Nowadays, allergy sufferers can choose from a wide selection of HEPA vacuum cleaners and brands. It is our experience that this is one of the few appliances where paying a bit more, yields dividends in terms of reliability, convenience and performance. Choosing a new vacuum cleaner can now be a daunting prospect, as all the major vacuum cleaner manufacturers seemingly offer the same choices. It is only when you take a closer look can you distinguish between them and choose a vacuum cleaner that best suits your needs and is helpful if you suffer from allergies.
- Basic Style – Do you want a Hepa canister or an upright vacuum? Do you have mostly carpets? If you have wall to wall carpets, then a traditional upright vacuum cleaner might be the best choice for you as uprights have a beater bar which churn up dirt embedded below the surface of carpeting. On the other hand, if you have mostly bare floors and a few scatter rugs, then a canister can move seamlessly from one to the other and not make wheel marks on your hardwood floors.
- Specialty Vacuum Cleaners – Perhaps you have a special need like the vacuum cleaner needs to be handheld for pickups of lightweight for the elderly or disabled. Manufacturers have made huge strides in the handheld and lightweight vacuum cleaner categories in recent years, bringing them up to a level where they actually do a credible job. These vacuum cleaners are especially useful for the elderly or disabled such as those with back problems.
- Hepa Filters – Allergy and Asthma sufferers used to suffer when dust was emitted from a vacuum cleaner’s exhaust system but nowadays a good post motor Hepa filter and if possible an entire sealed unit, [the encasing] will do the trick. Unfortunately, we have found in our testing of vacuum cleaners that they are not all made equally, and so we have rejected far more vacuum cleaners from prominent manufacturers than we care to name. Many times a vacuum is Hepa in name only and wrongly placed within the vacuum cleaner and the dirt still comes spewing out the exhaust system. There are a very few vacuum cleaners with washable Hepa filters but be warned they do degrade over time.
- Weight and Comfort – Some vacuum cleaners feel like you are moving a huge rock around which is one of the reasons why we favor canister vacuum cleaners, but even some canisters are like great lumps with no real swivel ability, yet others obey you without a hitch. Some handles fit into your hand nicely, and high end Hepa vacuum cleaners have all the speed and mode controls right on the handle which allows you to conveniently manage the controls from your hand rather than bending down all the time which is not optimal as you get older.
- Maneuverability – This is an area in which a number of vacuum cleaners have made extraordinary strides. Both Hepa canister and upright vacuums in better models have heads which can swivel and turn in all directions making them so much easier to use and the heads lie flat so you can get underneath couches or beds.
- Attachments – Are you a basic floor only type of vacuum cleaner user? If so, then attachments, their number and quality, will not make any difference to you. On the other hand, no good self-respecting clean freak should be without a small army of cleaning attachments. In regards to attachments, we have found that both Miele and Sebo offer the best selection of attachments to their Hepa vacuum cleaners. Attachments to upright vacuum cleaners used to be an afterthought since the tools used to go in the closet instead of the vacuum and the hose was so short that the vacuum cleaner tips over when you tried to use the attachments. Now upright vacuum cleaner manufacturers are putting a few attachments onto the machine and give you a nice long hose so you can vacuum your couch or use the dusting brush.
- Noise – Consumers have become far pickier about the noise level of their vacuums and do not like it when the rest of the family or their pets flee at the sight of it. The better models of vacuum cleaners come with insulating materials and better made motors and fans, so they will operate far more quietly.
- Performance Motor Power (amps) – Measures the amount of current used by the motor. A higher amp doesn’t necessarily mean more cleaning power. Airflow is a truer test of effectiveness. Interesting facts on air flow: Bags clog up and should never be used until full.
- Powerhead or Turbo head? Our rule of thumb is that if you have mostly carpets and a few scatter rugs, you should get a vacuum cleaner with a turbo head because they can go seamlessly from carpet to bare floor. On the other hand, a power-head has a brush roll and an additional motor which gives it extra power when it comes to sucking up the ground in dirt in carpets. Turbo heads are purely air driven.
