Last updated on April 21st, 2017 by Garrick Dee
Before you whip out your credit card and purchase a cordless vacuum take a few minutes to read this guide so that you don’t waste your time and money on something that you’ll not fully utilize.
This guide will help you figure out what you need at home by answering some of the most common questions people ask. It will also break down the terminology manufacturers use so that you’ll better understand how these features work which will ultimately affect your purchasing decision.
First off, you have to set a budget and from there prioritize the features that you may or may not need. Create a checklist of what you want to prioritize then take that checklist with you as you read our comparison charts and individual product reviews.
If you need a more comprehensive guide in choosing a vacuum cleaner, head on over to this page where I talk about the different types of vacuums, their pros and cons and the factors to consider why you would want to choose that particular type of vacuum.
Where will you use it?
Are you looking for a vacuum that you’ll exclusively use on the floor or something more versatile that can clean areas other than floors?
Stick vacuums typically don’t have attachments included and will work only on flat surfaces. The Rowenta Delta Force and Hoover Linx Stick Vac are good examples of stick vacuums that only clean floors. The former has a max run time of 40 mins which is more than enough time to clean one or two rooms, the later has a 15 minute run time which is enough to spot clean on room.
The more versatile models are typically lightweight hand vacs with several attachments included that’s designed to clean every nook and cranny around your home. Some of them will have attachments that you can use to clean floors but they don’t last as long – around 10 to 30 minutes and have smaller canisters that’ll hold less dirt so you’ll have to empty it more often.
How much power do you need?
This is a tricky one because there are still manufacturers that don’t state how much suction power their vacuums have to give users a reference, unlike car manufacturers who state horse power figures to show customers how much power their vehicles produce.
Most of them will list down how much volts their batteries produce but you can’t rely on this because it is only an indication of how much voltage the motor needs to run.
A more accurate indicator you should look at is air watts.
Take note that this is different from watts. Watts measures how much power the motor produces. This is not an accurate barometer because as air gets sucked in from the motor there will be power loss. How much? Well that will depend on the type of filter, length and design of the hose, plus other factors. Also take note that as the filter clogs up, power also degrades so make sure to clean them regularly.
Using air watts is more accurate because it measures suction at the head of the vacuum where all the dirt gets in.
Here’s a birds eye view on the power difference between a corded and cordless vac. Hoover says that an upright should have at least 100 air watts to be a considered decent and a cylinder should have upwards of around 220 air watts. In comparison, their top of the line cordless – the Dyson DC44 has around 24 air watts but if you press on the “boost” button – it goes up to 65. However, they fail to mention a recommended number for cordless vacuums.
Unfortunately not all manufacturers list this down. I’ve contacted some but they said this number isn’t available yet.
To help you out with this lack of information. We will detail the performance of each one on carpet, bare floor, rugs and pet hair based on customer reviews all around the web.
Stick v.s. Handheld
Stick vacuums are quipped with a handle that allows you to comfortably clean floors or stairs standing up. Handhelds meanwhile, allow you to clean other areas in such as walls, tables, windows, car interiors, closet, sofa, chairs, etc.
Take note that there are hybrids that offer both of these features but they tend to be more expensive. However, hybrids will give you a lot for your money. These types of vacuums would be great if you live in a home with minimal carpeting because there is no need to deep clean hard surfaces.
Two-in-one vacs often have attachments included to help you in a variety of ways:
- Pet attachment – designed to suck in pet hair on your sofa, chair or bed.
- Crevice attachment – a long narrow cylindrical tube with flat tip that will fit in tight spaces like the crevices between sofa cushions.
- Brush attachment – used to help loosen up dirt on windows, vents, blinds, carpet, keyboard, etc.
Bagged v.s. Bagless
A bagged vacuum has a big paper bag inside its belly or canister that acts as a garbage bin which you’ll throw out after it gets full.
What are the benefits of this?
- It is easier to dispose – all you need to do remove the bag and throw it out and put in a new bag.
- More hygienic because you’re not exposed to dust
- More resistant to clogging because newer models have an anti-clogging property that allows their vacuums to maintain their performance even as it fills up.
What are the downsides?
