Vacuum cleaner buying guide: What to look for when buying a vacuum cleaner

Although high quality upright vacuum cleaners are characterized by a long operational life, every now and then new models are produced with even better characteristics than models before. Newer models promise better suction, better dirt removal, better air filtration, easier operation etc.

Often people ask themselves what to look for in the new vacuums, what to avoid, or should they keep their older vacuum as long as it function properly?

Published: October 26, 2018.

Our guide will show you how to find the best vacuum cleaner for your needs – upright with hose, preferably. Not that we are biased … : )

Vacuum cleaner features vs. buyer’s requirements

shark rocket hv292 1When buying a new vacuum cleaner, it is highly recommended to any potential buyer to write down requirements of the new vacuum cleaner, and of course, a budget. There are many models of various vacuums from different manufacturers on the market, with very similar specifications, like motor power, weight, warranty conditions, cord length, number and types of attachments and similar.

If it is possible to test the vacuum cleaner personally, or even rent it for few days, do it – it can save you a lot of time, money and nerves in the long run. Since something like that is not always possible, one should check reviews and recommendations of other people who bought and tested such vacuums, or have at least gathered experiences, reviews and technical data from several sites.

That is why we always try to leave a link for more reviews and recommendations – after all, if we like a vacuum cleaner for some reason, you may dislike that vacuum for exactly the same reason we like it in the first place : )

Before buying a new vacuum, ask yourself a few question:

Where do you live in - a house or an apartment?

Do you need vacuum cleaner for residential or commercial use?

Floor types - are there low-pile, medium-pile, high-pile carpets, area rugs, tiles, hardwood, or combination of few of them?

Bagged or bagless a vacuum cleaner?

Do you have pets, how many, what type of fur they have?

Any allergies or respiratory issues in the family?

You should consider all of these questions before buying a new unit, especially if you go for mid- to upper range vacuums. And those units can cost a lot of money.

When comparing performances, it makes no sense to compare $50 unit with $500 unit, although at first glance, they can be very similar – until you start to use them.

When comparing similar vacuums, be sure to check these features:

bissell 9595a 1Ease of use and handling – vacuum cleaner should be easy and intuitive to use. Nonetheless, when you get a new vacuum cleaner, it is highly recommended to read the manual first and to familiarize yourself with the new unit.

Suction power – cleaning performances depend on few things, and one of them is suction power and is given in Air Watts. It is related to power of main motor (given in Amps or Watts), but high power rating of the main motor does NOT warranty good suction or good cleaning. If you have, for example, thick carpets and hairy pets, strong motor is important, but almost useless without good motorized pet hair brush.

Dirt retention capacity – regardless if the unit is bagged or bagless, small dirt bag or small dirt bin means often emptying and hence slower overall cleaning. On the other hand, large amount of dirt can lead to build up of unpleasant smells.

Wet or dry vacuum – dry vacuum cleaners are optimized for cleaning of dry dirt, while wet vacuums can clean moist and wet dirt and sometimes even water or other liquid directly. Most households have dry vacuums and they do their job well. If such vacuums accidentally vacuum wet dirt, they must be stopped, cleaned and thoroughly dried before next use – if something like that happen, check the manual, just to be sure.

Bagged or bagless vacuum – some people prefer bagged vacuums, while other prefer bagless units. Both types have their pros and cons and it is often up to the user to choose which one to buy.

Air filtration – there are several HEPA filter (High Efficiency Particulate Air Filter) groups (EU HEPA standards), but generally HEPA filter removes at least 99.97% of particles 0.3 micrometers in size (US HEPA standard). Such level of air filtration is very important for people with asthma, allergies and other similar health issues. Personally, if you choose vacuum that cost $200+, it must be HEPA model. Note that better filtration increases air pressure drop within vacuum itself – more expensive vacuums have minimized energy loss due to the HEPA grade air filtration, while cheaper units, although claiming that they are HEPA vacuums with strong motors, often lack information about their Air Watts and have weaker suction.

Noise levels – vacuum cleaner with the noise of jet fighter at take-off is not the best solution for home vacuum, regardless of its other qualities. Noise levels are given in decibels (dB – logarithmic scale). Personally, anything noisier than 80 dB (or even 75 dB) should be avoided. Vacuum cleaners with the noise levels below 60 dB are great and can be used even when others are sleeping, but most of the vacuums have noise level between 65 and 75 dB. Reducing suction strength often reduces noise level, too.

Vacuum’s reach – vacuum’s reach or operating radius is distance between power outlet and the furthest area which can be cleaned with the vacuum cleaner. Obviously, cordless vacuum cleaner does not depend on mains power and has ‘infinite’ reach, but it comes with shortcomings on its own. Upright vacuum cleaner reach is usually the length of its power cord and maximum reach of upright vacuum cleaner with the hose is the length of the power cord, combined with the length of the hose. Nice : )

Accessories – additional cleaning tools help in cleaning various surfaces and dirt like upholstery, sofas, crevices, ceiling fans, mattresses, dust, pet and human hair and similar. Such cleaning tools often come with the vacuum cleaner, but can be bought separately.

Weight of the vacuum cleaner – it is not the same to vacuum with 10 or 20 pound upright vacuum. The larger the weight, the more force is required to push or pull the vacuum while cleaning. However, this also depends on design of wheels and cleaning head – some vacuums have motorized cleaning heads that pull the vacuum when the user push it and vice versa, significantly reducing the required force during cleaning. Also, weight of the vacuum is important when the vacuum is carried around, especially if there are stairs at home.

Vacuumed area – size of the area to be cleaned and cleaning frequency dictate the required vacuum cleaner quality and durability. For cleaning small apartments, good cordless stick vacuum cleaner powered with modern lithium ion batteries is perhaps all that one requires. And if that stick vacuum is all-in-one unit, combining handheld and stick vacuum cleaner in one unit, than definitely one doesn’t need another, larger unit.

However, cleaning large(r) homes and apartments require big and sturdy, mains powered unit with motorized cleaning head, with on/off brushroll switch, adjustable cleaning head height, additional stretch hose with telescopic wand and set of accessories including various dusting brushes, crevice tools, pet turbine tool and similar. Headlights are great aid when cleaning in low light conditions (under furniture, for example) and in spotting dust, hair and other dirt and objects that should be vacuumed or not vacuumed (toys, socks etc.).

Filter maintenance – some units come with several mechanical filters. Simple foam filters are washable and reusable. HEPA filters, especially when combined with activated charcoal, are often disposable filters. Washable HEPA filters can be reused after being washed, but after some time, they must be replaced, too.

Pressure drop inside the vacuum can be automatically detected with sensors, or the unit relies on the user to notice suction loss and to clean or replace the filters.

Price of the good, residential vacuum cleaner?

Price of the vacuums vary significantly – some people are satisfied with $50 units, while some people require $500 units.

Personally, units in the $200 - $300 range satisfy requirements of at least 95% of buyers. As technology advances, units in the $100 - $200 range are getting better and better – especially when more expensive units are found on sale : )

Good upright vacuum cleaner with stretch hose and telescopic wand can be used for cleaning surfaces from the floor to the ceiling.

With good warranty conditions for residential use, it is smart investment since it is going to be used for many years to come.

black decker bdh2000pl mAnd if you need a small, handheld, emergency vacuum (pets, kids etc.), there are cheap and reliable cordless units on the market and such units can be used safely even by children - under the supervision of adults! Such units complement larger upright vacuum cleaner and even prolong its operating life.