I like to do some small market studies from time to time. One of them was done in my latest giveaway. I wanted to test how people feel about the importance of several vacuum cleaner features, such as brand, suction power, filters, capacity, price, warranty and so on. People had to sort these options in the order of their importance. What was left for me was to inspect these results and put them into a logical context.
But why going through all this trouble? You see, buying a vacuum cleaner seems like such a straightforward job. However, with so many models in the market, it’s easy to overspend on an under-performing machine. Adding to the confusion, vacuum cleaner manufacturers throw in a lot of jargon and fancy tech names. As a smart consumer, you need to cut through the marketing nonsense and make an informed judgement. The trick to achieving that is to know the different units and factors that make a good vacuum cleaner “good”. And a great start is to know what people cherish the most. The general public has an undeniable wisdom which you, as a buyer, should know, and you, as a seller, should take into consideration. Without further ado, here are my findings, based on a sample of 110 people. Here’s how the chart looks like, counting only the first place:
As you can see, surprisingly, the filters and the capacity of the dust bin were not placed on the top of the list by anyone. At the other end of the measurements, the suction power is deemed as the most important feature in a vacuum cleaner by 60 of the 110 participants. The price is well behind, and the brand comes on the 3rd spot. However, by rewarding the first place with 8 points, the second place with 7 points and consequently the last place with 1 point, we have a different picture. Here are the final scores obtained from the second method:
- Suction power – 782 points
- Price – 681 points
- Filters – 448 points
- Brand – 446 points
- Warranty – 444 points
- Weight – 434 points
- Accessories – 400 points
- Size of the dust bin – 325 points
As one can notice, filters are a popular second/third option. These are the things which people consider the most important, listed in descending order:
1. Suction Power
Most people get caught up in the amperage or wattage of a vacuum cleaner. While these are good indicators of how much electricity a particular model consumes, it says nothing about the suction strength. The problem with suction power is that different manufacturers display different units. E.g., the most common suction strength unit when talking about robot vacuums is Pascal. Shop-vacs get rated in “peak HP” while upright vacuums are usually rated in AWS. Let’s take one and talk about it (the principle is the same for the others). Pascal is a measurement of pressure. The unit is used to gauge the pressure difference between the normal atmospheric pressure and the internal pressure of a vacuum cleaner. More the difference, stronger the suction strength. For reference, the latest Xiaomi robot vacuum comes with an exceptional suction strength of 2000 Pa, while other robovacs linger around 300 Pa. Units with low suction strength usually face no trouble picking up dust from hard surfaces, but they simply lack the power to suck out the dirt from carpets and other fabric surfaces. Therefore, you can compromise a bit on suction strength if you want your vacuum to exclusively clean hardwood floors.
No matter how good a particular model is, it really doesn’t matter if it’s priced beyond your budget. Does price really matter when picking a vacuum cleaner? Well, that completely depends on your willingness to spend. If you have a rather flexible budget, then the price is not that important. However, if you are working on a tight budget, then it’s best to look out for a model that offers the best value. If you’re looking for a regular vacuum cleaner, check out my top of cheap vacuums. If you’re in the market for a robot vacuum, Chinese brands like Xiaomi and Haier usually pack in a lot of features and they are known to undercut the American brands in terms of price. If you are looking for corded uprights and cordless handhelds, then both Shark and Dyson models are pretty competitively priced. If your primary objective is to save money, then it’s best to wait for events such as the Black Friday.
It always makes sense to stay clear of shady brands that offer great discounts on Amazon and other shopping sites. A product may look good on paper, but the overall performance and durability depends a lot on the manufacturing standard. If you are seeking reliability over everything else, then it’s best to stick with brands such as Shark, Dyson, Neato and iRobot. It’s also best to avoid unknown Chinese brands. If you have to go Chinese, stick with known companies such as Xiaomi or iLife.
4. Filtration System
The dirt and debris sucked in by a vacuum cleaner stays inside the dust container thanks to its filters. This means a vacuum with a poor filtration system would let out dust through its exhaust port. An efficient filtration system, on the other hand, manages to trap microscopic dust particles and allergens. HEPA filters do an excellent job of filtering out dust as they manage to filter out 99.97 percent of all airborne particles measuring 0.3 microns or more. Manufacturers know that customers recognize the “HEPA” acronym, so they try and fool consumers by using words like HEPA-Like and HEPA-Type. If it’s a real HEPA filter, then manufacturers usually mention it as True-HEPA or simply as HEPA filter. If you or any one of your family members suffer from dust allergy then buying a vacuum cleaner with HEPA filter is an absolute necessity.
A long warranty period shows that the company has faith in its product. Warranty is pretty much useless until the time your vacuum cleaner stops working. This means if your vacuum cleaner goes bust after 3 years, then it doesn’t really matter if it came with 2-year or 1-year warranty. It’s much like insurance. With that being said, it does make sense to buy models that are covered by a long warranty period. When buying an upright model, anything over 3 years should be considered above average. With lots of moving parts, robot vacuums usually come with a standard 1-year limited warranty. When it comes to warranty it’s best to check if a company is offering the industry standard.
Weight is an important factor when you are buying a stick or a cordless model. This is because most modern full-sized uprights sit on top of great wheels which makes maneuvering them pretty easy. There is also no point worrying about the weight of a robot vacuum cleaner as long as it’s delivering a decent cleaning performance. However, cordless models are meant for one-handed usage. Therefore a heavier machine would end up straining your arms more quickly than others. The Dyson V8 Animal weighs 5.7 lbs and is reputed to be pretty comfortable to operate. I suggest using this as a reference when judging the weight of other cordless models.
Apart from the essential accessories such as the beater brush and the crevice tool, there are a few add-on attachments that make life a lot easier. A motorized pet hair tool is a great addition if you have pets. Some manufacturers even include cleaning tools which allow you to clean the beater brush and filters. Extensible wands are always a good idea if you also plan to use your vacuum cleaner for above-the-floor cleans. Although the participants didn’t really appreciate the accessories the same way the did with e.g. the suction power, they are an important part of the product. More than a few times I was contacted by people asking me to help them find a certain attachment.
8. Bin Capacity
Robot vacuums usually have a small dust tank sizes with only a few bots such as the Neato Botvac and the Haier Xshuai HXS that come with dust tanks measuring 20 oz or more. The need for a larger dust tank really boils down to the size of your home and the type of dust your vacuum has to pick up. If you have pets that shed hair, then buying a cleaner with a larger tank size is always warranted. With a few exceptions, the dust cup size really matters when you are buying a robot vacuum. Mainly because clearing out the tank requires human intervention in a cleaning process that’s mostly automated. Upright vacuums require you to do the hard work, thus clearing out the tank becomes just another chore. Although this feature came out on the last place, it shouldn’t be neglected.
The most important factor when picking a vacuum cleaner is judging your own requirements. While features such as suction power and filtration system are really important, it’s best to recognize your home’s unique cleaning requirements and to buy a model that fits into that bracket. I hope I helped with this piece and I wish you happy shopping!
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