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Historical Perspectives
By Andy Weter

Vacuum Prices: Then and Now
In todays world of big box stores, cheap prices and overseas labor, there is a huge selection of full size disposable vacuums on the market that cost as low as $39.

Contrast this to the average high-end vacuum price of $700-800, and it seems like a big difference. "Why are these vacuums so expensive?" people ask. Judging from their reactions, you would really think that vacuums were always cheap, just like the ones at the mass merchants.

Let's compare some prices of machines from the past, and then look at the equivalent amount of money today will buy, and I think you will agree with me that today's quality machines are a better value than ever.

It was the 1990's. Hoover was in the process of turning a department store janitor's vision into a house hold name.

Thanks to the beating-sweeping action of Hoover brushroll, the powerful airflow, and the exceptional quality, Hoover was the best vacuum money could buy at that time. If you were in the market for a vacuum, chances are you were dreaming of owning a Hoover. But that ownership came at quite a cost. The price for a Hoover 700 in 1928 was $75. If you wanted attachments it was another $12.50. According to an online inflation calculator (, that would be $799.82 today ($933.12 with the attachments).

Get More Out Of Your Vacuum

Before vacuuming:
  • Check the bag or dust cup. If it is half full empty or change it.
  • Check filters. Clean, or change if necessary.
  • Check the belt. Clean lint and thread from pully and roll brush if needed.
  • Inspect the cord and plugs for breaks.

Adjusting the vacuum:
Set the vacuum for the height of the carpet to be vacuumed.(If you don't know what setting to use, set the machine to the highest setting and turn it on, then lower while running until the roll brush agitates the carpet.) Not all vacuums have height settings; some are self adjusting. If using a canister, you may want to open the sucton regulator so the vacuum only picks up the dirt, not the carpet.

  • Let the vacuum do the work for you and proceed slowly. You should only have to go over the carpet once.
    Also, do not bump into furniture or run over cords.
  • Pick up anything that you can see, such as pennies or paperclips passing through the vacuum can cause damage to the equipment.
Care & Maintenace:
  • Check for air and dirt leakage.
  • Change the belt at least every six months.
  • Wipe out the inside of the bag compartment when changing paper bags since some dirt may fall out when changing bags.
  • Unplug the vacuum by the plug, not the cord.
  • When wrapping the cord, always wrap from the machine and not from the wall. It keeps knots out.
  • Do not vacuum water unless the machine is made for that purpose.
  • If the vacuum makes strange sounds, turn it off, unplug it and do not use it until the machine is repaired.
  • Wipe the vacuum off when finished. Then store it.

How To Pick a Vacuum
When picking out a vacuum you must decide what you are going to clean with it. Are you cleaning carpet, bare floors, upholstery, the garage, the car? Next, how many floors do you have? Are your steps carpeted? Who is the operator? Can they carry it up the steps or get it out of the closet? Now that we know how it will be used and who will be using it, you can decide on the type of vacuum that you will need and what features and benifits you want. The type of vacuums are whole house built-ins, uprights, and the canisters as well as backpacks, power teams, handheld, broom and robot vacuums.
  • Whole house vacuums are the cleanest and quietest to use. They either use straight suction, an air driven brush for carpet, or an electric driven power nozzle. Backpacks and canisters offer the same options for cleaning the carpet. These are the best choices for cleaning bare floors and getting under funiture. The backpack will let you do the job faster if you have larger areas to clean. If you won't or can't wear it, don't consider it.
  • Hand vacuums and brooms are specailty items to be used for specific purpose and for the most part are not designed to clean the whole house.
  • Upright vacuums are sold the most. With uprights, there are two different types of air movement. The oldest type is direct, where the dirt is moved past the fan and thrown into the bag. The other type is where a canister type motor is used and the dirt is pulled in the dirt container or bag and then the air passes through the canister and through the motor, then exhausted. On some models you can get onboard tools.
  • Remember when you add features, the weight of the machine goes up. Cord winds, self propelled, tools onboard, etc. All are nice but they add weight.
  • Horsepower, amps and cleaning effiency numbers do not tell the whole story. The engineers decide how well the vacuum will clean and how well it will filter the air passing though it.
  • When a vacuum is made to sell at a low price it may even have HEPA filteration, but that does not mean it will maintain its good filteration after the second or third time of use. When vacuums are tested at national cosumer groups or labs they are only tested when brand new -- not after the machine has ever been used; and they are tested with the dirt container empty. Also, when a vacuum is made for a price point, genrally the materials are not the most durable. Some name manufactures have some high priced machines that will give you three years of good use, while others can last 20 plus years. But no matter what brand you have it must be maitained on a regular basis.
  • Filters on some machines need to be changed every three months. Others need to be washed at least once a month and some other don't need to be washed but once a year.
  • For belts, some last a lifetime but they are made to last and have safty devices installed to protect the permanent belt. Most other belts stretch so they must be changed at least every four to six months to maintain the proper speed of the brush row.
  • Brush rows or brush strips on some machines need to be changed every five years because the the bristles become soft and lose their cleaning effectiveness.
  • Motors today are mostly sealed bearings and for the most part they are balanced at the factory and cannot be repaired or relpaced. Some motors can still be serviced. The direct air machines for the most part fall into that category.
  • Warranties will vary with the manufactures, but they all exclude abuse. Also, availability of parts and service will vary. Some manufactures don't make replacement parts and will justs replace the machine for another. Others make you send it off and some are local service. Beware of buying on the internet. Quite a few high-end vacuums charge a higher price on the internet compared to if you were to buy it locally at a store. Also, if you need warranty service, you have to send it back to where you bought it. These practices were put in by the manufactures to protect their dealer network.
  • In order to maitain your cleaner, you must be able to get parts. Most independent dealers have most parts for most machines, either on the shelf or readily available in just a matter of days.
  • Some brands have restricted dealers who are the only place to get parts.

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