- Expense in buying extra bags
- Despite having an anti-clog feature, there are instances when these bags quickly clog up to a point where it needs to be replaced even if it isn’t full, especially when you clean up dust that’s denser.
A bagless on the other hand is divided into two types – filtered and cyclonic.
Filtered vacs use a cloth or paper element filter inside the canister to trap dirt.
A cyclonic also use filters but the difference is instead of directly sucking dirt onto the filter, a cyclonic uses a tornado like motion that keeps debris away from the center where the filter in types of vacuums are usually stored.
What’s great about the later is that it keeps dirt out from clogging filter, maintaining suction power even as it fills up.
A clogged filter as I mentioned earlier will degrade performance.
What are the benefits?
- You can see how much dirt has been collected since the canisters in these types of vacuums are transparent but there are models like the Makita BCL180W that don’t have transparent bins.
- In most cleaners I looked at, filters are washable so the expense in replacing them is minimized.
What are the downsides?
- For vacuums with paper element filters, you will have to replace them when they clogged up, so expense can add up to more than what a paper bag costs
- Because there are no bags, you are exposed to dirt comes from the canister
- Performance can degrade when the canister fills up and the filters clog up
All of the of cordless vacuums I reviewed so far are bag-less. I included this just to give you additional information on the difference between the two.
Take note that for both types, you’ll need to clean other parts of the machine to make it run as smoothly as possible for a long time. Read the owner’s manual carefully on what parts need to be cleaned and how often you need to do so.
Lithium Ion v.s. Nickel Battery
One of the big advantages a lithium battery has over a nickel based is charging time. Vacuums powered by a Li-ion battery will re-charge much faster than a nickel cadmium battery.
How much faster? That depends on the model.
Just to give you an example a Rowena Delta Force will need around 16 hours to fully charge while a Dyson D35 Digital Slim will need only 3.5 hours to fully charge. That’s around a 12.5 hour difference which is significant in my opinion.
Battery life meanwhile is mixed. It will depend on how much power the motor produces, motor design and how efficient it is. The same Dyson machine I mentioned earlier will hold its charge for around 15 minutes while the Delta Force will have a longer run time – around 40 minutes.
Also remember that nicad batteries can lose their charge over time if you don’t use it. Lithium batteries are much less prone to this.
On final note – nickel batteries cannot be recycled while lithium batteries can be recycled. If you’re green, go with lithium.
HEPA Filter – do you really need it?
First you have to know what a Hepa filter does to know if you need it. It traps harmful elements such as polen, pet dander, dust mites, tobacco smoke, etc. from the exhaust that can cause irritation to people with asthma or other types of allergies. This type of filter is also found in all air purifiers.
So if you have asthma or any form of allergy and you’re the one who does the cleaning then consider a vac with a built in HEPA filter. It will cost a bit more than models with standard filters but the health benefits far outweigh the savings in price.
Take note HEPA filters are denser compared to standard cloth filters so efficiency will be affected. Cordless vacuums equipped with these types of filters will have less suction power. This is another downside aside from the expense.
You can learn more about hepa filters here.
Do you have pets?
Dogs and cats shed a lot of pet hair which can be a source of allergies, especially for kids. Fortunately most of the vacuums featured here will have some sort of pet hair attachment that will help remove it from carpet, sofas and chairs.
There are models designed specifically for this task. Only get this if you have a lot of pets at home. These often have powerful motors that have an extra gear which helps pick up hair on carpet and upholstery which is tougher to remove.
General purpose vacuums tend to clog up fairly quick and don’t have enough juice if there is a lot of pet hair to remove.
Other things to look out for
You’ll notice a lot of interesting features some of these vacuums have. The Rowenta Delta Force has a pointed head that is designed to reach corners better.
The Bissell bare floor has a v-shaped head designed to funnel dirt to the suction chamber. Great on bare floors but not on carpet.
There are models equipped with motorized brushes inside the cleaning head which is great to have if you’re cleaning carpet but there is a risk for this to scratch bare floors if it gets too dirty.
Motorized brushes are hair magnets that attract a lot of hair to it. So take note if you can remove it for cleanup. Some models like the Delta Force doesn’t have that option while others like the Electrolux ErgoRapido has it.
If you have any questions or concerns about what I’ve discussed here, please feel free to ask in the comment section below.