Cleaning & Maintenance Management Online

Choosing The Right Vacuum

September 19, 2010

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Today, budget constraints are a very real concern for facility managers. As standards for cleaning intensify along with the need to be green, companies are forced to find ways to maintain healthy work environments in the most cost-effective ways. High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters have become synonymous with green cleaning, and have been a growing trend in the cleaning industry since their invention in the 1940s. Initially, the filters were designed to remove radioactive dust particulate contaminants in atomic bomb shelters. Currently, HEPA filters are used to improve indoor air quality in homes, healthcare, education and office facilities around the country.

The results from HEPA-equipped cleaning equipment are real. According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, 25 percent of Americans suffer from allergies, and 20 million people suffer from asthma, including 9 million children. EPA data shows that indoor air pollutants that cause asthma and allergies are up to five times higher than outdoor levels. In all, asthma costs the U.S. $10 billion annually in direct health care costs and lost productivity. To combat the rise of these airborne diseases and associated costs, maintaining high indoor air quality (IAQ) is crucial.

But what about the real obstacle facilities managers are facing to do more with less? As maintenance costs rise and budgets fall in today''s market, managers and contractors must find ways to achieve a high quality clean while cutting costs. This dichotomy presents a real challenge to maintenance crews, but one that is being addressed with today''s cleaning equipment manufacturers.

One of the most efficient ways to achieve optimum standards of indoor cleanliness and combat airborne diseases is by using a high quality, well-sealed vacuum with an effective filtration system, like a HEPA filter. Vacuums of this quality effectively rid indoor air of 99.97% of contaminants on surfaces down to 0.3 micron in size. This deep level of cleaning goes beyond cleaning for appearance and helps create a certifiably healthy environment for building occupants and cleaning personnel. But the vacuum should also—when incorporated into an effective cleaning system—save you time and money. Increasing productivity has become just as important to the health of a company as achieving ideal IAQ.

The challenge here is that so many vacuum manufacturers claim to make products that increase productivity, so it''s hard to know which ones truly do provide significant long-term cost savings—while at the same time providing a certifiably deep clean. Many factors contribute to cost-savings over time, some less obvious than others. For instance, extending the life of your carpets and floor surfaces is a cost savings that comes from using the right vacuum that causes less wear and tear as it cleans. Vacuums that are ergonomically designed to fit in the right place on the operator''s back and follow the operator''s natural range of motion will result in reduced or eliminated repetitive stress and costs associated with time-off taken and medical attention for user wear and tear.

In choosing the right vacuum, getting the most for your money has more to do than with the price tag of the vacuum at purchase. To truly assess the long-term savings of your purchase, you almost have to start at the end and work your way back. There are a multitude of studies out there to help determine which type of vacuum and what manufacturer is right for you. A study by ISSA Cleaning Times showed that quality backpack vacuums, like those made by ProTeam®, The Vacuum Company, clean up to 10,000 sq. ft. per hour when using a cleaning system, compared with tank canister vacuums which time in at 2,500 sq. ft. per hour, and single-motor upright vacuums which time in at 2,857 sq. ft. per hour.

The ease-of-use and ergonomic design of quality backpacks allow workers to vacuum more than twice the area in half the time. This enormous increase in productivity takes less than half the energy and effort that it does to clean the same area with an upright. The ideal backpack will also offer an easily accessible tool belt that allows crews to seamlessly clean all surfaces—even in those hard-to-reach areas. As part of an effective team-cleaning program, a quality backpack can increase productivity by up to 70%, all without adding on staff. In fact, one 100,000 sq. foot facility saved more than $52,000 in one year after switching to backpack vacuums from single-motor uprights.

But what if using a backpack vacuum isn''t practical for your cleaning needs? Quality speed canister vacuums, like ProTeam''s RunningVac™ or QuietPro® CN HEPA, produce the same deep clean while saving you ample time and money. Made with the same durability and quality as ProTeam backpacks, the canister vacuums incorporate ProTeam''s Four Level® Filtration system that keeps pollutants from leaving the machine—delivering equally improved IAQ. And studies show that using a ProTeam speed canister vacuum in an average 5,000 square foot facility can save an average of $2,147 a year in labor costs over using a traditional single-motor upright.

Day cleaning has become a popular workplace practice as companies can save thousands of dollars a year on electricity by making cleaning part of workday hours. Vacuums that allow the operator to switch to a quiet mode are perfect solutions for conquering dirt, noise and cost pollution in the workplace. ProTeam makes vacuums, like the QuietPro® BP HEPA and its canister sibling, that come with QuietPower® Technology, allowing the user to easily switch from 55dB to 47dB in Quiet Mode, resulting in sound output lower than a typical conversation. This innovation makes these vacuums ideal tools for day cleaning.

Cordless backpacks can help increase productivity in rooms larger than a cord can stretch and in places lacking power outlets, like stairwells and elevators. Also, having a cord stretched across a busy lobby for spot cleaning can not only be distracting, it can be dangerous. Cords easily get hung up or wrapped around cubicle wall panels, furniture, industrial machinery and retail store display racks. This can add time and tedium to a worker''s shift. ProTeam''s cordless vacuums are powered by Lithium Ion batteries and capable of 50 minutes of continuous runtime of effective cleaning—double that of other cordless vacuums on the market today.

One other advancement that quality vacuum manufacturers are making today is combining functions on machines used in hard floor installations. These types of vacuums should leave newly finished floors free of marks and scratches as well as dust and debris. ProTeam offers a full-line of high-powered backpack vacuums—including the Super CoachVac® and MegaVac®—that provide exceptional suction and lift paired with highly effective filtration. These vacuums easily attach and detach to floor sanders to trap fine dust before it enters the environment. And the MegaVac converts to a blower in two easy steps, with no additional parts needed. ProTeam also offers attachment kits specifically designed for floor installation and hard surface flooring.

Look for companies that meet the requirements of the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC)''s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) Green Building Rating System™. The USGBC is a non-profit organization composed of leaders from across the building industry working to advance buildings that are environmentally responsible, profitable and healthy places to live and work. To receive a credit in the LEED Green Cleaning: Sustainable Cleaning Equipment category, a vacuum must be certified by the Carpet and Rug Institute (CRI) “Green Label” Testing Program; be ergonomically designed to minimize vibration, noise and user fatigue; and operate with a sound level of less than 70 dB. To qualify for CRI approval, manufacturers must meet the requirements for soil removal, dust containment and carpet appearance retention—standards met by all ProTeam vacuums.

Some manufacturers provide other third-party testing results that measure both airflow rates and extraction levels. ProTeam has gone one step further and partnered with the American Lung Association to educate the public on the importance of IAQ health issues.

Since there are so many choices of vacuums on the market, your vacuum of choice should adapt to the terrain it''s cleaning, and should work with whatever cleaning system you have in place. Your facilities staff should find them comfortable and easy to use. The vacuum that will increase IAQ and productivity the most has a combination of high-powered suction, an exceptional filtration system, superior ergonomics and a three-year complete warranty on parts, labor and motor. Happy shopping!


Hollis Welsh is a freelance writer in Boise, Idaho focusing on the cleaning and facilities maintenance industry.

ProTeam is the original innovator of the lightweight backpack vacuum cleaner, an invention that has become a global phenomenon in the commercial cleaning industry for ergonomic efficiency, healthy cleaning benefits and prolonging the life of carpeting. Today, ProTeam manufactures 19 different vacuums for all cleaning applications. With a three-year warranty on parts, labor and the motor, and a lifetime warranty on molded body parts, the long-term benefits of ProTeam vacuums for your business are hard to beat. Learn more at www.pro-team.com.