- Emissions – We have tested the room emissions right at the exhaust of a Hepa vacuum cleaner. The newest Hepa models now say that the room particle count actually goes down after using their vacuum cleaners so you get some air cleaning benefit as well.
Ease of Changing Tools – You will use tools if they are conveniently stored on board your vacuum cleaner, and if you can get them on and off easily. We particularly dislike those tools, which expect you to squeeze and push them to get them to fit or fall off once we started vacuuming. Miele vacuums win the ease of changing tools prize along with Sebo.
- Automatic Height Adjustment – Need to keep going from bare carpets to rugs? This feature will make life a lot easier.
- Air Volume Adjustment – Tired of sucking the curtains off the window or your precious Persian rug off the floor? This is a really necessary feature especially if you intend to use your accessories.
- Intuitive Controls – When we test out vacuum cleaners one of the first things we look for is whether we can just plug it in and go without looking at the manual for assembly instructions and whether we can figure out the on/off switch and how to change the bag without it being a major production.
- Performance – Let’s face it you want to get up the dirt as fast as possible so you can put the vacuum cleaner back in the closet. One of the most annoying demonstrations by those door to door sales people is to have you vacuum your carpet until you think it is clean, and then show you how theirs then picks up more dirt. Actually that trick will work with all vacuum cleaners because none of them do a perfect job. I have literally got on my hands and knees after testing a vacuum to inspect the microscopic specks of dirt left behind. And then of course there are those pathetic vacuum cleaners that leave so much dirt behind it is very clear to the naked eye from five feet away [your head height].
- Air Flow – Usually measured in cubic feet per minute [CFM] bigger is better.
- Dust bags or Bagless – Type of bag and size of bag. Bagless vacuum cleaners in our opinion are still very allergy unfriendly and the non-allergy sufferer in the family should handle the dirt disposal. The quality of the bags does make a difference and the bags offered by Miele and more recently by Sebo are exceptional and improve the performance of the vacuum cleaner.
- Construction Quality – ABS plastic non-shiny finish. When you have spent a lot of money on a vacuum cleaner, we suspect that you would prefer if the finish is scratch resistant, so that it does not have a banged up look within a month. It is like having a new car with it its first scratches on it - it always feels like a let down.
- Cord Length and Automatic Rewind – Putting your foot down on an automatic rewind of twenty feet of vacuum cleaner cord can be a startling experience! A longer length cord is handy if you do not want to plug and unplug once you have started vacuuming. Upright vacuum cleaners do not have automatic rewinds and you have to remember to neatly wind up the hose after use.
- Brush Agitator (roller brush) – The roller with bristles under the machine that spins when the machine is on. It increases the cleaning effectiveness on carpets.
- Edge Cleaner – Some upright vacuum cleaners models have a special edge extension tool for carpet edge cleaning; Canisters simply use one of the attachments.
- Optional Tools – Never be as foolish as to think if you have tools which you do not carry on board you will ever use them, but in the case of car cleaning or computer cleaning Miele has special tools and is king of the tool options but Sebo is closing in on them fast in terms of tool selection.
- Small Niceties – Place to hang the floor tool, parking, under the bed fold down flat. The Sebo upright vacuum cleaner can fold down flat for vacuuming under furniture which is something very few uprights can do, although all canisters can get at dust bunnies underneath furniture very easily.
Durability & Warranty
If there is one thing we hear often it is how people hate it when their vacuum cleaner breaks down every couple of years or so and they have to replace it. Your choices are simple; pay less and replace the vacuum cleaner more often and be frustrated when it does not pick up the dirt very well or pay more and keep the vacuum cleaner around for years until you wish it would break down so you could have an excuse to buy a new one. Those people who are into durability should opt for Miele or Sebo vacuum cleaners. These vacuum cleaners will last almost forever, often 10 to 20 years.