Air filtration and purification for virus protection and PM 2.5 particles

One of the most interesting innovations happening in the vacuum category is the heightened awareness surrounding high efficiency particular air (HEPA) filters.  

“In the past, only healthcare facilities were concerned with HEPA filters and air quality,” says Sean Brady, sales manager, Allston Supply Co, Inc., Springfield, Massachusetts. “Now that’s all changed. Contractors, schools, and many other types of businesses are looking for vacuums with HEPA filters.” 

The reason is because these filters can theoretically remove at least 99.97 percent of dust, pollen, mold, bacteria, and any airborne particles with a size of 0.3 microns, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The technology prevents particles from being redistributed into the air through vacuum emissions, protecting both IAQ and the technician using the machine.  

The filters, however, come at an added cost. Because of this, Brady feels that interest in HEPA filtration will eventually wane.  

“Incentives to improve air quality in the wake of the pandemic aren’t going to last forever and for the most part, regulations have not changed,” he predicts. 

This might not be a bad thing. After all, not every cleaning situation calls for HEPA filtration.   

“It’s a cost/value calculation,” says Keith Schneringer, director of Merchandising + Sustainability, WAXIE Sanitary Supply, an Envoy Solutions company, San Diego. For a more affordable solution, Schneringer suggests looking for products with a Seal of Approval from The Carpet and Rug Institute (CRI). 

To earn that seal, vacuums cannot release more than 100 micrograms of dust particles per cubic meter of air. This ensures that vacuumed dirt and other particles are safely locked in the machine and do not escape back into the environment. Vacuums with the seal of approval must also meet criteria around soil removal and protecting the look of carpet. 

Filters are not the only vacuum innovations around. Autonomous vacuums are an exciting — albeit expensive — option as facilities continue to welcome more occupants and work to showcase cleaning.  

“The robotic vacuums are cool,” says Brady. “I think they are overpriced right now for what they provide your average user, but that too will probably change as they find new ways to automate.” 

Schneringer agrees, emphasizing that robotic vacuums offer an array of advantages to end user customers.   

“They never call in sick or take a vacation day,” he notes. “Investing in robots makes more and more sense as hourly wages go up and the price of this technology keeps going down.” 

Other improvements include cordless vacuum options, which are ideal in scenarios where cleaning is being done around building occupants. These provide productivity advantages by allowing workers to cover more ground without having to unplug and find a new outlet. They also improve safety for both frontline cleaning staff and building occupants by eliminating a potential trip-and-fall over a cord.  

The downside to battery-powered equipment? Sourcing and maintaining the batteries can be an issue for some end user customers. Maintenance traditionally isn’t a problem as this presents an opportunity for distributors to emphasize their service offerings. But sourcing might be a holdup, at least in the immediate future. Supply chain delays are currently affecting the entire vacuum sector.  

“It’s getting harder and harder to source vacuums quickly or at all. It really depends on the manufactures,” says Brady. “Some are shipping in four to eight weeks, others 20 weeks, and some are not shipping at all right now. Vacuum motors, both new and replacement parts, have been particularly hard to come by. This problem only seems to be getting worse.” 

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