Choosing a Vacuum Cleaner
Super-Duper Mega-Booster Extra Filter Vacuum Cleaner!
That's what they all say. If you listen to the ads touting the advantages, each claims that their vacuum cleaner boasts the newest, best and fanciest technological advances. Each brand claims they are better than all the others. Naturally: that is the nature of advertising.
However, sifting through those claims laced with hyperbole takes some detective work, and straight thinking. It requires thoughtful analysis of the statements made, and just plain common sense.
Ah--we all love our powerful machines, and horsepower is the usual rating for motors, be they gasoline or electric. Unfortunately, the vacuum cleaner industry just loves to brag about "peak horsepower." It is equivalent to measurements of "brake horsepower" on a car's engine.
The problem is, peak horsepower and brake horsepower measurements both are totally irrelevant. If you were to run the car's engine out of the vehicle on an engine stand, that's where it's putting out it's maximum power generation--that's 'brake horsepower.' The same is true of a vacuum cleaner. If you run the cleaner with the wand held up in the air, that's when you're getting that "peak horsepower."
Since not many of us find it necessary to vacuum the air inside our homes, that measurement is useless. It's actually worse than useless--it's misleading. What you need to know instead is the horsepower under load, and they don't tell you what that number is. That's when you are actually using the machine on the floor, carpet, or with an upholstery tool on furniture.
We don't really need to worry about horsepower--we're vacuuming our homes--not racing cars at Indianapolis, after all! Horsepower is truly a relative term. It means only that a higher horsepower motor will generally produce more suction than one with less horsepower. That's all you need to know.
If you do stick the wand up in the air, and then use it on the floor or a couch, you'll hear a definite change in pitch of the motor's sound. That is the sound of the motor actually working. Since not many of us have engineering degrees, or the tools to test the motor with assorted guages and meters, it is best to simply ignore all the fancy claims of peak horsepower.
Fancy Demonstration: It Picks Up Everything!
Yes, well....maybe so yes; maybe so no. Nuts and bolts, eh? Like the song says, "That don't impress me much." I have little need to vacuum up nuts and bolts (and it probably would not actually do the machine much good, either). However, as anyone who's ever accidentally sucked up a piece of dropped jewelry, coin or small cat or dog toy knows, most cleaners will pick up fairly sizeable stuff. That's not an issue.
What is the issue, is how well does it suck things out of the carpet? You see the demos on TV, or in the store. "Here--I'll just sprinkle this coffee can full of dirt, sand, pet hair (or whatever) all over this piece of carpet, and show you how well this cleaner picks it all up."
Hold the phone, there! You'll notice first of all, their sample carpet is usually a very smooth, flat-nap piece. There's really not much of anywhere for the demonstration debris to go but sit right on top. Of course it picks up easily.
Ask them to test it on a shag carpet, or a sculpted pile carpet. Better yet, after they dump their carefully selected dirt onto the sample, walk on it. Twist on it. Grind it in good. Pretend you're doing the old dance, "The Twist." Feel that Chubby Checker moment.!
Now, allow them to proceed with their demonstration. That's more like real life. Stuff comes in on our shoes; kids drag in mud and wipe their feet in inappropriate places. The dirt and pet hair doesn't sit neatly on top, it gets worked into the fibers of the carpeting.
We Have Turbo-This, That and The Other: It Won't Lose Suction!
Sorry. Wrong again. They conveniently forget to mention that all suction devices, when subjected to the intake of debris, will eventually need to be cleaned out, because that debris clogs or interferes with the air flow, and the device will lose suction. It's simple physics.
I happen to have one of these highly-advertised supposedly high-end machines that made such claims. All it was, was overpriced.
It does a decent job, sure, and it does pick up the pet hair from our family of six cats very well. But it still must be disassembled and cleaned out every so often, for it does lose its ability to perform well after a time.
Luckily, it is designed in such a way that such dis-assembly is really very easy. But that tells you something right there: they knew it would be necessary, and therefore the advertising is disingenuous.
Oh, what a great savings! We no longer have to spend money replacing the collection bags in our vacuum cleaners! How wonderful is that?
And as an added bonus, the collection cup is transparent, so we can actually seewhen it is getting full and needs to be emptied.
