The main three types of vacuum cleaner are cylinder, upright and stick vacuum cleaners, and much of the choice between the three is down to personal preference.
Cylinder Vacuum Cleaners
This type of vacuum cleaner has the motor and bag separate from the vacuum head, which is connected by a hose and telescopic pole. The motor powers a fan which sucks up the dirt from the vacuum head and sends it into the dust bag. These are more compact than an upright model and are more flexible for use on stairs, upholstery and in cars. It is also easier to vacuum under furniture with a cylinder vacuum cleaner. They usually come with different attachments for uses such as upholstery which means that it is easy to clean hard to reach areas.
Some manufacturers call them 'canister' vacuum cleaners.
Upright Vacuum Cleaners
This type of vacuum cleaner has a cleaning head and motor, with a handle and bag attached. In this type too, the motor turns a fan which sucks up the dust into the dust bag, however they also have revolving brushes or beaters which can help to loosen dirt in the carpet. They can be easier to control, although some people do find them heavier and bulkier than cylinder models. They are also less suitable for use on stairs and are less portable than a cylinder model. The advantage of an upright vacuum cleaner is that they are often better at picking up pet hairs due to the motorised brush heads. The wattage is less important with an upright vacuum cleaner as the dirt does not have to travel as far as with a cylinder model.
Some manufacturers now also offer uprights with an additional telescopic wand which clips onto the main body of the unit to give the user the flexibility of a cylinder machine when it comes to stairs and other hard to reach areas. Also, as technology has developed, many upright models are now far less bulky and much more manoeuvrable than previously.
Stick Vacuum Cleaners
This type of vacuum cleaner is a lightweight, slim and cordless appliance for small vacuuming jobs and one advantage over sweeping by hand is that the user does not need to bend down to sweep up small amounts of dirt. They are generally used as a second vacuum cleaner rather than as the main one as they do not pick up ingrained dust and dirt as thoroughly as a full sized vacuum cleaner. Some can be easily foot-operated which is especially suitable for those with less mobility.
There are also other types of vacuum cleaner including:
Wet Vacuum Cleaners
These are able to clean up liquid spills as well as normal dust and dirt.
Centralised Vacuum Cleaners
Some houses are equipped with a central vacuuming system where the suction motor and bag are fitted to a convenient central location in the house such as the garage. This means that only the hose and cleaning head have to be carried around the house as there are connection points fitted in each room. They are extremely convenient but they require professional installation and should be installed when the house is built or renovated as it is difficult to fit this type of system into an existing arrangement. The price of a centralised vacuum cleaning system is also very expensive compared to a traditional vacuum cleaner.
Hand-held Vacuum Cleaners
This is a small and extremely portable type of vacuum cleaner for cleaning small areas and worktops, although the power and capacity is far inferior to that of a full size vacuum cleaner. They are available as either battery operated or are charged via the mains.
Robot Vacuum Cleaners
Although not in wide-spread use yet, these vacuum cleaners have sensors which enable them to move around the room on their own.
Decide what criteria are the most important and what the vacuum cleaner will be used for, as there are many factors to take into consideration when choosing a new vacuum cleaner.
One of the most important factors is the weight of the vacuum cleaner. Many of the vacuum cleaners on the market today have a weight ranging from 4kg to 8kg. Consider how easy it will be to move around the house or apartment, especially if stairs are involved.
Note that on many of the manufacturer's specification sheets the weight of a cylinder vacuum cleaner is that of the cylinder only.
Size is also a factor for storage, as upright vacuum cleaners generally take up more room than a cylinder model. However a cylinder model can be trickier to store due to the hose and telescopic pole.
To make cylinder vacuum cleaners easier to store in a utility room, consider fitting a vacuum hose holder, which is screwed to the wall. These can be purchased from many DIY shops and are usually very inexpensive. Alternatively some models now come with a clip to attach the hose to the main unit for easier storage. If the hose is to be stored separately from the main unit, some models have a hygiene cap to prevent dust or odours escaping.
It will be necessary to choose between a model which uses dust bags and one that has an in-built container which needs to be emptied on a regular basis.
Bagless vacuum cleaners are generally more expensive to purchase but can save money over the life of the machine as they do not need replacement bags. If choosing a bagless model, check how easy it is to empty as the design of some models can be less efficient, spilling dust and dirt back into the room.
Vacuum cleaners that use dust bags need to have the bags replaced when full, so it is necessary to check how easily this can be done with any particular model. Some models also have an indicator to alert the user when the dust bag is full.
