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Electrolux Harmony Ultra Quiet Canister HEPA Vacuum

How to Buy a Vacuum

By Tanja KernSHOP.COM For the Home Editor

Cleaning up life’s little messes can be a chore, so buying a vacuum cleaner shouldn’t be one of them. There are many different kinds of vacuums on the market, and today’s models clean better and provide more features than ever before. The performance of a vacuum cleaner can be measured through airflow, air speed and suction, and good vacuums can be found at a variety or price points. Let SHOP.COM’s Vacuum Cleaner Buying Guide take the guesswork out of shopping for these appliances.

The Basics

Step 1Upright: Upright vacuum cleaners work great for people with one-level homes or those who have trouble bending or lifting. They work best on carpets and consist of a cleaning head, handle and dirt-trapping bag or bin. Older technology uses a large fan mounted close to the suction opening, which sucks in dirt directly into a bag. In newer models, the air first passes through a filter before passing through the fan. Although they trap dust more efficiently than earlier models, the newer technology can use up to twice as much energy to achieve the same results. Some uprights come with an extra hose and brush attachments to clean upholstery and small areas.
Step 2Canister: For serious cleaning, canister vacuums give you more ways to suck up dirt and dust from a variety of surfaces in your home. The units consist of a motor and bag housed in a separate canister, which connects to the vacuum head with a hose. They usually have a tool kit of attachments built right into the body of the canister—including different size nozzles, fur or lint catchers, extension wands and brushes—to clean a variety soft and hard surfaces. These extras make it easy to vacuum upholstery, high corners and window treatments.
Step 3Robotic vacuum: Reminiscent of “Jetsons”-like technology, robotic vacuum cleaners are cordless and move autonomously in a random pattern. Many models use docking stations to recharge batteries.
Step 4Hand-held vacuums: Popular for cleaning up small messes, hand-held vacs come with either an AC cord or rechargeable batteries.
Step 5Built-in or central vacuum cleaners: These vacuums move the suction motor and bag to a central location of a house and allow you to carry only the vacuum head and plastic hose from room to room. Central vacuums can be expensive, but they are a more powerful and more convenient than traditional vacuums. The dirt bag in the central system has to be emptied less often, sometimes only once or twice a year.
Step 6Bag or Bagless: Some vacuums come with a bagless feature. Bagless vacuums collect dirt in a bin, which means you won’t have to spend more money on replacement vacuum cleaner bags as they get full. The downside to bagless vacs is that they have a tough time trapping every molecule of dirt and dust—even with filters. You also have to physically empty out the bin, exposing yourself to dust. For this reason, vacuums with bags work better for people with allergy concerns; you can swap out the bag touching the dust. Middle and upper end models often feature an indicator light to signal when the bag is full.
Step 7Rotating Brush: Some models have a rotating brush with an on and off switch. When turned on, the brush helps to beat dust out of rugs; when turned off, it prevents dirt from being scattered around solid flooring surfaces like tile, laminate and wood.

The Lingo

Bag: A bag is the typical way dirt, dust and debris is collected in a vacuum. Bags are usually made of fabric or paper and need to be replaced as soon as they are full.
Cyclonic separation: A common technology used in bagless vacuums, cyclonic separation spins air quickly so that dust is forced out and dumped into a storage bin.
HEPA filter: HEPA, or high efficiency particulate air, filters remove particles in air before it’s expelled back into your home. Many HEPA filters can remove over 99 percent of dirt particles.
Amps: The amount of electric current flowing through the vacuum.
Watts: Amps multiplied by the voltage drawn. Upright vacuums average 7 to 12 amps, and most canisters run on 12 amps.
Filtration: How efficiently the air passes through filters and the dust bag or dust bin.
Suction: The more fans a vacuum has the better the suction. Many good vacuums have two or three fans.
CRI Green Label Certification for Good Air Quality: A CRI Green Label means that the vacuum has been certified by the Carpet and Rug Institute for good performance standards and will help maintain clean air in your home.

The Experts

“As with all Dyson vacuums, the first thing one notices when inspecting the vacuum for the first time, is the weight of the machine. It's quite nimble on the floor, but when you need to pick it up you may momentarily wish you had purchased something lighter. At nearly 30 pounds it is one of the heavier vacuums available.” (Source: www.dyson-vacuum-reviews.com)

The Brands

Hoover is a leading manufacturer of vacuum cleaners.
Bissellis a Michigan-based manufacturer of vacuum cleaners.
Electrolux is a Swedish company that manufactures vacuums and other home appliances.
Dirt Devil is one of the best selling vacuum brands in the United States.
Dyson vacuums use centrifugal force to separate dust and particles from the air flow.
Eureka is a vacuum brand owned by AB Electrolux.

The Price

$: Low end vacuums are priced between $50 and $200 and have basic suction capabilities. Some feature extra attachments, such as a crevice tool, brush or wand extension.
$$: The middle range of vacuums are self-propelled and have excellent suction. They may have a variety of features, including HEPA filters, front headlights, dirt sensors and attachments.
$$$: The most expensive vacuums can cost well over $500 and feature the best in HEPA filtration, cleaning accessories and ease of use. Often these expensive vacuums work as well, or only slightly better than the middle range of vacuums.