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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.


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.


SMART VAC. If you’re more in tune with smart-home technologies than you are with the idea of going cordless, the good news is that two manufacturers are launching smart vacuum cleaners in 2017 that make adjustments on the go.

DITCHING THE FILTER. In 2015, Dyson introduced two upright vacuum cleaners: the Cinetic Big Ball Animal + Allergy ($700) and the Cinetic Big Ball Animal ($600), which include no filters to remove and wash or to replace. These models use a finer (metal) screen instead to trap dirt. In September 2016, the company followed that with a canister version of its Cinetic Big Ball Animal, also for $600. No other manufacturers report that they’re working on filterless designs.


Hoover’s React series of upright bagless vacuum cleaners (starting at $190), which were introduced in April 2017, have a feature that’s dubbed FloorSense, which detects hard floors and carpets via five electronic sensors and automatically adjusts the speed of the brush roll to account for the surface. Based on our hands-on evaluations, we found that the vacuum cleaner accurately detects flooring differences and switches settings within 2 seconds. (Other vacuum cleaners adjust their height automatically to account for different types of flooring, but you still have to adjust the speed of the brush roll yourself.)

Hoover’s React vacuum cleaners also are the first that connect to a free mobile app for Apple iOS or Google Android smartphones. By communicating with the app, the vacuum cleaner alerts you to when you should empty the dustbin and clean your filter or guides you through diagnostic steps in the event of a clog. The app even allows you to program the vacuum cleaner’s brush roll to shut off when it encounters hard floors, so debris isn’t scattered.

At press time, Electrolux said it plan-ned to introduce in late 2017 the UltraOne Deluxe ($1,000), which will include a technology that analyzes floor conditions, so it can adjust brush-roll speed and shift among five levels of suction automatically. That feature adds $300 to the cost of its current EL7085ADX model, which requires you to push a button to make those adjustments. No other manufacturer reports that it’s working on a smart vacuum cleaner.

OPENING UP. While Electrolux and Hoover focus on automation to deliver improved performance, Shark seeks to make vacuum cleaners more effective through less technological means.

Shark’s NV800W upright vacuum cleaner ($300), which was introduced in April 2017, incorporates two brush rolls in tandem—a standard, primary brush roll and a smaller, secondary brush roll. The secondary brush roll is mounted to the front of the brush-roll housing and has no covering. In other words, it’s an open-face vacuum cleaner.

Shark calls the innovation DuoClean, and in our hands-on evaluations, we found it to be extremely effective at picking up debris compared with the capability of vacuum cleaners that have closed faces. For example, we were able to vacuum up 2-by-8-inch piles of cat litter on a single pass when we used the Shark vacuum cleaner. Other vacuum cleaners simply bulldoze the debris before they pick it up on a second or third pass. Shark says it expects to release two additional DuoClean models in fall   2017.

Drew Vass is a regular contributor to Consumers Digest. He has written on a wide variety of home-related topics, ranging from kitchen and bathroom products to portable spas and lighting.