Cordless vacuum cleaners offer new convenience – but also downsides


  • Technology
  • Saturday, 05 Sep 2020

The best thing about battery-powered vacuum cleaners is that they don't need cables. — Catherine Waibel/dpa

Vacuum cleaners are finally cutting the cable and joining other battery-powered household items like hair dryers, lamps and Bluetooth speakers. But the new cord-free convenience comes with trade-offs.

More and more households are turning to portable battery-powered vacuum cleaners. They’re lighter and more manoeuvrable than traditional plugged-in models, don’t take up as much space, and are easier to use.

Above all, there’s no power cord to be tripping over. However, on the downside, they need to be charged so don’t have the staying power of models that are connected to the mains.

Some manufacturers offer models that can be turned into even smaller hand-held vacuum cleaners that can easily remove dust from couches and other surfaces. — Catherine Waibel/dpaSome manufacturers offer models that can be turned into even smaller hand-held vacuum cleaners that can easily remove dust from couches and other surfaces. — Catherine Waibel/dpa

So what’s their performance like? First of all, you have to consider the battery. The more capacity it has, the longer you can go between charges.

“Batteries are becoming more and more efficient. Over the past ten years, the energy in the battery has increased steadily for the same weight,” says Christian Eckert from the ZVEI, an electrical and electronics industry association in Germany.

"With a battery that has a high capacity, we can assume that it can store a lot of energy,” he says. But even so the cleaner still needs to use that energy efficiently and that depends on a good design.

Battery power isn't the only consideration when it comes to cordless vacuum cleaners. Equally important, according to ZVEI’s managing director Werner Scholz, is how the device operates.

“It also depends on how the air is guided into the device and which nozzle or brush is used,” he says.

Consumers can’t tell whether a device is good based on technical data alone, he says. Test reports can provide some assistance.

As with a conventional vacuum cleaner, the suction power decreases if the dust container is almost full. However, emptying a cordless device is not a task for allergy sufferers.

That’s because these devices usually do without a dust bag and instead use a container. That’s more environmentally friendly, but it also means the dust whirls around whenever you empty the container.

"The dust container usually holds 400 to 1,000 millilitres,” says Claudia Oberascher from a household device initiative in Germany. That’s smaller than most dust bags and so needs to be emptied more often.

Battery-powered vacuum cleaners usually don't work with dust bags. When the built-in container is full, you'll need to carefully empty it over a bin. — Catherine Waibel/dpaBattery-powered vacuum cleaners usually don't work with dust bags. When the built-in container is full, you'll need to carefully empty it over a bin. — Catherine Waibel/dpa

For hygiene reasons, Oberascher recommends washing the container regularly with a mild detergent and letting it dry well.

She advises testing various cordless handheld vacuum cleaners before you buy.

"Then you can see directly how well the device sits in the hand, how the vacuuming works, and whether the volume bothers you," she says. That's because cordless vacuum cleaners are generally noisier than plug-in models.

"Before buying, you should also pay attention to the charging time of the battery," Oberascher says. The advertised run time is probably for standard operation rather than turbo mode, which will run down the battery more quickly.

If you vacuum a lot or often, it’s best to get a replacement battery. With some devices, one comes included with the accessories.

Oberascher recommends using a cordless vacuum cleaner as a second device, either for quick cleaning or for those households in which the apartment is spread over two floors – it'll save you having to haul a bigger model up and down the stairs. – dpa

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