Life in a vacuum: Your guide to choosing vacuum cleaners

Whether you’re ready to go cordless or not, Kya deLongchamps advises keeping your wits and watts about you when choosing a new vacuum cleaner.

Times have changed. Five years ago, I would have an apologetic few paragraphs limping in at the end of this feature covering battery-powered vacuum cleaners.

Losing the tether we previously crocheted around every table leg has been a freeing experience, and the performance and running times have brought cordless vacuums right to the front of the market.

Sir James Dyson, the uncrowned king of vacuum innovators, has given up on R&D of corded machines entirely since the introduction of his V10 in 2018.

Losing the cable

Cordless is no longer a nimble, second-in-command.

A versatile, lightweight upright can do everything your tied up machine can do.

Life in a vacuum: Your guide to choosing vacuum cleaners

Powerful, digital cordless machines are promoted with air watts (AW) which refers to the power of the actual suction, and voltage — referring to the storage power of the battery (40v would be impressive).

If you have a photovoltaic system on your roof in the future, it’s nice to know that running your cordless vacuum even after dark could be completely free with a battery juiced up by the array.

What to consider

The weight and action of the machine, the battery life on a single run, the ease of filter changes/cleaning, recharging times and the performance of the bin.

Note: cordless machines average about 0.6l for bin capacity –- that’s little.

A machine with multiple heads will allow you to wave the wand up the walls, clean the car as a detachable hand-held, and take a run over soft furnishings. Trawl real user reviews for the machine you are considering.

Dusty laminate is not a filthy carpet, and cordless machines are not created equal. Even price is not a good predictor of performance.

The latest cordless Dyson machines remain violently expensive and for some buyers over-engineered for the job.

Dyson promised no loss of suction with the cyclone technology launched in 1993, and the cordless Dyson is “fade free” to the last AW.

Looking for something to compare with the Dyson’s stable? Shark’s IonFlex DuoClean is a real contender and offers a unique flexible wand design — slashed at Littlewoods from €410 to €236.

The Vax VBT3ASV1 Blade at €289.99 is also packed with features and a 45-minute run at standard power settings (Argos).

Power play

This year, following a passionate legal battle headed by Sir James, the Energy Label on vacuum cleaners has been annulled.

This is a bit confusing when shopping for a machine — but the messaging is that the label did not adequately reflect real performance.

There will be some idea of power in the kWh per annum for a corded vacuum — 22-25kWh pa would be typical, but you might even have to dig for a watt count.

Machines over 900w new or with an engine sound greater than 80db, were blown away by an EU Ecodesign requirements introduced in 2017. The energy saved on vacuum cleaning in the EU by the new directive could power Belgium’s households for a year.

The popular Henry, for example, had the smile knocked off his little face, and now offers a comparably feeble 620w to his previous 1200w. From €130 to €250 for the Henry Allergy HVA. The final indignity is Henry’s cordless version at €250, which has very mixed reviews.

Life in a vacuum: Your guide to choosing vacuum cleaners

Judging a vacuum’s performance on wattage alone never made any sense. The efficiency and effectiveness of the motor, its engineering and details, can make all the difference to the pick-up.

In a cordless machine you will generally have two to three modes to consider while working with your machine — including a “boost” mode which will of course drain the battery more quickly.

Use it judiciously, climbing up and down power as you need it.

Some corded and cordless models, including Dyson’s Absolute V11 (cordless) includes adaptive pressure sensor technology to suction down onto surfaces as required. The power saving Eco Mode, for example, would be fine for hard, lightly dirty surfacing — so delivering a longer run.

These predictive systems together with an LCD readout to follow the battery level will be crucial to a satisfying run of up to an hour.

Take a look at Sebo, who really embrace computer controlled optimisation in their corded range, of cylinders and uprights.

We love its automatic shutdown for blockages on their way to the bag! Automatic X7 ePower 91501GB Upright, €369.99. Maintain your brushes and filters in whatever vacuum you choose to optomise performance.

Breathe easy

If you have respiratory issues in the family, clean floor surfaces and dust-busting, in general, will be a particular concern. The consumer group Which (UK) found that many of its “don’t buy” list of cordless machines performed poorly for allergen retention, which.co.uk.

Running and emptying the machine potentially stirs dust up.

The wrong choice can release a plume of small particles back into the air in the exhaust process.

Bagged machines are part of the process of HEPA filtration, acting as the master filter and catching everything the machine filter doesn’t. Generally, a disposable bag is a cleaner option.

Miele have perfected a CleanStream fine-dust filter. Bagless, its Gore/Clean Stream bin while not reaching HEPA level, separates fine and heavier dust particles, allowing for a less foggy dump when the bin is full.

Life in a vacuum: Your guide to choosing vacuum cleaners

The 890w Blizzard CX1 has a handsome compact cylinder with nice foot-tap graphics, miele.ie; €299.99, DID Electrical.

A good vacuum will capture particles as small as 0.3 microns, grabbing 99.97% of allergens. A HEPA lifetime filter will also ease your breathe, and self cleaning filters don’t need to be rinsed or waived over the bin.

Bags and filters should carry “S” class filtration as standard. Even firing a pert trigger bin, this chore is best left to the toughest lungs in the family.

Upright or cylinder?

It’s all in the stoop and stab. If you don’t mind reaching down to change settings on your corded cylinder (or can do it with a well-aimed toe), cylinders remain extremely versatile for the undulating territory of a two storey house.

That said, they are a bit of an anaconda to store and can be a drag, colliding with door jambs and chairs in your wake. AEG offers bulletproof German engineering and we love their 12m cords and superb design, including 360° casters to nip around corners with effortless maneuverability.

AEG Powerforce range from €99.95, Harvey Norman.

Life in a vacuum: Your guide to choosing vacuum cleaners

Uprights scaled to your height, are kinder to the back, and with a good hose and matching accessorising, every bit as useful. It’s a tomato/tomato choice.

The crucial thing to keep in mind is that while an upright’s weight keeps rollers and beater bars down to the floor, adequate suction is needed to hold the lighter head of a cylinder wand firmly down on the surface.

If you’re set on cordless, it’s upright all the way, and a light wand can be waved up the wall with the right balance in your hand. Look for something under 3kg.

Shark offers the only vertically parking wand cordless machine and are an under-rated brand for beasty corded machines in the 800w range.

With under-furniture lighting, a lift-out “central station”, and powerful grot defeating brush bars, the 750w DuoClean Powered Lift-Away is a hybrid upright that comes apart to act like a cylinder.

Great value from €249.99 at Currys PC World.

To stay upright, on the flex and still buy into the Dyson experience, try out the Light Ball Multi Floor, an elegant, much-loved 700w upright with patented Radial Root Cyclone technology, three suction modes, allergy and asthma-friendly certification, lifetime filters and a liquid “ball” glide (€249.99, dyson.ie).

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