What are Vacuum Cleaner Specifications

Understanding vacuum cleaner specifications is critical when buying a new vacuum cleaner. Various factors affect a vacuum cleaner’s suction power. However, there is more to selecting the best vacuum than just powerful suction. You need a vacuum cleaner that effectively cleans dirt and debris from various floor surfaces in your home.

Vacuum SuctionThe level of suction power is just one of the vacuum cleaner specifications to consider. Of course, vacuum specs like air watts, airflow, and watts are crucial when it comes to powerful suction. But you must also consider specifications like dust bin capacity, length of suction hose, type of filter, noise, and weight.

This article is a guide to help you choose the best vacuum cleaner based on its specifications. In addition, you’ll find helpful advice on selecting any type of vacuum cleaner—upright vacuum cleaners, stick vacuums, canister vacuum cleaners, handheld models, and robot vacuums.

Before looking at what the performance specifications of a vacuum cleaner mean, it’s crucial to understand how a vacuum cleaner works.

How Does a Vacuum Cleaner Work?

A vacuum cleaner sucks up dirt by pulling in air created by a rotating fan. The powerful motor spins the fan, making less air pressure in the canister. This vacuum effect sucks in air through the nozzle or floor brush and takes any small particles—dust, debris, stones, pet hair—with it.

The effectiveness of a vacuum cleaner is based on two factors:

  • Vacuum suction or air pull—This specification refers to the speed that the volume of air moves in the vacuum. The faster the volume of air movement, the better suction. This is also referred to as water lift. It’s the number of inches water moves up a tube in a sealed environment.
  • Airflow—This a measurement of the volume of air or air stream that flows through a vacuum. Often this specification is in cubic feet per minute (CFM). The more airflow, the better the vacuum’s ability to clean floors.

Understanding Vacuum Cleaner Specifications

Let’s look in more detail at the primary specifications to know about before you purchase a new vacuum cleaner.

Vacuum cleaner power in watts

A vacuum cleaner’s power consumption measured in watts is a good starting point when choosing a new vacuum. The wattage rating lets you know how much electricity the vacuum consumes. For example, a 1,000W vacuum uses 1 kilowatt (kW) of electricity in an hour.

However, the wattage specs don’t tell you anything about suction power or airflow. For example, an efficient vacuum cleaner could have more suction and a lower watt rating compared to a cheaper, less efficient model with a stronger motor.

Other vacuum motor specifications that don’t have a bearing on suction power are amps, horsepower, and volts. So, it’s not worthwhile comparing these specifications between vacuum models.

Air watts to measure vacuum suction power

Air watts (AW) are the power of suction at the end of the cleaning nozzle. This measurement is the ratio of input power and output power. It is a good indication of a power vacuum cleaner and its effectiveness.

For an upright model, look for an air watt rating of at least 100. However, for canister vacuums, the AW rating should be at least 200—dust from carpets must travel a further distance up the cleaning hose.

Vacuum SpecificationsAirflow is a crucial vacuum cleaner specification

One of the most important specs to consider when buying a new vac is airflow—usually measured as CFM. This specification measures the vacuum motor’s power and resistance in the bag and filter system. Usually, a higher CFM rating represents better suction on a variety of floor surfaces.

However, it’s good to know that CFM measurements are when there are no attachments. This means that a roller brush, crevice tool, telescopic wand, and floor surface affect airflow.

Water lift to rate a vacuum’s suction level

Water lift is an excellent performance indicator to compare various vacuum cleaner models. This specification is the sealed suction of a vacuum that is required to lift water. The greater the water lift rating, the more effectively the vacuum will shift heavier objects.

Comparing the water lift is also an indicator of suction levels when the dust bag is full or the filters are clogged.

It’s essential to remember that a domestic vacuum cleaner with a water lift rating doesn’t mean you can suck up liquids. This is only a measurement to determine the suction level power.

Comparing Vacuum Cleaner Specifications

When choosing a new vacuum to buy, the three critical specifications to compare are water lift, airflow, and watts. These three variables help determine how well a conventional vacuum will lift dirt from a carpet or hard floor surface. If the power rating is only given in amps, you’ll need to convert amperage to watts.

Here are ways that you can compare vacuum cleaner specs to choose a suitable model:

  • Water lift—An excellent metric to determine how effectively the cleaner works as the dust bag and filter fill up. Use this when shopping for a vacuum with HEPA filtration.
  • Airflow ratings—The most critical spec to compare because it tells you how quickly it moves dirt from the vacuum head to the container or dust bag.
  • Watts or amps—Only helpful in determining how much electricity the vacuum will consume.

It’s good to remember that comparing canister vacuums and upright models requires looking at different specs. For example, water lift is a vital spec on cylinder models but not important on upright ones. Likewise, an upright vacuum with a rotating brush doesn’t need as powerful airflow as a non-upright model with a hose attachment.

Other Vacuum Cleaner Specifications to Compare

After looking at the specifications that determine how powerful a vacuum cleaner is, you have to think about other elements of a vacuum cleaner. Here are some handy tips on choosing the right vac:

Type of filter

HEPA FiltersThe filtration system can affect airflow by increasing resistance. Vacuums with HEPA filters tend to cost more because they require more air watts and airflow to clean effectively. However, HEPA filtration is vital for allergy suffers or people with respiratory issues.


Consider how heavy the vacuum is. Upright models tend to weigh more than canister vacuums. If you have stairs, then a canister model is easier to use. However, upright vacuums are better for deep pile carpet cleaning.


A critical spec to consider is the noise levels. Cheaper vacuums tend to be noisy. The average acceptable noise levels are between 70 and 77 decibels (dB). So, for a quiet operation, choose the best vacuums that are around 65 to 70 dB.


Make sure that the vacuum cleaner you buy has the necessary attachments you require. For example, pet owners should buy a vacuum with a turbo brush for pet hair pickup. Additionally, a dusting brush, upholstery brush, and a crevice tool are vital to clean all areas of your house.

Power cord length

Vacuums with short power cords can make cleaning tasks laborious. Make sure that the cord is long enough to avoid constantly changing the outlet. Of course, this a something you don’t need to consider with cordless vacuum cleaners.

Bagged or bagless vacuum

Many lightweight stick vacuum cleaners, canister models, or upright ones have a bagless dust canister. This makes the vacuum cheaper to operate. However, bagged vacuums do a better job of trapping fine dust particles, and they are easier to empty.

Length of suction hose

Another consideration is that the hose attachment is long enough for your cleaning needs. Canister models have a telescoping wand and flexible hose. Many upright vacuum cleaners also come with a built-in connected hose.

In the end, your choice of new vacuum cleaner may come down to your budget. Make sure you get the best value vacuum cleaner that you can afford. Typically, high-quality vacuum cleaners cost a little more. But the extra cost may be worth it in the long run for effective household cleaning.