5 signs it's time for a new vacuum cleaner
Whether you're a vacuum-every-day type or someone who only hauls out the dust buster once the floor gets crunchy, a good vacuum is key to getting the house clean in as short a time as possible.
But how can you tell whether your machine is about to pack it in, or whether it just needs a bit of a tune-up?
Here are five warning signs to watch out for.
1. It's more than four years old
The average life expectancy of a mid-range vacuum cleaner is about six years. You can fix or replace things like blocked filters, jammed brush rolls, frayed hoses and broken accessories yourself. But if you have a major fault like a broken switch or burnt-out motor, you'll need to spring for repairs or a whole new vacuum cleaner.
Once your vacuum is more than three years old, repairs and replacement parts can cost as much as a new vacuum, especially for cheaper models. But repairs can be worthwhile for a more expensive model, so it's well worth looking into.
Of course, repair and replacement costs aren't the only consideration – there's the environmental impact of appliances going into landfill to think of, too. Ideally, replacement would always be a last resort, but you do need to weigh up whether it's worth repairing a cheap machine if it's probably reached the end of its working life.
Once your vacuum is more than three years old, repairs and replacement parts can cost as much as a new vacuum, especially for cheaper models
There are a few repairs you can DIY: we talk you through common vacuum cleaner problems and how to fix them.
But we suggest you always read the manual before you bust out the screwdrivers. And double check whether any DIY work will void your warranty before you get your MacGyver on.
2. It doesn't suck
A vacuum has literally one job: to suck dirt and debris off the floor. If your vacuum cleaner's suction is starting to suck, don't panic: there are a few things to check before you start searching for a new one.
Loss of suction could be due to things like a blockage in the hose, which generally just requires taking the detachable components apart and checking for any obstructions. Or perhaps the vacuum's bag or dust receptacle is full and needs emptying.
Also check the filter: if it's dirty or clogged it will affect suction. Just check what kinds of filters your machine has before you start washing them – HEPA filters, for instance, usually can't be washed but can be brushed to remove build-up. You may find that replacing the filters gives your machine a new lease of life.
But if you've tried everything and your vacuum still lacks suction, it could be time to suck it up and buy a new one.
3. It's louder than a freight train
Unfortunately, there's no such thing as a silent vacuum cleaner. But if the noise seems excessive or there are new noises you haven't heard before, it could be time to trade in your vac for something quieter.
Modern vacuums are pretty quiet, but some will be quieter than others. When we test vacuums, we measure the noise on the highest power setting to see how loud it is.
The quietest machine in our tests is 63dB (decibels), while the loudest is 82dB. As a point of comparison, a typical conversation is usually about 60dB, while city traffic is about 80dB.
We report on noise levels in our vacuum cleaner reviews to help you choose the quietest model.
4. You want to get with the times
A vacuum cleaner is a pretty simple machine, right? Switch it on, suck up the dust, empty the bag, put it away – clean floors for days!
Well, it's not quite that straightforward. As vacuum cleaner technology evolves, so does performance. So while that Hoover your parents had in the 1970s was at the cutting edge of innovation, it's practically an ancient artefact now.
Previously, stick vacuum cleaners were only good for small tidy-ups in between proper vacuuming (i.e. with a barrel or upright vac). But with Dyson announcing in 2018 that it would no longer be developing corded vacuums, perhaps the age of the traditional vacuum is coming to an end.
Before you turf your barrel vac, though, just make sure you're buying a stick vac that performs well – we've found that stick vacuums at the more expensive end of the market are the only ones that can outperform traditional barrel and upright vacuums.
Stick vacuums at the more expensive end of the market are the only ones that can outperform traditional barrel and upright vacuums
Battery performance is improving, too, so if your old stick vac isn't holding its charge any more, you could try upgrading the battery (if that's possible with your model). But otherwise you may need to invest in a newer product that comes with longer battery life.
That said, batteries take on average 4.5 hours of charging to give just 13 minutes of use on full power, so a new vac may not be the answer to all your troubles. Check our stick vacuum reviews to get the full picture.
If you want to feel like you're living in the future, a robot vacuum cleaner is just the ticket. They work best in certain types of home, though, so if you're living in a carpeted house with lots of stairs, they may not be for you.
But they can do a reasonable job of keeping hard floors clean when run on a daily basis (although you'll probably still need to do a more thorough clean with your standard vacuum from time to time).
Interested in a robovac? Read our guide on how to buy the best robot vacuum cleaner to find out more.
5. Your needs have changed
Just acquired a long-haired furry friend? How adorable! But how are you going to handle all that fur?
Maybe you've downsized from a fully carpeted four-bedroom home to an apartment with hardwood floors – in which case, that super-strength upright vacuum you had is probably going to be overkill now. And if your mobility has changed, then you'll want a machine that's lighter and easier to use.
Perhaps you've just had a baby and you want to replace your noisy old vac with a quieter vacuum cleaner that won't disrupt nap time. Or maybe your child has allergies and you need a HEPA vacuum to beat the dust mites, pollen and pet dander.
Whatever your situation, changes in your lifestyle may mean that your current vac just doesn't work for you any more. Before you buy, make sure you know the pros and cons of each type of vacuum. Check our vacuum cleaner reviews to make sure you're picking up the right vac for you.We care about accuracy. See something that's not quite right in this article? Let us know or read more about fact-checking at CHOICE
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