Q. My children's allergies seem worse after I vacuum, and I can even smell the dust. What should I look for in a powerful microfiltration vacuum cleaner, and will running one use a huge amount of electricity?
A. Using a powerful microfiltration vacuum cleaner certainly cannot hurt when it comes to controlling allergens in your home.
These microfiltration vacuum cleaners do have extra-powerful motors that consume a lot of electricity. Because they deep-clean so thoroughly and are so well-sealed, though, you need to vacuum less often than with a standard model. Overall, the electricity usage is not any greater.
To be effective, a vacuum cleaner must not only have a very powerful motor to suck up dirt and allergens, but it must also contain the fine particles inside of it until it is emptied. If you get that "just-vacuumed" smell, your vacuum cleaner does not filter well or is not well-sealed.
By the numbers: The cleaning power of a vacuum is determined by suction and air flow. Air flow is probably most important; canister models typically have the highest air flows. Air watts are a combined rating calculated from the suction and air flow.
The two main types of filtration system are bag or cyclonic. Some high-filtration bags have 28 layers to trap the allergens. Cyclonic systems create a high-speed circular air flow inside the vacuum cleaner that forces the particles to drop out of the air before the final filter.
There are three types of HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) models.
HEPA often means that the unit just includes a secondary HEPA filter. "True" HEPA means that the entire system meets HEPA specifications.
HEPA-like means that the filter is effective but has not been tested to HEPA specs.
If the HEPA filter is located after the motor, it also removes fine motor brush dust. An optional final charcoal filter will remove some odors from the air, too.
Check the quality of internal seals and how solid the mating pieces feel when the unit is closed. This is most critical on designs with a HEPA filter after the suction motor because it creates a positive pressure.
XWrite for Update Bulletin No. 968, which gives a buyer's guide of 10 manufacturers (25 models) of HEPA vacuum cleaners, listing cleaning power, filtration methods, HEPA location, bag size, features, weights and prices. Please send $3 and a business-size SASE to James Dulley, The Vindicator, 6906 Royalgreen Drive, Cincinnati, Ohio 45244. For an instant download, visit James Dulley online at www.dulley.com.