When it comes to vacuum preference in office buildings, the cord is dead.

Cutting the cord from a vacuum instantly increases a building service contractor’s productivity by 30 to 35 percent, which is significant, distributors say. This sizeable increase is largely due to eliminating cord management issues. In areas with no or limited outlets, janitors often will have to pigtail cords together to reach an area, or they’re forced to frequently plug and unplug the machine as they move from space to space.

It can also be difficult to find outlets. Some facilities don’t allow janitors to use outlets dedicated to computers and related technology. That often excludes all cubicles, which can make a standard 50-foot cord, or even a longer 100-foot cord, virtually useless.

A major boost in productivity is also recognized by the fact that janitors don’t have to constantly maneuver cords around obstacles or people.

“If I’ve got a room that has a lot of obstacles and maybe all of the computers are plugged into all of the outlets and they are pretty much maxed out, well then you may have to consider a battery-operated unit just because of the logistics,” says Searcy. “And that’s got its benefits, too. With the battery operated unit, you can experience at least another 30 percent increase in productivity. Not from an efficacy (standpoint), but it has to do with logistics — not having to handle the cord, get it tied around chairs and tables and worry about knocking things off with a cord or managing it if you’re working around people. Those are all considerations when you’re picking out the vacuum.”

Another common problem associated with electric vacuums is damage to the cord. When a cord is damaged, the whole thing must be replaced, according to Occupational Safety and Health Administration standards. In addition to a sizeable expense for parts and labor, cord damage also contributes to lost productivity.

“It’s not even a debate anymore, backpack vacuums are more productive to use than uprights and that is why they are the vacuum of choice for BSCs,” says Scott Uselman, manager and head of sales with High Point Sanitary Solutions in Houston. “As battery technology and performance continues to improve, you’ll see more BSCs using battery versions, not so much for convenience, but for necessity.”

Lithium-ion technology has finally reached an important tipping point. The technology now offers sufficient runtimes of 50 to 55 minutes with a shorter charge time (about 1 hour), all with less weight and a lower price tag than in the past.

“You’ve got a limited battery life — you figure 45 to 50 minutes. So if you have a lot of space, and you’re using a battery backpack, you may have to consider additional battery cells to recharge,” says Searcy. “And that adds expense. Battery units are expensive, but if you’re looking long-term, you’ll save the money on labor because of the increased productivity. It’ll pay for itself eventually.”

One disadvantage of backpack vacs is they lack a beater bar or brush roller. This part, often seen on uprights, agitates the carpet to deep clean and groom. This simple feature matters most in facilities with executive offices with plush carpet where appearance really matters. It also applies to walk-off mats in entryways.

“Some customers have plush carpets. If you’ve got a high-end office building or a place that has that type of carpet, they want to see a beater bar being used,” says Searcy.

To help reach dust in high places, vacuum manufacturers offer a list of specialized attachments, like extension wands and paddle tools. A few manufacturers have also introduced new equipment that is specifically designed for these hard-to-reach areas.

“There are some manufacturers that have come out with carbon fiber extension wands that are quite tall, so much as 20 feet,” says Smith. “One of the things that’s really neglected a lot of times in office lobbies now is the high-rise type cleaning. We’re seeing a lot of people buying these extension wands to be able to do high area type cleaning.” 

Nick Bragg is a freelance writer in Milwaukee. He is a former Deputy Editor of Sanitary Maintenance.


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