Understanding How to Measure a Vacuum Cleaner’s Performance

When buying a vacuum cleaner, you probably want to make the best choice possible. You want something that is powerful, provides the features you want, and that will not put you in the poor house. But, how do you measure a vacuum cleaner’s performance?

What Do All the Numbers and Specifications Mean?

It is tempting to think that the best vacuum cleaner is the one that offers the most suction. But, that is simply not true, or we would all be using little jet engines on wheels to clean our carpets.

Suction is just one of a number of factors you will need to look at in order to measure a vacuum’s performance. So, what should you be looking at?

  • Watts, amps, volts, and horsepower – These are all measurements of the vacuum cleaner’s motor and will tell you a lot about how powerful it is.
  • Water lift (also known as “sealed suction”) and air watts – This is going to tell you how much suction power the vacuum will generate when the hose is sealed (like when you stick it in water or hold it against your palm).
  • Airflow, filtration, and cleaning tools – These will tell you a bit about some of the bells and whistles your vacuum has, like its ability to filter out airborne contaminants, which attachments it comes with for different cleaning jobs, and so forth.
  • Capacity – Unless you like changing the bag or bin every few minutes, bigger capacities can often be a good thing.
  • Quality – What is the reputation of your particular vacuum maker? While it does not necessarily mean your particular vacuum will be better or worse, reputation takes time to make and a good one probably speaks well for the products they make.
  • Noise – Like to scare children and pets? If not, a quieter vacuum might be a nice feature, but is in no way mandatory or an indication of how well it will clean.
  • Cost – That is the easiest thing to measure, but sometimes you can pay an awful lot for a vacuum that does not perform as well as a cheaper brand.

Now that you know which numbers to compare, what does it all mean?

To make sense of it all, you probably need to know how a vacuum cleaner works. Basically, every vacuum sucks air through an opening and collects dirt before letting the air escape out the other end of the system. Usually, the suction is created by an electrical motor attached to a fan.

Thus, the motor is the core of any vacuum cleaner; not its bags, its attachments, or its color. The more powerful the motor, generally speaking, the more powerful the suction and the more dirt it will pick up. But, that only applies to dirt picked up by suction alone.

Some of the cleaning power of a vacuum is related to its features. You know that little spinning brush thing under the vacuum? That is called an “agitator” and it helps to brush dirt out of carpet fibers much better than the wind of the vacuum would be able to do on its own. Other features like wands, brushes, and drive/steering mechanisms improve the vacuum’s ability to reach other locations and further improve its capacity for cleaning.

How to Compare

So now that we know what everything is and what it does, it may seem a little overwhelming. What you should do is determine what is important to you. Do you need something that can suck the color off a rainbow, or something that is a little less powerful but offers attachments along with other features that you really want more?

Make a list, and then go online or to your local stores. Compare various models. Find what best matches your desired list of features and price the best, and voila! Choice made.

Final Thoughts

Choosing a vacuum cleaner does not have to be hard. Understanding what the various specifications are and actually measuring it is the best way to do it, but even that is just part of the answer. You want to identify what it is that you really want out of a vacuum, then find the vacuum that best matches those requirements and go with that one.


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