No one desires to plunk down hundreds for a vacuum cleaner.
It's a boring purchase. But when the old clunker just doesn't suck anymore, it's time for a new model -- and fast.
Having bought four vacuums in the past seven years, I have a decent idea of which dirt demolishing sidekicks make the best appliances and which ones don't make the grade.
1. Decide between upright and canister.
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Upright vacuums are more common and definitely better for carpeted surfaces. Canisters, on the other hand, are more stable on stairs and clean hard wood and tile well. Most canister vacuums are more expensive than traditional uprights.
2. Pick a model that weighs 20 pounds or less.
Especially if you have to haul it up a flight of stairs. Anything really heavy is a burden and will kill your back. Always test out models that strap onto the shoulder or back before purchasing.
3. To bag or not to bag?
The bagless vacuums separate large pieces from smaller debris. The smaller particles then circulate back into the room. To prevent the dirt from snowing back onto your floors, you'll need to replace your filter at least twice a year. The cost of bag replacement is pretty much offset by the filters.
4. Get the Carpet and Rug Industry seal of approval.
The CRI seal of approval ensures that a cleaning unit is superior at cleaning and will not damage the flooring. The swirly green sign will guarantee that the machine will get the job done.
5. Accommodate your allergies.
If anyone in your family suffers from airborne allergies, you need to invest in a model with a HEPA filter.
A high-efficiency particular air filter removes 99.97 percent of all particles smaller than 0.3 micron. Microns are pretty small. Not all HEPA filters are created equal however -- true or absolute HEPA filters are put through rigorous testing whereas HEPA "like" versions only capture 85 percent to 90 percent of even larger particles.
6. Ignore wattage numbers.
The amount of power doesn't correlate with a vacuum's suction power nor airflow, the two most important aspects of a unit.
Suction is the vacuum's ability to suck dirt.
Airflow is what carries it up into the bag or canister.
Keep in mind that each brand offers several models at different price points. I learned the hard way that a Walmart Hoover doesn't perform the same as a vacuum store Hoover.
If you consistently buy cheap cleaners, you'll need to purchase new models every year or two. It makes financial sense to spend an extra $150 up front if you plan on vacuuming for five years or more.
The performance and longevity of your machine also is drastically affected by how you maintain it. Clean the filter each month and replace when necessary. And don't forget about the option of buying a refurbished vacuum from a shop -- you can score a nice, barely used unit for less than half the cost of current retail value.
* Go to www.coupon sherpa.com for more shopping advice, insider tips and coupons.