Innovation Update: Top-Rated Vacuum Cleaners

Full-Size Uprights · Lightweight Uprights · Canisters · Bagged · Bagless · Cordless

Performance gaps between corded and cordless vacuum cleaners narrowed, but the choice between maximum power via plug-in models versus maximum convenience by going cordless remains. Meanwhile, smart vacuum cleaners self-adjust, so you can take your mind off your cleaning.

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Previously, your options were limited if you wanted to vacuum your entire home without stopping to switch between power outlets or to adjust for various floor types. Today, thanks to more cordless vacuum cleaners that have bigger and better batteries than ever before and vacuum cleaners that have floor sensors, you can “forget about it.”

SUCKED IN. In 2015, only two cordless full-size vacuum cleaners were on the market. Today, seven cordless full-size vacuum cleaners exist, including the first cordless canister vacuum cleaner, and more are expected to be introduced in the next year. Cordless full-size vacuum cleaners also last longer between charges than they did before and are more powerful than they used to be. In 2015, cordless full-size vacuum cleaners ran on a 14.4- or a 20-volt battery and produced about 25 minutes of run time per charge. Today, their power has more than doubled, to as much as 44 volts, and we found that run times extend to as long as 1 hour.

Bissell and Tacony (under the brand names Maytag, Riccar and SupraLite) are the current power leaders among cordless full-size vacuum cleaners. They make a total of five models that are powered by batteries that range from 36 volts to 44 volts. In our hands-on evaluations, we found that both companies’ cordless models have the power to vacuum up everything from flour and sand to cat litter off low- and high-pile carpets as well as a range of smooth surfaces.

In fact, we found that in most cases, Bissell’s 36-volt Powerglide Cordless 1534 matches the pickup performance and suction that are delivered by similarly priced corded full-size vacuum cleaners. It’s only when we use the accessory wand that we found that the performance falls short. Also, you don’t get that freshly groomed look when you use Bissell’s cordless full-size vacuum cleaner on carpets, as you do with corded models, because the cordless model lacks the same level of power in its brush-roll motor. Bissell concedes the performance drawbacks.

Tacony’s cordless full-size vacuum cleaners, all of which are more or less identical regardless of the brand, produce more brush-roll power than does Bissell’s cordless model. However, that improved performance comes at a hefty price of $700, which we found puts it out of sync with similarly priced corded full-size vacuum cleaners. Instead, we found that Tacony’s cordless full-size vacuum cleaners perform on par with corded models that cost as much as $400 less.

When it comes to run times, today’s cordless full-size vacuum cleaners far outperform previous such models. In our hands-on evaluations, we found that Bissell’s cordless full-size vacuum cleaner holds enough charge to tackle about 2,500 square feet of home twice over. That’s twice the performance that we got from cordless full-size vacuum cleaners previously. You can double that run time by purchasing an additional battery for $76. Tacony’s cordless full-size vacuum cleaners use a fixed battery, but the company reports that its battery has enough power on a full charge to tackle an estimated 7,000 square feet per charge. Based on our hands-on evaluations, we believe that claim to be accurate.

So we believe that cordless full-size vacuum cleaners still have a way to go before they catch up to their corded counterparts in every performance category. It’s unknown how quickly that might happen. As of press time, LG was expected to introduce two cordless full-size vacuum cleaners, one of which is a canister model, in late 2017 or early 2018 that will include an 80-volt battery. Despite the power boost that such a battery would provide, LG estimates that its cordless vacuum cleaners will have a run time of only 17 minutes on maximum power. Because of that, we question the capability of LG’s cordless vacuum cleaners to tackle an average-size home on a single charge. Case in point: We vacuumed 2,000 square feet of floor area in about 14 minutes. Others might go at a slower pace. LG declined to provide further comment on the vacuum cleaners, but we expect that its new vacuum cleaners will command a premium price when they arrive.

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