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If you have wall-to-wall carpeting, the ubiquitous upright vacuum cleaner is your arsenal against dirt and debris. Most modern upright vacuums also do more than just vacuum; in fact, they often come with a number of different attachments that will allow you to keep your hardwood floors and upholstery looking great.
The vacuum process within an upright vacuum involves a change in air pressure caused by a pump. This pump reduces the air pressure inside a tube, and the surrounding atmospheric pressure then pushes air through carpet fibers into this tube. Dirt and debris is then sucked away from carpets and floors. In general, this fundamental process is the central idea behind most vacuum cleaners, including upright vacuums. One of the first machines to utilize this technology was the Whirlwind vacuum introduced in 1868 by Ives W. McGaffney. As a result of this revolutionary home appliance, home cleaning was forever changed.
Modern upright vacuum cleaners are quite different from the models initially introduced during the turn of the century. While upright vacuums were very expensive when first available to consumers, as vacuum technology became more cost-effective, these appliances became a staple in every middle class home.
In terms of design, modern upright vacuums usually consist of a head and bag or even a plastic dirt container. Included attachments and tools also make cleaning hard-to-reach spaces easy, as suction action is redirected to the attachment. Furthermore, today's upright vacuums are even cheaper and more effective than before. Older models were often awkward and noisy, but the latest models are easier to maneuver, more powerful, and quieter.
As a general rule, upright vacuums are almost exclusively used on carpets and do not perform well on hard floors because the air movement created by a vacuum's revolving brush tends to scatter dirt around as the unit moves towards it. Nonetheless, upright vacuums are still the standby for households around the world and are often more powerful and less expensive than comparable canister units.
When choosing an upright vacuum cleaner, there are number of things to consider:
Bagged Versus Bagless Design
Perhaps the most important decision to make when choosing an upright is whether you want a bagged or bagless unit. Bagged vacuums will require periodic bag changes. On the other hand, with a bagless model, dust and debris is collected into a receptacle that will need to be emptied. Bagless units also utilize filters which will also need to be replaced on occasion. For more information on bagged versus bagless vacuums, click here.
Upright vacuums are known for their power, so it's important to choose an upright with the most power in your price range. When shopping for upright vacuums, it's common to see terms like "Amps" and "Airflow." In vacuums, the term "Amps" describes the amount of electrical current a vacuum uses while operating. It is generally believed that the more amps a motor draws, the more powerful it is. However, airflow is oftentimes a better indicator of a vacuum cleaner's performance and measures the amount of air that moves though a vacuum cleaner -- usually expressed in CFMs or Cubic Feet per Minute. This is one of the most important criteria for determining a vacuum cleaner's performance. Generally speaking, the better the airflow; the more efficient the vacuum. Lastly, don't overlook a unit's "water lift" measurement. Relative to vacuum cleaners, water lift measures the strength of the vacuum produced by the suction motor. Suction gauges are calibrated in terms of "inches of water lift," and this is equivalent to taking a vertical tube, placing the bottom in a container of water, attaching the vacuum hose at the top, and measuring how high above the water surface the water in the tube rises. This measurement is also important when it comes to judging an upright vacuum's power and cleaning abilities.
Some of the newest upright vacuum cleaners on the market boast what is called "self-propelled technology." That is, they are designed with a transmission that powers forward and reverse movements more easily. The self-propelled mechanism also makes the cleaners more difficult to lift and carry.
Many upright vacuums will include some sort of filtration system to help capture fine particles. Filtration can range from micron filters to HEPA filters, which are said to offer the most comprehensive filtration. Overall, a more effective filter system will increase the cost of the unit.
Upright vacuum cleaners will often come with onboard cleaning tools such as upholstery nozzles or bare floor attachments. Although an upright's tools will not clean as well as those utilized by canister models, it's best to compare the available attachments and flexible hose length if possible.
Another important component to look for in an upright vacuum cleaner is an edge cleaning feature. This allows a vacuum to pick up dirt under the entire area of the cleaning head and is especially great for cleaning wall-to-wall carpet.
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Upright Vacuum Cleaners at a Glance
Benefits and General Features:
- Ideal for homes with wall-to-wall or mostly carpets
- Cleaning path of 12" to 15" (based on the model)
- Casters for maneuverability
- Carpet height adjustment
- Furniture and wall bumper guard to protect walls and furniture
- Many include on-board tools including hose, dusting brush, and crevice tool
Additional Features to Consider:
- HEPA filtration
- Retractable cord
- Adjustable suction
- Longer hose and electrical cords
- Dirt sensor
- Edge cleaner
- Full bag indicator
- Motor protection