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ARTICLE: Math 101
Vacuum Cleaner Power

This gets everyone's attention, because everyone is interested in vacuum cleaner power.

Before we get into what really does influence cleaning power - it's important to understand the things that don't. Manufacturer's go to great lengths to deceive you. We're going to help you educate yourself.

(1) Suction does NOT clean. These tricks have been used for 80 years on the buying public. This is why you can pick up a bowling ball, but you can't pick up a piece of fuzz. Ignore all of the 'suction' gimmicks you see.
(2) Electrical Ratings are a GIMMICK. A little history first.... About 10 years ago, vacuum companies were fooling the public by publishing a 'peak horsepower' rating. If you have an older machine, you may even see a sticker on it proclaiming something like '4.2 peak horsepower'. These ratings couldn't be proven, because to achieve them, you could have no air (or dirt) entering the machine, and you had to strain the motor to the point of ruin to reach these ratings. Worse yet, this had nothing to do with a machine's ability to pick up dirt. Due to (finally) some government pressure, this rating system was dropped.
(3) With the above taken away, the manufacturer's switched to something they could prove - electrical ratings. They come up with various models such as 8-amp, 10-amp, and 12-amp machines, with the higher amp machines costing you more of your hard earned money.

The brilliant part of this scenario is that to create a higher amp motor, they used lower quality bearings, which caused the motors to strain (and wear out faster), which in turn caused them to burn more electricity (amps).

'Watts' are the same as amps, with 1 amp = roughly 110 watts. If you see '1300 watts' listed, it's a 12-amp motor.

More importantly, this has NOTHING to do with cleaning ability, either. It's just a measurement of electrical consumption. It's the equivilent of bragging to your friends about having a car that gets really bad gas mileage.

(4) In an effort to out-do each other, the manufacturer's began lowering the prices of '12 amp' machines until that was what the consumer expected. They now have no choice but to keep offering machines which burn tons of electricity, with no increase in performance.

In the U.S. 12.5 amps (1300 watts) is the maximum amount of electricity you can pull out of a wall socket. With the manufacturer's now having 'painted themselves into a corner', some of them devised...

(5) The Manufacturer's OWN rating system. Hoover is the king of this (although NOT the only manufacturer doing it), because as the price increases, they give the machine a higher 'efficiency' number. Why do they do this?

Here's why: You go to the local store, and walk down the vacuum aisle. As you look at each cheap plastic machine offered by the various companies, you begin reading the numbers out loud to yourself...12 amps...this one has 12 amps....this one has 12 amps...wait, this one has 18.7

Here's what happens: Because you would need a magnifying glass to see the words 'rating' under the 18.7, and because you are not an electrician, you ASSUME that because it's a bigger number, it has to be a more powerful machine. You throw it in your buggy, take it home, and add to it your collection of machines which do not work as advertised.

Interesting Sidenote: Hoover's own ratings are a 'scientific formula' based on the ability to pick up just 25 percent of the dirt tested. much dirt do YOU want a machine to pick up?

(6) What they don't want you to know!

The movement of air picks up dirt. The measurement for this is called 'cubic feet per minute' (abbreviated as C.F.M.). This rates the volume of air you can pull through the machine in one minute's time. The more air you can pull, the more dirt you'll pick up.

You're saying to yourself 'Great..where do I find THIS rating?''s the kicker - most manufacturer's will NOT tell you.

If they did, then you could be an educated shopper, and that's the last thing most of them want. It's easier to keep selling you stuff that doesn't work if they continue to mislead you with other silly numbers. (It's important to note again this has NOTHING to do with amps, as we've seen 7 amp machines that have double the 'airflow' of a 12-amp machine due to a very efficient design.)

(7) Final Verdict: We actually give you the scoop on this brand-by-brand in our ratings section. You may also want to read the article on air filtration, because this is the other area where the consumers are mislead.

More Vacuum Cleaner related classes...
Homeroom Vacschool: Vacuum cleaner Ratings
English 101 Vacuum cleaner vocabulary
Psychology 101 Tricks Of The Trade
Economics 101 How much do I need to spend
Enviroment 101 The truth about vacuum air filtration
Math 101 (You Are Here)
Ratings 101 See the vacuums we like (and some we don't)!
Shopping 101 Learn to be a wise online shopper and save money!