The Dyson Animal
The Dyson Animal is what I actually have, though it is an older model, not with this ball shape. Regardless of my issues with bagless technology, it does do an excellent job of picking up all the cat hair from our 6 cats!
Canister Vacuum with Bag
Here's a canister vacuum that does use a bag, to keep it all contained all the way to the trash bin.
Allergy Sufferers Delight! Super-Extra Double-Duty High-Tech Filtration
Oh, how they love to brag about their advanced filtration. Double, even triple filters. Hepa filters! Cosmic filters! Supersonic filters! Traps particles as small as a micron.
Wow! I no longer own any of my dad's micrometers, but if I did, I'm not sure a particle that small is even big enough to see, let alone measure. And that seems to be the whole point of their promotion.
That's all well and good--the dirt won't be released back into the air. It's all trapped in the filters! Yay!
(..............Insert sound of screeching brakes here...........)
Back up, there, just a cotton-pickin' moment! No particles re-released into the air? All caught in the filters? Um... no, not exactly. I'd like to point out the three most obvious and yet most often overlooked flaws in those claims.
Let me call your attention to the following facts:
- Those 'bagless collection cups' must be emptied. Where is all that dirt going, then? Right. Back into the air; back in your face without benefit of any filtration at all.
- What about when you must take the thing apart for a thorough cleaning? All the dust is lying in wait for you within.
- Filters? Guess what? Those filters have to be removed, and, depending upon the unit, thrown away and replaced, or cleaned every so often, and that cleaning releases plenty of dust.
Even if you manage to blindly do these tasks inside the confines of a trash bag, or empty the cup inside a bag in slow motion, it is unlikely that all the dirt will remain trapped. Dirt and dust are very, very fine particles, and just the act of trying to close the trash bag is going to push a fair amount back out of the bag.
(And as an added point--if you don't want to dump the dirt cup contents loose into the trash can, you may still be buying garbage bags to use for the disposal process, unless you manage to recycle grocery bags for the purpose--if they are large enough.)
Most folks don't want to spend the money to take their vacuums to an appliance repair shop just for having it cleaned out every six months or so. They end up simply using them until they break, and buy a new one. Not very sound financial management, especially these days.
Maintaining the Machine in Good Working Order
Luckily for us, we have plenty of means to do the job ourselves. We have a full workshop, and I can take the thing apart, and blow out the components with 80 psi (pounds per square inch) of air pressure, which is far more than you can blow with your mouth, or get from an aerosol container of "canned air." Those are great for blowing debris out of your computer's keyboard; they are worthless for cleaning out larger machinery.
And yes, it has to be blown out--and you should see the amount of dust that gets blown out into the yard from that operation! It's all in there--in the hoses, in the crevices between the filters, in the filter; in the filter holder.
You cannot vacuum it out, for the machine cannot vacuum itself (in any case, it won't operate while disassembled); you cannot hose it off, for it is an electrical appliance, and water and electricity are not good bedfellows. Even our big, powerful shop vacuum will not pull out all the dirt, for the attachments are simply too large to fit into the parts and ports of the household machine. .
Filter, Filter, Where's the Filter?
All of that conspires to reduce the suction of the machine, and it also bypasses the fancy filtration. The filters don't catch it all, because some escapes before it even gets to the filter(s).
The 'beater bar' (which is the brush/roller part of the machine) causes dust to be thrown up to some exent, off to the sides or the front, before it can enter the suction area underneath. You've seen this happen, when you see something on the rug large enough to spot from a standing postion, and yet the cleaner just shoves it ahead, or doesn't pick it up right away. The same happens with dirt and dust.
Let's Time-Travel Backwards
I want them to bring back the disposable collection bags, that had a rubber gasket over the connection hole. You took it out, tossed it in the trash, and were done. No loose dust and dirt to get all into the various parts of the machine; no dumping a canister of un-corraled dirt and debris into the trash can for the wind to toss it back in your face.
The early vacuum cleaners had cloth re-usable bags. I remember my mother having to turn the thing upside-down onto newspapers, and stand on the rim as she shook the contents loose, then bundle up the papers. Dirt always flew loose during this process. Then, they invented the disposable, self-sealing bags. It was a wonderful improvement.
Why have they done away with bags? Apparently some group of engineers has not learned the concept of, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." Consumers have allowed themselves to be duped by these fancy, high-tech sounding claims.
It's time for everyone to start questioning everything.
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