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Carpet Care

Selecting The Perfect Vacuum

June 08, 2012
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In business, as in life, one usually needs a plan in order to succeed — that has, at least, been the conclusion of some of the most famous thinkers in history.

For facility service providers (FSPs), planning can play a significant role in every aspect of our businesses, including selecting a vacuum cleaner.

But, unfortunately, many of us fail to plan ahead when selecting a vacuum, often making how much we are willing to pay for the machine the only consideration.

This can result in selecting a machine that does not meet our needs, does not perform as well as is necessary, is physically stressful to use and is less than healthy to operate.

Doing a little research and planning before purchasing a vacuum cleaner can prevent those issues — and will likely save a considerable amount of money as well.

First Things First

Those who have made a bad choice when selecting a vacuum cleaner can take consolation in the fact that it''s not easy to select a vacuum cleaner today.

There are numerous brands and models available, including backpacks, uprights, wide-area machines, walk-behinds, canisters, high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) and non HEPA-filtered machines, all of which come in a variety of models with scores of options.

It can indeed be a bit bewildering, which is why the first step when selecting a new machine should be to decide where and how the machine will be used.

For instance:

  • Will the machine be used for emergency purposes only — when another machine fails — or will it be used for several hours every day?
  • Will the machine be used for day cleaning and be required to operate at a low decibel level?
  • Is the area that will be vacuumed large, such as a walkway in a hotel or office building?
  • Will the machine be used for high and low dusting or for vacuuming both hard floors and carpeting? In this case, a conventional upright may not be the best choice.
  • Is indoor air quality (IAQ) a major concern; has a green cleaning program been implemented in the facility? If either of these issues is a factor, a machine with an advanced filtration system will likely be necessary.
With these questions answered, the next step involves studying the kinds of machines available and the features and benefits they offer.

Typically, this can be accomplished by reading industry trade publications.

An astute JanSan distributor can also be a welcome source of help when it comes to leading FSPs through the vacuum cleaner maze; as experts in the field, they can help their clients understand the choices available and point them toward the machines that will best meet their needs.

Price Considerations

As referenced earlier, a machine''s cost is often at the top of the list of considerations when selecting a new vacuum cleaner.

However, while expense is a key factor, it certainly should not be the only one.

Of course, this does not mean that the more money spent on a vacuum cleaner, the better it will be; in fact, just the opposite can be true.

Some FSPs select a machine with a number of costly bells and whistles that look impressive online or in the showroom but are rarely used in practical, day-to-day use.

Making matters worse, these added features are sometimes the parts of the machine that require the most frequent service and repair.

This leads us to one of the key price considerations when selecting a vacuum cleaner: Beyond the purchase price, what is the overall cost of ownership of the machine?

Typically, this is determined by the quality of the machine''s construction.

In many cases, a poorly constructed machine will not only require more service and repair, but its lifespan may also be shorter than a better built machine.

Worse, a poorly built machine may be sucking up dust and dirt at one end, while it spews it out on the other.

One way to select a quality machine is to research whether or not it has earned the Seal of Approval from the Carpet and Rug Institute (CRI).

Experts Voice Their Opinions

Along with turning to trade publications and knowledgeable JanSan distributors, another way to piece together an effective vacuum cleaner purchasing plan is to follow the advice of industry experts.

For instance, Alan Bigger, the former head of facility management for Notre Dame University, where he was responsible for the cleaning operations of more than 160 campus buildings, says that his vacuum cleaner purchasing plan involved looking for machines that were powerful, lightweight and ergonomically designed in order to prevent injuries and improve worker productivity.

Another prime consideration when selecting a vacuum cleaner is the location in which the machine will be used.

Bigger notes that backpack models are ideal for vacuuming stairways, multiple floor surfaces and under desks and furniture.

Uprights, on the other hand, are a better option for hallways and larger carpeted rooms.

Daniel Frimml, technical service coordinator at Tornado Industries Inc., agrees with Bigger that the ergonomics of the machine should be a key consideration.

"An ergonomically designed vacuum cleaner is engineered to work with the user, not the other way around," asserts Frimml. "We know from working with hotel housekeepers that this can improve worker productivity significantly, as it reduces fatigue and the possibility of injury."

While Frimml agrees that backpack models do offer considerable versatility, he suggests that FSPs should also consider the new generation of canister vacuum cleaners now available.

"Canisters not only offer the versatility of a backpack, but some of the newer machines are also light, ''whisper quiet'' and have very advanced HEPA filtration systems, making them a perfect choice for both day cleaning and green cleaning situations," notes Frimml.

At the end of the day, making the right vacuum cleaner choice can make the cleaning worker''s job easier, safer and far more productive.


Richard Sanchez is a building service contractor (BSC) working in Northern California. He may be reaced at Info@AlturaSolutions.com.

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