huge difference in the quality of floor attachments. I personally use my vacuum cleaner on my tile floors in my kitchen and bathrooms.
A lot of people do not think a vacuum cleaner is doing its job unless it makes the noise of small train. One international manufacturer I know actually made their vacuum cleaners noisier in order to have people think they were doing their job better! In the US we generally like them quieter and we think noisy means low quality and cheaper, so the US market has some manufacturers muffle the noise with insulating materials.
Performance Motor Power (amps) – Measures the amount of current used by the motor. Higher amps doesn’t necessarily mean more cleaning power. Airflow is a truer test of effectiveness. Interesting facts on air flow: Bags clog up and should never be used until full.
Powerhead or Turbo head? My rule of thumb is that if you have mostly carpets and a few scatter rugs, you should get a turbo head because they can go seamlessly from carpet to bare floor. On the other hand, a power-head has a brush roll and an additional motor which gives it extra power when it comes to sucking up the ground in dirt in carpets. Turbo heads are purely air driven.
Emissions – We have tested the room emissions right at the exhaust of a HEPA vacuum cleaner. The newest HEPA models now say that the room particle count actually goes down after using their vacuum cleaners so you get some air cleaning benefit as well.
Ease of Changing Tools – You will use tools if they are conveniently stored on board your vacuum cleaner, and if you can get them on and off easily. I particularly dislike those tools, which expect me to squeeze and push them to get them to fit or fall off once I have started vacuuming. Miele vacuums win the ease of changing tools prize with Sebo a close second.
Automatic Height Adjustment – Need to keep going from bare carpets to rugs? This feature will make life a lot easier.
Air Volume Adjustment – Tired of sucking the curtains off the window or your precious Persian rug off the floor? This is a really necessary feature especially if you intend to use your accessories.
Intuitive Controls – When I test out vacuum cleaners one of the first things I look for is whether I can just plug it in and go without looking at the manual for assembly instructions and whether I can figure out the on/off switch and how to change the bag without it being a major production.
Performance – Let’s face it you want to get up the dirt as fast as possible so you can put the vacuum back in the closet. One of the most annoying demonstrations by those door to door sales people is to have you vacuum your carpet until you think it is clean, and then show you how theirs then picks up more dirt. Actually that trick will work with all vacuum cleaners because none of them do a perfect job. I have literally got on my hands and knees after testing a vacuum to inspect the microscopic specks of dirt left behind. And then of course there are those pathetic vacuums that leave so much dirt behind it is very clear to the naked eye from five feet away .
Air Flow – Usually measured in cubic feet per minute (CFM) Bigger is better.
Fully Electrified and Adjustable Wand – This is a biggie for me and for the vacuum cleaning neophyte you will never know what the difference is unless I tell you. An adjustable wand allows you to vary the length of the wand according to the task at hand and the fully electrified wand allows you to use the accessories for vacuuming everything else but floors. If you use tools you will care deeply about these features. Miele Vacuum and Sebo power canister models have both these features.
Dust bags or Bagless – type of bag and size of bag. Bagless vacuum cleaners in our opinion are very allergy unfriendly and the non-allergy sufferer in the family should handle the dirt disposal. The quality of the bags does make a difference and the bags offered by Miele are exceptional and improve the performance of the vacuum cleaner.
Construction Quality – ABS plastic-non shiny finish is best, when I have spent a lot of money on a vacuum cleaner I like it if the finish is scratch resistant and does not have a banged up look almost immediately. It is like having a new car that attracts its first scratch, it can always feel like a massive let down.
Cord Length and Automatic Rewind – Putting your foot down on an automatic rewind of twenty feet of vacuum cleaner cord can be a startling experience! A longer length cord is handy if you do not want to plug and unplug. Upright vacuum cleaners do not have automatic rewinds and you have to remember to neatly wind up the hose after each use.
Brush Agitator (roller brush) – The roller with bristles under the machine that spins when the machine is on. It increases the cleaning effectiveness on carpets.
Edge Cleaner – Some upright vacuum cleaners models have a special edge extension tool for carpet edge cleaning; Canisters simply use one of the attachments.
Optional Tools – Never be so foolish as to think if you have tools which you do not carry on board you will ever use them but in the case of car cleaning or computer cleaning Miele has special tools and is king of the tool options but Sebo is closing in on them in terms of tool selection.
Small Niceties – Place to hang the floor tool, parking, under the bed fold down flat. The Sebo upright also can fold down flat for vacuuming under furniture which is something very few uprights can do, although all canisters can get at dust bunnies underneath furniture very easily.
Durability and Warranty – If there is one thing I hear often it is how people hate it when their vacuum cleaner breaks down every couple of years or so and they have to replace it. Your choices are simple; pay less and replace the vacuum cleaner more often and be frustrated when it does not pick up the dirt very well or pay through the nose and keep the vacuum cleaner around for years until you wish it would break down so you could have an excuse to buy a new one. Those people who are into durability should opt for Miele, Sebo or Sebo upright vacuum cleaners.