Canister Vacuum FAQ

Buying a canister vacuum doesn’t have to be confusing or needlessly nerve-wracking.  In fact, if you boil down the factors and features you really need – and what you can afford – the buying process can be fun and, most importantly, you can wind up with the model you need at the price you can live with.  Below is our “Canister Vacuum FAQ,” which addresses some commonly asked questions about canister vacuums.

What’s Better – Baged or Bagless?

The short answer is that both are fine; however, many people are really loving the ease of use with the bagless models, and for good reason. Changing out and replacing vacuum bags can be tedious, result in release of airborne particles, and costs money when you need to replace them.  Now, don’t get us wrong, there are some great bagged models out there that do not suffer from these issues, but, in general, we suggest you go for a bagless canister, or at least a bagged model that uses a washable/reusable bag.

Cyclonic Action – Do I need that?

The Dyson vacuums obviously kick-started this movement and there are presently many other makers that have their own “cyclonic” action systems that seem to work well (and cost quite a bit less to boot).  Nevertheless, the question still arises, are cyclonic vacuums just better?

As far as we’re concerned, while we like the cyclonics, this feature alone is not the deciding one.  In fact, as long as the vacuum is of good quality and otherwise performs well, we really don’t have a preference.  Shocking!!  Of course, all things being equal, yes the cyclonic should make life easier by maintaining constant suction, but there are so many other factors.  Does the vacuum have good tools?  How does it perform on carpeting? How heavy is it?  How reliable is it, etc., etc.

We think it’s quite telling that some of the most elite brand names in the canister vacuum industry have not opted to go cyclonic.  Take for example Miele – this company has attained legendary status for making some of the finest models to have ever graced a hardwood floor.  Miele is not chasing after the cyclonic wave?

In reality, as long as it’s well built and performs, the standard suction motor mechanism  – that has worked since vacuums long ago started becoming a household fixture – still work just fine.

How Heavy Should My Vacuum Be?

Thanks to better technology in both power plants and construction materials, canister vacuums have become much lighter than the lumbering dinosaurs of the past.  Today, it’s not unusual for a high-powered vacuum to weigh well under 20 pounds. And many are much lighter than this.

Again, there is not simple answer here, and certainly no exact number that we can give everybody, but any vacuum over 30 pounds is going to cause you a bit of fatigue if you are covering many rooms in the home – and even more so if you are dealing with more than one floor.  Obviously, this also is a matter of how much weight one can carry, with more slight and delicate users perhaps having trouble with a 20 pound vacuum.

The good news is that if you are really wimpy, there are more than a few canisters that come in at about 15 pounds or less – and some get down to even 8 or 9 pounds!  These are where you should look if you are doing a lot of up and down movements, or are chasing after kids or furry animals.  Just be aware that many models need to use very lightweight materials to cut this much weight, and if you like a very sturdy feeling vacuum, don’t complain if it feels a bit “plasticy” as a result – you can try to have your cake and eat it too, but it often doesn’t work!

Do I Need a HEPA filter?  Will Any Filter Do!?

Perhaps more than any other feature, this is the biggest question for a lot of folks. Really, if you think about it, it’s a pretty “Happy Dilemma,” since we are fortunate enough today to have many canister vacuums that come standard with HEPA filters.  The only reason why everyone is not getting one of course is cost, which can be significant.  Let’s take a look at what HEPA filters are and whether your really want/need one.

HEPA stands for High Efficiency Particular Arresting filter, which is a fancy way of saying its a super-fine filter media that is designed to trap airborne particulate matter that is very very small, usually down to 0.3 microns in size. It’s these super-small particles, which can be all sorts of things, from dust, pollen, fungal spores, bacteria, and other particulates that can be easily kicked up while cleaning and basically stay airborne for long periods of time, that are so good at getting into one’s airways and lungs, where they can cause significant irritation or discomfort in a healthy person, and far worse for someone who is predisposed to respiratory problems – like those with allergies, asthma, and  the like.

Of course, there are other types of filters on canister vacuums, and the vast majority of the more affordable models do not come with a true HEPA filter, but rather some other type of media or bag-system that functions by trapping dirt and dust.  The problem with these types of filters, is that while they can also be very effective, their is really no standard among them for their effectiveness, as there is with the HEPA types.  So it’s a bit of a gamble as to how good they are at taking down the really fine particulates.

In our view, the question really comes down to one’s sensitivity. If you are an allergy, asthma sufferer – or simply respond very acutely do dust, pollen, etc., then we say spend the extra money and go for the HEPA.  On the other hand, if you don’t have any respiratory issues, and don’t live with anyone who’s plagued by them, they you are probably going to be fine with something less than HEPA-type filtration.

What’s the Best Model or Make?

This we definitely can’t answer, but we can give you some examples.  For Cadillac quality, there are few that can match the Miele line.  But these are pricey as a rule.  Nevertheless, they have some “entry-level” type units that are much more affordable and otherwise still of outstanding quality  – but these generally don’t come with HEPA filters standard.

As far as great bang for the buck, we like Electrolux, Hoover, and Eureka – all of these companies have been around for a long time, are trusted US names, and, most importantly, build great, durable vacuums.  But this doesn’t scratch the surface – there are way too many to mention and many newer (or international) names that are making some real gems.  You are going to have to do the homework yourself!