While cordless backpacks have great promise, they aren't always the best choice. Many factors, particularly the facility's layout, play a role in determining which type of vacuum is the right fit.

"You have to ask all the questions," Guinn says. "What is their budget? What type of flooring do they have? How much? Are they dealing with high-density areas with cubicles? If so, a battery backpack may be the best option. Or, do they have large, open areas where a wide-area vacuum or even a battery sweeper would be a better fit?"

In an environment with a lot of stairwells, chairs or tight spaces, cordless backpacks make the most sense. They are also likely the best solution for 24/7 operations or when day cleaning is in place.

"If you have people working around building occupants, battery vacuums make a lot of sense," says Merrihew. "There's a lot of downtime that's saved by being able to move around without worrying about cord management."

For buildings with a lot of open space, an upright or a ride-on automated vacuum may be a more efficient choice.

The surface being cleaned — and the soil load on it — can also affect the decision. Cordless works well on hard floors and filer carpet, Sawchuk says, but may lack the lift or cubic feet per minute (CFM) needed for thick-pile carpets. Likewise, it may take several passes with a cordless to remove thicker and heavier soils, which erases any productivity gains.

"Depending on the surface and soil load, you may need the extra power of the cord," says Sawchuk.

If cordless backpacks seem like a good fit for some or all of the existing clients, don't rush to purchase new machines. Sawchuk suggests researching what the best options might be first.

"Not all battery-operated backpacks are created equal," says Sawchuk. "Sometimes the ones that are the cheapest in sticker price are the most expensive over their lifetime."

Compare several manufacturers — or ask distribution partners to help in this process — to evaluate how various vacuums stack up in terms of filtration and battery run time and lifetime. A backpack may have a lower price tag, but BSCs might actually save far more in labor costs with a pricier one that offers longer run times.

Luckily, run times continue to improve and price tags keep coming down. That's why many experts believe cordless vacuums will soon become the norm in most settings.

"There are new vacuums coming on the market continuously and the technology is getting better all the time," says Merrihew. "Cordless will become a more mainstream offering very quickly. In fact, very soon it won't be a question — it will just be what you do."

Becky Mollenkamp is a freelance writer based in St. Louis.

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