Understanding Vacuum Terminology

Understanding Vacuum Terminology

Most people consider a vacuum is a must-have appliance. Although technology has changed over the past half-century, the basic function of a vacuum cleaner really hasn’t: it’s designed to remove dirt, dust and debris from the floors and surfaces of your home. While certain features like functionality, accessories and general aesthetics have evolved, the core feature – power – is as important as ever.

Several factors are crucial when it comes to determining how well your machine will work. Some of those are:

  • Design & quality of the motor
  • How the system filters dirt
  • Height adjustment on the carpet/surface
  • Maintenance of the vacuum

If you’re unfamiliar with vacuum terminology, it can be confusing to figure out what the numbers and figures actually mean. Here are some of the basics:

Amps refer to the maximum amount of electrical current used by all of the vacuum’s electrical components when operating. Although amperage refers to electricity consumption and not power or cleaning ability per se, it can be used to compare the input power of one vacuum cleaner to another

Air watts measure the suction power of your vacuum. It refers to the amount of watts used by the machine to carry a unit of air through an opening (usually the vacuum’s nozzle). Typically, canister vacuums need more air watts because they need to pull the debris through the hose. Vacuum cleaners with good filtration systems (like HEPA) also require more air watts because of the air needed to pull through filter’s fibers, which are much smaller than common, more porous filters.

Water lift is what gives a vacuum cleaner the power to pick up or “lift” debris from the floor surface, while airflow then removes it to the dust bag. The sealed suction of a vacuum cleaner is measured in inches of water lifted. This rating is taken when the motor is totally sealed, and the term refers to how many inches the motor will vertically lift a 1″ column of water.

Airflow is probably the most important specification in terms of determining the cleaning ability of your vacuum, as it takes into account both the power of the motor and the resistance of the exhaust system. Air flow is measured in cubic feet per minute (CFM), and refers to the volume of airflow across a surface. Therefore, the CFM value affects your vacuum’s ability to clean.


    Ideally, modern vacuums want to be able to filter the fine particles that could pass through the machine and then escape into the air through the exhaust. The best kind of filter you can have in your vacuum is a high-efficiency particulate-air (HEPA) filter. A vacuum with sealed HEPA filtration can be very beneficial to those who suffer from asthma and allergies, as it can help remove and keep particulate out of the air.
    Vacuums with a motorized brush cleans carpets better than those powered only by suction. These are imperative for homes with lots of carpet or those where pets (and their hair) are present.
    Adjusts depending on the task and surface you’re working cleaning.
    Auto cord winders quickly retract the cord, making it less likely you’ll trip over it, snag it on a piece of furniture, or cause damage to the cord by improperly storing it.
    It’s the smart feature for modern vacuums, alerting you when maintenance like full filter bags, overheated motors, and other conditions of operation need tending.
    This feature is designed to protect the motor, automatically shutting it down if it begins to overheat.
    Look for a model that will automatically shut off the circuit breaker if an object becomes entangled. This will help prevent damage to you and your machine!
    Choose a model with a manual carpet pile-height adjustment control, along with suction control, for cleaning draperies and other delicate fabrics.



There’s a reason our Lux Guardian Platinum is our most popular vacuum: it’s powerful, super effective when it comes to cleaning, and has a double-sealed HEPA filter – making it ideal for households where asthma or allergies are an issue. It features 505 air watts and 116” of water lift, and comes with built-in smart features like a systems indicator, suction control and self-adjusting height across 8 different levels, and auto shut-off safety/overheating features.





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