When it comes to vacuuming, end users are eager to “cut the cord.” 

Battery-powered vacuums allow janitors to move around the building freely and efficiently — particularly in high-rise buildings where cord management can quickly become a hindrance. 

“One of the reasons people want battery equipment is the lack of electrical outlets,” says Rich Steinberg, vice president of sales for ProTeam Inc., Boise, Idaho. “If you have elevators and stairwells that need to be cleaned, but you don’t have enough outlets, you have to run hundreds of feet of cord, and that cord can be a trip hazard. Cordless equipment eliminates that hazard.”

Battery-powered vacuums also eliminate the danger of damaging the cords themselves. 

“People are going to get tired of running over cords and repairing them,” says John McDonnell, marketing manager for the commercial division of Hoover, in Glenwillow, Ohio. “Machines can sometimes be in service for a week or two because users are waiting for a cord to come in, whereas if you have a battery-powered vacuum you just have to worry about keeping it charged and unclogged.”

 Despite the benefits of cordless equipment, battery-powered vacuums for commercial cleaning applications are scarce. Vacuum manufacturers attribute this to a variety of factors, the most common of which are performance, runtime and cost.

“I think the biggest hurdle is trying to develop products that still provide full features and full power,” says Eric Hickman, product manager for Power-Flite, Fort Worth, Texas. “Machines that only surface-clean or don’t clean well aren’t going to last long in this industry because it’s all about the results you’re getting. If it’s not cleaning the carpet well, you’re wasting your time.”

Current batteries have an insufficient runtime making battery-powered vacuums an impractical option for commercial applications, according to Rob Hyatt, regional technical manager for Electrolux Home Care Products, Charlotte, N.C. 

“When you look at a typical battery product, the runtime is 15 to 20 minutes, or 30 minutes for a premium product,” he says. “For commercial applications, the technology is not there yet for a viable battery powered cleaning, but the technology seems to be advancing rapidly.”

For price-conscious consumers, the cost of battery-powered vacuums is simply too high. 

“We found that while people liked the performance of our [battery vacuum], they didn’t like the price and very few of them were sold,” says Bob Abrams, product manager of vacuums for Nilfisk-Advance, Plymouth, Minn. 

Not only are battery vacuums prohibitively expensive, but so are the batteries required to run them. 

“We have to sell one of these batteries at around $900, and there are two required for each machine,” says Abrams. “So that’s also what’s keeping battery vacuums from being viable in the marketplace.”


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Technology In Battery-Operated Vacuums Is Improving