The 10 Best Cordless Vacuums
A Vacuum Is a Vacuum Is a Vacuum
Peak horsepower is really just a marketing gimmick that many manufacturers use to illustrate how powerful their vacuums are.
Rather than measuring input power, it measures the amount of airflow it creates across a surface.
Let me just get this one pun out of the way, because it's been gnawing at me all day long. You've probably heard the joke before; you may have even used it yourself. You're certainly welcome to use it after you read it, but I want to add this important Disclaimer: The following joke is a joke:
Vacuum cleaners suck.
Okay, now that you've recovered, we can get down to business; which is just how exactly do we measure how much vacuum cleaners actually suck? Most manufacturers rate their vacuum cleaners using either one or a combination of these four measurements: watts, amps, peak horse power, and air flow.
Watts are a way of measuring the input power of a vacuum's motor. The higher the watts, the more powerful the motor is. However, this doesn't take into account aspects like how efficient the motor is at using that power, the number of fans the motor is powering, or the overall vacuum design, all of which play a part in how well a vacuum performs. Still, comparing the wattage of two different vacuums will give you a basic understanding of which has a more powerful motor.
To make things confusing though, not all manufacturers will list the wattage of their vacuums. Some may choose to rate the input power of their motors in amps. The amperage rating indicates how much electrical current is floating through the machine when it is in use. Take note, that we said through the machine, not specifically through the motor. This means the amp rating will also include the amount of power being consumed by other components of the vacuum, such as the light, powered brushroll, etc. The motor does draw the most amount of amps, though, so we can still use the amperage rating to gauge the input power of a vacuum. The higher the amps, generally the more powerful of a motor a vacuum cleaner is. As with watts, the amp rating doesn't take into account the other aspects of a vacuum that can affect its performance.
Peak horsepower is really just a marketing gimmick that many manufacturers use to illustrate how powerful their vacuums are. It was calculated by removing the fans from the motor, and then subjecting it to the highest possible load to see when it burned out. In truth, it has no relation to how a vacuum cleaner performs in real life situations. Thankfully, manufacturers are slowly phasing out this rating.
Airflow is probably the most reliable aspect of measuring how well a vacuum cleaner performs. Rather than measuring input power, it measures the amount of airflow it creates across a surface. Since the airflow is what picks up dirt and other particulate, we can assume that the more powerful the airflow, the more dirt and dust a vacuum can suck up. Airflow is measured in cubic feet per minute. The more cubic feet per minute, the more powerful the suction. Unlike all of the other ratings, airflow actually takes into account the resistance of the bag and filter system, turbulence in the tube, airflow obstructions, and anything else that might affect suction power.
Cut the Cord
You might be sitting there thinking, Do I even need a cordless vacuum? What if they aren't as strong as something I just plug in? Well, nowadays, they're more than capable. As battery power has advanced over the past few decades, the fear that these machines wouldn't be capable of producing enough power is less justified. What you can expect, however, is that the more powerful vacuums among the lot are bound to have shorter amounts of viable run time than their competitors, though they usually all have enough to get you through a session of cleaning.
How long does it normally take you to vacuum with a corded unit? If the answer is 30 minutes or less (which I hope it is, or your house is big enough that you can afford a cleaning company) then pretty much every cordless vacuum on the market will sustain you through that process.
Is some power still sacrificed in the name of battery life? Probably. Some of these models, if corded, could be unleashed (while leashed, hehe) at slightly higher powers, but the odds are, unless you've purchased a corded vacuum in the last five years, that even a middle of the road cordless is going to be a significant upgrade.
Do's and Dont's Of Buying A Cordless Vacuum Cleaner
When buying a cordless vacuum cleaner, or really any vacuum cleaner for that matter, there are a few things one should take into consideration. Start by thinking about your home and lifestyle. Do you have a pet? If so, do choose a model that is designed specifically to suck up large amounts of hair, without clogging. Usually models with a motorized brushroll will be the best at removing pet hair from carpets and upholstery. Speaking of using a cordless vacuum cleaner on upholstery, if this is something you want to do, you'll need to choose a model that either can transform into a handheld model or has a removable suction hose. It is important to note that one should never actually try and vacuum their pet with their vacuum cleaner. While it may seem like the most efficient way to ensure less hair winds up on your carpet or couch, we can guarantee that your dog will never forgive you.
There are some innovative designs that really enhance a vacuum's real life applications.
Don't ever buy a vacuum cleaner solely on looks. Just because something looks cool or stylish, doesn't mean it will perform well. Luckily, there are many models that look cool and also perform well. Remember though, a vacuum cleaner will most likely be hidden away in a closet or storage room the majority of the time. And really, who is watching you when you clean and judging you based on how your vacuum looks? Instead, pick your model based on power, ideally using cubic feet per minute of airflow, and versatility.
The versatility of any particular model is usually dictated by the design and the types of accessories. The more varied accessories a vacuum comes with, the greater the applications. A crevice tool allows a vacuum to get deep into cracks, such as between those couch cushions or between the seats of your car, while a bristled brush makes it more efficient at dusting. There are some innovative designs that really enhance a vacuum's real life applications. For example, some have a handle that lays completely flat or bends in the middle, so they can easily get underneath furniture and other obstacles. Models that transform into handheld units are great for quick, small cleanup jobs. Some models have LEDs in the front that illuminate the cleaning path, making it easier to identify dirt and anything else you may want rid your house of.