Vacuum Cleaners

As the name suggests, a vacuum cleaner is a cleaning device that utilizes vacuum principles via an air pump to suck up dirt and debris. The debris is then carried to a container for later disposal.


The Beginnings of the Vacuum Cleaner

H. Cecil Booth patented the first vacuum cleaner in 1901; it was called the "Puffing Billy." The Puffing Billy was powered by a gasoline engine and was far from portable. It required a horse-drawn carriage to be moved, and was not commercially successful. A more successful device was invented in 1906 by James Murray Spangler of Canton, Ohio. Spangler's vacuum cleaner was made up of an electric fan, a box, and a pillowcase. It was patented in 1908, and the design was sold to Spangler's cousin, who operated the Hoover Harness and Leather Goods Factory. To this day, Hoover remains a name synonymous with vacuum cleaners.

How Vacuum Cleaners Work

A standard vacuum cleaner works when its rotating fan causes air to move constantly through it, first in the intake port and eventually through its exhaust port. As the air particles move in this stream, they disturb dust and dirt particles and suck them into the vacuum cleaner. At this stage, the dirt gets stuck in the vacuum cleaner's bag or filter. The bag or filter is porous, with the pores being large enough to allow air to flow through the exhaust port, but small enough to prevent the dirt's exit through the exhaust.

Varieties of Vacuum Cleaners

Since most vacuum cleaners work in the same way, the biggest differences between cleaners are in their form factor. Upright vacuum cleaners make it easy to clean carpet or floor surfaces. Canister vacuums usually contain a flexible hose attached to a canister unit for collection, allowing practical cleaning of other surfaces, such as walls or ceilings. They are more versatile, but can be more difficult to move. Smaller handheld vacuum cleaners are typically used for spot cleaning.

Suction Power of Vacuum Cleaners and Modern Vacuums

Most vacuum cleaner manufacturers clearly state the power consumption in amperes. However, power consumption has very little to do with the effectiveness of a vacuum--it merely explains how much power is used. A more effective rating is the air speed. Higher air speed usually means a more effective cleaner. Suction can be measured in pascals and refers to the maximum pressure difference that the vacuum pump can create. As with air speed, higher ratings are better. Recently, there has been a surge in popularity of cyclone-style vacuum cleaners, which depend on centrifugal force to separate dirt particles from air particles. There are also robotic cleaners, which do not actually operate on the vacuum principle.