This growing array of commercial vacuums leaves the professional cleaner facing greater purchasing decisions. Still, two things remain clear when making purchasing decisions: Does it meet your needs, and is it Green Label certified.
"Not all features on a vacuum are equally important for all customers," says Sherri Cadeaux, Marketing/Customer Care Manager for Muskegon, Mich.-based Pacific Steamex, (www.nextwaveofclean.com). In 1999, Pacific introduced the industry's first dual-voltage backpack vacuum, beltless manual sweeper and autoscrubber, which sweeps and burnishes the floors simultaneously.
According to Cadeaux, each customer and market segment reflects specific needs and features. For example, she says, "Hospitals look for quick, quiet operation. Hospitality is looking for superior pickup and carpet appearance. Contractors value durability and ease of service."
What to buy
In carpet cleaning, the vacuum cleaner will remove most of the dirt, with extraction cleaning or other methods getting only the most stubborn soiling. But, is it easy to use? Is it maneuverable? Is it readily height adjustable? Does it cut down on labor costs? Can anyone use it? Does it clean thoroughly? What are the maintenance costs? How easy is it to replace cords or brush strips? Are parts readily available?
More importantly, asks Cadeaux, "What is its reliability and durability? Will it last or is it a 'throwaway vac' that has to purchase again next year? Commercial vacuums are too expensive to be disposable. They should be built to last."
It's important to first define your needs. Then, you can begin the process of fine-tuning your selection.
CRI Green Label Program
The Carpet & Fabricare Institute's (CRI) Green Label program (www.carpet-rug.com) independently tests vacuums submitted to it by manufacturers for Green Label recognition, which can help to make the selection process easier for cleaners.
"A major thing has occurred," says Bob Abrams, business manager-Soft Floor Products for Windsor Industries, Englewood, Col. (www.windsorind.com). "CRI has established a standard of performance for vacuums that they endorse. The standard tests for dirt pickup and the ability to keep dust from coming back out. In other words, the level of filtration."
CRI says that its Green Label-approved vacuums have good soil removal; keep dust in the machine and bag, and out of the air; and keep carpet looking good. As a means by which cleaners can determine the value of the vacuums they use, CRI has its Vacuum Cleaner Indoor Air Quality Testing Program, which determines how well vacuums help to protect indoor air quality (IAQ) and keep indoor surfaces as clean as possible by vacuum cleaning, without putting dust back into the air.
According to CRI, the IAQ program identifies vacuum cleaners that do each of three tasks well: Removes soil; contains dust within the filtration bag and the machine itself, keeping it out of the air; and doesn't damage the carpet and helps keep its appearance looking good.
"A number of vacuum cleaner companies have submitted their vacuums for this test," Abrams says. "What's been happening since the test has been publicized is companies are finding themselves in the position to have to redesign their vacuums because it will be known that their vacuums don't pass Green Label testing."
The result, says Abrams, has been companies being "forced" to meet the CRI Standards.
For cleaners, CRI's Green Label program provides an exceptional opportunity in decision-making as the answer to many of their key business and marketing concerns may be found in testing results.