A Vacuum Cleaner for Every Need

March 10, 2002
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Photo courtesy ProTeam
When it comes to purchasing a vacuum cleaner, there are as many choices as there are uses. Although we often think of a vacuum cleaner as a way to remove dry soil from a rug or carpet, many of today's vacuum cleaners can be used for a wide variety of cleaning tasks. Choosing the correct vacuum cleaner for the job at hand will make the work easier as well as enhancing production, effectiveness and worker safety.

Steve Thompson, director of commercial accounts and national sales training with Eureka (www.Eureka.com), says it's important "to have several types of cleaners solving different problems," meaning, cleaners should know what they will specialize in, and then select the vacuum -- the tool -- that best meets those demands. It's up to the manufacturer to deliver what the cleaners need.

"If you have the expertise, sometimes you'll find that the product line won't cover it," he says. "For example, we don't have wide area vacs, and that's a downfall of ours. What we do have are vacuums that will solve the small portable vac requirements. You can clean carpets, upholstery, air ducts; that sort of thing. Within our realm of expertise, we have a range of vacs to solve a cleaner's problems."

On the other hand, Bill Hughes, marketing manager for Powr-Flite (www.powrflite.com), believes user preference dictates the vacuum used more than specific cleaning task or situation.

"A company or facility that has always used a certain type of vacuum will generally stay with that type of vacuum," says Hughes. "The next biggest factor is cost, with single-motor uprights being the least expensive and all the rest being within a close range."

According to Hughes , cleaners who are constrained by budgets, or who have never had other vacuum price points justified to them, often choose a single-motor upright. "The only exception to this," he said, "is wide area vacs. Customers with huge amounts of wide open space they need to clean prefer wide area vacs for their ability to save labor."

The fact is, there are as many types of vacuum cleaners as there are different cleaning situations. Let's take a brief look at some of the most common types of vacuum cleaners and how they are used.

Photo courtesy ProTeam
Here's What's Available
There are basically three categories of commercial vacuums, not including wide-area sweepers or wet/dry vacuums. These are upright vacuums, canister vacuums and backpack vacuums.

Upright Vacuums
Commercial upright vacuums can be broken down into sub-categories: Single-motor, Single-motor "plus" (with an indirect vacuum design like that found on dual-motor units), Dual-motor and Heavy-duty/Wide-area dual-motor uprights. A general description of each of the categories follows:

Single-Motor Upright ($150-$400)
These vacuums are common upright vacuums similar to residential units. They have one motor in the base that both generates the suction and drives the brush. The motor directly pushes the debris through its impeller into a bag off the back of the machine.

Single-Motor "Plus" Upright ($300-$650)
Single-Motor "Plus" upright vacuums also use one motor to generate suction and drive the brush. However, due to their indirect vacuum design similar to the design found on dual-motor uprights, they have better filtration and longer life. These vacuums generally have injection-molded plastic bases and bag housings, instead of a cloth collection bag attached to the back of the machine like standard single-motor uprights.

Dual-Motor Upright ($495-$850)
These vacuums use two motors. One generates the suction while another drives the brush. In most cases, dual-motor upright vacuums have much better performance, longer life and better filtration due to the indirect vacuum design, which routes the airflow through the bag allowing for the use of more filters. These vacuums are usually injection molded plastic, but may also have rotationally-molded bodies.

Heavy Duty Dual-Motor/Wide Area Upright ($869-$2500)
Heavy Duty Dual-motor upright vacuums use the same basic design as the dual-motor upright, but are much more robust, weigh much more and can have cleaning path widths of up to 30 inches. The market is moving away from this category of upright vacuums due to their weight and difficulty to operate.

Canister Dry Vacuums ($300-$500)
These vacuums are common canister vacuums used for dry debris only. They have one motor in the housing that utilizes an indirect vacuum design, similar to dual-motor upright vacuums, which routes the airflow through the bag allowing more filters to be used.

These generally feature cleaning via a lightweight wand or power head, which makes its use less tiring than an upright. Newer models feature high airflow (150 cfm), and better balance and design for easier maneuverability.

"Canisters are used primarily in the Health Care industry by contract cleaners," offers Powr-Flite's Hughes. "The advantage seems to be noise reduction, and small enclosed bodies that are close to the floor."

Photo courtesy ProTeam
Backpack Vacuums ($400-$1000)
These vacuums are designed to be worn as a backpack or on the hips and are used for dry debris only. They also have one motor in the housing that, again, utilizes an indirect vacuum design.

"Of the three higher-end products, backpacks seemed to be used primarily by contract cleaners, or people who want to move through a building quicker," according to Hughes, "and to accomplish multiple tasks, such as dusting, high dusting and edge cleaning."

The Tennant Co.'s (www.tennantco.com) Mitch Urbytes, senior product manager, vacuum line, agrees.

"Each type of vacuum has its specific applications in which it excels," says Urbytes. "For instance, standard upright vacuums are generally best suited for smaller areas of carpeting, such as hotel rooms, offices or carpeted areas of retail stores. Dual-motor vacuums perform better, last longer and require less maintenance than single-motor vacuums, making them especially attractive for commercial and hospitality environments."

Photo courtesy ProTeam
Pile Lifter Vacuum
A heavy-duty vacuum cleaner with a stiff brush, it's used to lift carpet pile and remove deep down embedded sand and soil from carpet face yarns prior to cleaning. Normally used on a periodic basis (monthly, quarterly, annually) and before deep cleaning.

Wide area upright vacuums are great for larger expanses of carpeting, such as in airports and in the lobbies or conference rooms of hotels and casinos.

According to Todd Sauser, director of marketing, Nilodor Inc. (www.nilodor.com), professional cleaners can use a pile lifter-type vacuum as a labor saving device. "It's a machine that can be used to remove the deeply embedded soil from within carpet," he says. "You don't want to use this type of machine everyday, but a lot of places using this weekly will help to reduce the labor because using this kind of machine, you won't have to extract as often.

"We always recommend this when used as part of a maintenance program. It works great in helping to restore a carpet."

Photo courtesy ProTeam
Canister vacuums are ideal in situations where both carpet and hard floors exist. They generally have floor tools that perform well on both types of floors. The canister vacuum is very quiet and has extremely good HEPA-rated filtration. This vacuum is therefore ideal for medical facilities and offices with equipment sensitive to indoor air quality, such as computer rooms.

Over the past decade or so, backpack vacuums have become more popular for cleaning commercial facilities. There are many reasons for this popularity, but productivity, performance and convenience top the list. Based on ISSA industry average cleaning rates, backpack vacuums can save up to 70 percent in labor cost when compared to traditional upright vacuums.

"Backpack vacuum applications range from hard and carpeted floors in restaurants to hospitality and office environments," says Tennant's Urbytes. "These vacuums have a wide range of power, noise levels and levels of filtration which allow them to be used in many commercial cleaning applications. In fact, the backpack vacuums may be purchased with optional HEPA exhaust filter, which filters 99.97 percent of exhausted particles 0.3 microns or larger."

Additionally, backpack vacuums lend themselves to cleaning small, hard-to-reach areas very well. Using the small upholstery tool, crevice tool or dusting brush as the situation warrants achieves this.

When it comes your business and the tools you use to make it run, vacuums are paramount. Identifying the most appropriate vacuum for the job, and then tackle the job in an organized, professional manner.

In the end, the results you achieve using the right vacuum and your knowledge of the industry will set you apart from the competition.

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