Vacuum Selection

Experts encourage managers to start small when shopping. Before getting into the specifics, look at cordless versus corded and upright versus backpack to whittle down the options and identify which equipment best suits the task at hand.

Corded Vs. Cordless

There’s no doubt that there has been a trend toward battery-powered, cordless vacuums in recent years for simple efficiency’s sake. However, there are still instances when a corded, electric vacuum may actually improve cleaning time and particle removal. The key to making a decision that will streamline departmental productivity lies in the details.

Corded vacuums are traditional, electric machines that must be plugged into a power source. These vacuums are generally known for having stronger suction and having higher capacity for holding dust. On the other hand, electric vacuums can be cumbersome to maneuver when accounting for a long cord. There is also a safety consideration — trip hazard — when using corded vacuums in crowded buildings. Cordless vacuums are powered by battery, so there is no tripping concern, and they open the door to maneuverability. Workers are no longer tethered to the wall and can move freely to clean more square footage. Although battery-powered vacuums offer freedom, they are also reliant on the battery’s life and thus are limited to a specific runtime. They are also known to have smaller capacity for holding dust and will need to have filters changed more frequently then their corded counterparts.

Keith Schneringer, director of channel marketing and sustainability at Waxie Sanitary Supply, San Diego, often fields questions from his customers who want to make a switch to battery-operated vacuums, but aren’t sure if they should hang onto electric vacuums, too.

“There is a case to be made that, depending on how much vacuuming you do, battery life wouldn’t support the volume,” says Schneringer. “Each vacuum battery will have a certain amount of runtime. On some shifts, that works. On other shifts, staff will reach the end of the battery life before completing the work.” It can be difficult to account for battery life when calculating workloading needs of the custodial staff. That’s why working with a valued partner, such as a distributor or manufacturer, can help with the decision.

Facility cleaning managers considering investing in new battery-operated, cordless vacuums should ask a distributor or manufacturer to help calculate whether the battery life of the equipment would support departmental needs. Outlining how much vacuuming is performed on each shift can help suppliers recommend the ideal amount and balance of corded or cordless vacuums that will ensure cleaning performance.

“There is a productivity issue and there is also a safety aspect when you are looking at going with the battery-powered vacuums,” says Schneringer. “If you are cleaning in an area where there are many people around, the safety benefits of eliminating the trip hazard of the cord may outweigh your productivity and battery-life concerns.” Obviously, purchasers will need to consider where the power sources are when deciding between products. If outlets are available and accessible, a corded vacuum that can support longer vacuuming duration will be the right equipment for your needs. In facilities where outlets are at a premium, mobility is essential or longer runtimes aren’t necessary, cordless machines can improve productivity. “We’ve seen a big trend toward cordless equipment because of the efficiency,” says Brian Waddell, director of education and operations at Bruco, Inc., Billings, Montana. “It’s a much simpler process not having to wrangle a cord.”

Waddell says that he and his team consistently see 30 percent productivity improvements when cleaning teams are using cordless vacuums. However, he still recommends the use of corded vacuums for certain situations.

“Battery-powered vacuums don’t have quite the same power as corded options,” says Waddell.

He recommends the use of corded vacuums in preschool and kindergarten classrooms or high-traffic office spaces where there is either a lot of debris or a special kind of debris. Corded vacuums are also often necessary in environments where a specific vacuum pattern is desired.

However, sometimes stronger suction can be hard on carpet. The lighter suction that comes from a battery-powered vacuum may be a better fit for more delicate types of carpeting, or those that aren’t as durable. This will depend on the building’s specific needs and characteristics.

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Productivity And Ergonomic Considerations