Both cord electric and battery-operated vacuum cleaners have their pros and cons. Some custodial executives opt for corded units because their suction is strong, and their performance level remains constant throughout the custodian’s shift. Furthermore, there is no downtime necessary for charging or changing batteries.

“With a cord, you never have to worry about whether or not someone charged the battery,” says Schneringer. “It’s either plugged in and working, or it’s plugged in and it’s not working.”

Some custodians prefer the simplicity of a cord electric vacuum. He adds, “You just plug it in, and you’re ready to vacuum.”

This can be a boon for facilities that are open 24/7.

“Corded backpack vacuums are great in airports where there’s no such thing as taking a minute, a day, or a weekend off,” says Fairchild. “Airports have to have cleaning done all day long, and they want to use the same machine for three different shifts, so the corded version is best suited for them. It never dies, and it never has to be charged. You just take it off one person’s back, change the bag, put it on another person’s back, and it’s back in use.”

In some situations, however, being tethered by a cord can have a negative impact on productivity. In these instances, custodial managers might want to consider a battery-operated vacuum.

“The holy grail of backpack vacuuming is to be able to do it with a battery so your productivity rate goes up,” says Schneringer. “So instead of having to find an outlet to plug the vacuum into, then vacuum an area, then go back and unplug it and plug it into another area, you can keep going with a backpack. It’s more efficient.”

Distributors agree that battery backpack vacuums are best suited for areas where electrical outlets are absent, such as hallways, stairs and elevators.

“You can vacuum into an elevator, go up to the next floor and away you go,” says Schneringer. “You’re really very portable, and in terms of productivity, it’s a real advantage to be able to do it without being encumbered by a cord.”

But for some workers, the added weight of a battery may counter the efficiency of a cordless vacuum.

“You want a battery that’s powerful enough to vacuum for an extended period of time, but that bigger battery means greater weight,” notes Schneringer. “So we’re trying to find a happy medium.”

Ultimately, end user preference will play a significant role in the type of vacuum cleaner managers purchased.

“Just as different types of cars are better for different situations, and people have different opinions about what’s better, the same holds true for backpacks and uprights,” says Schneringer. “The most important variable is the people that are doing the work. The vacuum that allows them to do the best job is the one managers should choose for the department.”  

KASSANDRA KANIA is a freelance writer based in Charlotte, N.C.

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