Also check the capacity of the bag, especially if the machine will be used frequently and over large areas. Some bags are self-sealing which makes the replacement operation easier and cleaner. If buying a vacuum cleaner that uses dust bags, make sure that it is easy to buy replacement bags and check how expensive they will be.
Whether bagged or bagless, the capacity of the vacuum cleaner is also very important, especially in larger households. Whilst most models have a 1.5-4 litre capacity, they can reach up to 6 litres. Vacuum cleaners that use bags usually have a higher capacity than bagless vacuum cleaners.
Many cylinder cleaners come with three basic attachments for different uses - dust brush, an upholstery brush and a crevice tool for reaching into crevices, tight corners or other hard to reach areas. These are especially useful for cleaning cars and furniture such as sofas. Other attachments offered by some models include:
- A turbo brush or nozzle which rotates quickly to loosen stubborn dirt and pet hairs.
- A mattress tool to remove dirt and dust mites.
Some models of vacuum cleaner have storage space within the main unit to store the attachments, whereas with others you have to store them separately.
For wooden, laminate or tiled flooring a cylinder vacuum cleaner is often the better option, although there are upright models which are suitable for hard floors. For carpeted floors either upright or cylinder vacuum cleaners are suitable. However, for loop pile carpet, ensure that you do not use any turbo roller attachments as this can damage the carpet.
Many vacuum cleaners have adjustable settings for carpets of different heights as well as a setting for wood or tiled floors.
The higher watt machines are more powerful and can provide more suction, but this is more important on the cylinder vacuum cleaners as the dirt has further to travel to reach the bag. The current cylinder vacuum cleaners on the market today usually have a power of between 1400 and 2400 watts, although lower watt Eco models are also available from some manufacturers.
Some models have variable wattage, or suction control, which can be useful for cleaning more delicate items such as upholstery so as not to damage them.
Wattage is extremely important however it is not the only criteria for good suction, as this will depend on other factors and the overall design and technology of the machine.
Some manufacturers use cyclonic technology to maximise the suction power of the vacuum cleaner.
Some of the features on certain models can include:
- A full container indicator to alert the user when the dust bag or container is full.
- A headlight for extra visibility under furniture and in dark areas.
- Auto cleaning filter technology to automatically clean the filter without manual intervention.
- Energy efficient mode, so that less power is used for light vacuuming.
- Sensors to detect when the floor is dust free.
- Automatic power levels which adjust to suit the type of floor surface.
In addition, there are some vacuum cleaners which are designed especially for:
- Allergy sufferers. Some models have the British Allergy Association Seal of Approval and/or are certified by the German quality company TUV as being suited for allergy sufferers.
- Pets hairs. Some models have an electrostatic pet hair brush or turbo brushes either incorporated into the vacuum head or as an attachment.
The filtration system is very important when choosing a new vacuum cleaner.
Many vacuum cleaners need to have the filter changed on a regular basis, at least once per year, although there are those which never need to be changed. Many are also washable.
Vacuum cleaners with a HEPA or S-class filtration system are extremely efficient, trapping tiny particles, including pollen and dust mite faeces, to ensure that particles do not escape back into the room. This is the most suitable type of filter for allergy suffers and some models have the British Allergy Association Seal of Approval. Many HEPA filters are now washable. Some manufacturers rate the performance of a HEPA filter and its ability to remove particles on a scale of 1 through to 20.
Anti-bacterial filters are also available on some models.
Charcoal filters have the added advantage of eliminating odours which can be useful for those with pets.
Cyclonic or Cyclone Technology Cyclonic or Cyclone Technology -this patented vacuum technology is designed to extract dirt efficiently without clogging for maximum suction power.
Cut Pile Carpet Cut Pile Carpet - this is where the loops that are created in the weaving process are cut to a certain height, making the carpet feel very soft, luxurious and dense.
HEPA HEPA - this stands for 'High Efficiency Particle Air' and is one of the most efficient filtration systems, particularly suitable for allergy suffers. It can trap up to 99.97% of particles.
Loop Pile Carpet Loop Pile Carpet - this is where the loops that are created in the weaving process are left uncut.
Operating Radius Operating Radius - this is the distance that a vacuum cleaner can be used away from the power socket and includes the length of both the power cord and the hose.
Retractable Power Cord Retractable Power Cord - the vacuum is designed so that the power cable automatically retracts back into the body of the machine when pulled at a certain angle or via a button, which prevents the danger of tripping on the power cable and also makes it easier to store.
Suction Control Suction Control - this is the ability to decrease the suction power if vacuuming delicate items such as rugs and upholstery, preventing damage and minimising the risk of items being sucked into the vacuum cleaner.