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Carpet Care

Vacuum roundup

September 19, 2010
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Similar to today’s electronics field, vacuum technology is continuously changing.

With all the new advancements in technology and the implementation of various features, the CM/Cleaning and Maintenance Management® staff thought it was time to comprehensively explore the current status of vacuums.

We interviewed several industry experts who provided us with insight on what is fresh and innovative in the world of vacuums.

Unsoiled health
As cleaning for health becomes widespread, manufacturers are heeding the demand for greener vacuums.

One area that is receiving significant attention is filtration.

According to Bob Abrams, manager of vacuum products for Advance, many manufacturers have upgraded their filtration standards over the past few years and an increasing number now offer high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters that trap 99.97 percent of particulates down to .3 microns in size.

While HEPA filtration is widely recognized as a viable way to prevent contaminants from being re-circulated into the air, some manufacturers are taking extra steps to ensure the soil being vacuumed does not end up back in the air.

“High filtration does not mean anything if there is dust escaping from other areas of the vacuum,” says Richard Hamilton, product manager for Windsor Industries. “We use a sealed containment system so dust cannot be redistributed back out into the environment.”

Advanced filtration will maintain air quality, but as more manufacturers look at the larger picture, they realize there is more to protecting indoor environmental quality than just clean air.

“It is not only about filtration, it is also about the noise level,” says Andre Motta, senior production manager for Rubbermaid Commercial Products.

By engineering vacuums with sealed and insulated bodies, several manufacturers are able to decrease sound output to less than 70 decibels.

These quieter vacuums allow end users to clean more noise-sensitive areas like hospitals and universities without disturbing building occupants.

Filtering through the features
Even the best performing vacuum is worthless if it is not ergonomically designed and comfortable for the end user.

According to Rob Green, director of engineering for ProTeam, the goal of manufacturers has always been to make vacuuming easier and more comfortable, which will yield better results for customers.

Manufacturers are always developing features that make vacuums more user-friendly by decreasing discomfort and lessening operator fatigue.

Some exciting new features in today''s vacuum product category include:
  • Lightweight, narrow-profile backpack vacuums.
  • Harnesses that distribute weight evenly to hips, legs and shoulders.
  • Anti-clogging, full bag indicators.
  • Large outboard wheels for maneuverability.
  • Ergonomic carrying handles.
  • Automatic height adjustment.
  • Onboard tools for detail cleaning.
  • Quiet operating, powerful motors.
  • Advanced HEPA filtration.
  • Cordless models to prevent trips and falls.
The end result of these comfort components is productivity.

A comfortable end user will be able to work longer and achieve cleaning goals with less physical strain.

Validating performance
Many manufacturers seek third-party certification as a way to prove their products’ performance.

“We contract for independent testing through agencies like the Carpet and Rug Institute,” notes Green.

However, even more important than third-party certification is validation from end users that new designs and features are addressing their needs.

“We bring our vacuums to end users and let them field-test our new offerings for six months to a year,” says Motta.

Others take a slightly different approach during their research and development stage.

“We test our vacuums in our labs and independent labs to validate we are meeting safety, performance, and environmental standards,” explains Hamilton.

Regardless of what process manufacturers use to test the performance of their vacuums — independent laboratory testing, third-party certification, in-field testing, or a combination of the above — the emerging trend is to incorporate science into the research, development, and testing stages to obtain quantifiable data that proves the effectiveness of their designs.

Beyond beater bars
If past trends are any indicator of the future, tomorrow’s vacuums will continue to exceed performance levels, while remaining affordable.

One thing to keep in mind, according to Hamilton, is that “the lowest initial cost vacuum is usually not the cheapest solution.”

Manufacturers will have to market performance and price together to meet the demand for cost-effective vacuums that are tough enough to withstand hours of daily use.

Expect to see more compact and quiet offerings that are not only aesthetically pleasing, but are also productivity boosters.

Innovation has always been the driving force in vacuum manufacturing, but, as Green states, “Innovation doesn’t have to involve reinventing the wheel.”

As third-party certification gains acceptance as a way to distinguish quality from compromise, expect to see more manufacturers seeking certification for their products.

“We know our products need to meet those standards, so we strive to meet or exceed the requirements,” states Motta.

Cleaning for health is the future of our industry.

While a clean appearance is undoubtedly important, the positive impacts on health that cleaning — notably vacuuming — provides will continue to gain popularity as a driving force in future vacuum technology.

“Studies have shown that more than 500 allergy triggers can occur in a typical dust sample,” says Green. “Removing a high percentage of these pollutants could mean fewer sick days taken due to allergies and asthma, and health improvements for building occupants as well.”

When you are performing health-based cleaning, you are not only improving your employees’ productivity, but you also have the potential to keep the individuals in the buildings you service healthy and productive.
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