The 9 Biggest Backpack Vacuum Cleaner Buying Mistakes

Backpack vacuum cleaners are brilliant cleaning machines that save time and make vacuuming fun and easy. But you can burn your money fast if you make the wrong choice. We'll talk you through it.
27 November, 2018 by
The 9 Biggest Backpack Vacuum Cleaner Buying Mistakes

Backpack vacuum cleaners are brilliant cleaning machines that save time and make vacuuming easy. Sometimes vacuuming can even be fun with a backpack. The information you’re about to read will hopefully help you make better decisions when buying a backpack vacuum cleaner. Knowing the 9 most common mistakes people make is all about protecting yourself from regret, frustration and wasting your money. If you take note and keep an open mind, this article could save you a lot of time, money and hassles.

By avoiding these mistakes you should find yourself with a backpack vacuum cleaner you will love and that will work for you for many many years to come. Here are the 9 biggest mistakes people make when buying a backpack vacuum cleaner…

Mistake #1:
Choosing high wattage and thinking that means high suction

They are not the same thing. This is the oldest trick in the vacuum salesperson’s book. Wattage only relates to the amount of power a motor uses not the amount of suction it delivers at the floor tool. This is one of the biggest reasons so many people are disappointed with their vacuum cleaner purchase. Wattage is the biggest misconception about vacuum cleaners.

That’s right, what I’m saying is an 800 watt commercial vacuum motor can suck much better than a 2400 watt domestic motor. Just because something is energy efficient doesn’t mean that it’s not better. And think of how your ceiling fans move air around your house, it’s not just about how fast a fan spins, it’s also about the size of the fan (diameter) and the design of the fan blades (shape and width). For a more accurate measure of suction look for the airflow reading at the machine which is measured in litres per second and the waterlift reading which is usually measured in millimetres. (Waterlift does not mean your backpack can suck up water).

There is still a danger in using air flow as your primary criteria because this measurement is always taken when the machine is empty. The problem with this is that you can have a machine that will register a high air flow rating when empty but suck poorly when half full. This is why machine design is so important… you can also have a machine with a slightly lower air flow rating that will perform much better when full of dust and dirt…

The other problem with airflow and water lift is that many manufacturers use the motor specification. This becomes irrelevant when it’s fitted to a machine because so many more factors influence the final suction you get at the wand.

Whenever you see a spec beware… Who measured it? How was it measured? Where was it measured from? Specifications are provided by a manufacturer who wants to sell machines. There highest priority is not to necessarily adhere to any kind of fair standard… something to think about. Comparing apples for apples is unfortunately a very difficult thing to do when buying a backpack vacuum cleaner.

Mistake #2:
Buying a machine that is too heavy

Even if you try a machine on, you will not appreciate how heavy it is until it has been on your back for some time. As a general rule, we find machines that are over 4.5kg are too heavy for extended work, especially for female users. A backpack close to the 4kg mark (like XO2's Stealth backpack vacuum cleaner) is ideal as long as it has a good ergonomic design, high suction and high productivity characteristics. After all there’s no point having a lightweight machine if the job is going to take 2 or 3 times as long to complete.

Mistake #3:
Saying ‘yes’ to what a salesman calls a twin fan or 2 stage or 3 stage or bypass motor vacuum cleaner

Here’s a big trap for the first time backpack vacuum cleaner buyer. Bypass motor backpack vacuum cleaners like the Pacvac 700D and Pullman PV11 are sometimes described as 2 stage or twin fan or even sometimes a 3 stage vacuum motor machine by eager salespeople. Their claims are true, however it is nothing special as most commercial backpack vacuum cleaners have twin fan vacuum motors. When reference is made to the third fan it is important to note that this fan does not add to the vacuum suction, it is there to cool the motor. The proper name for this type of motor is a bypass motor.

Bypass motor machine are great, but it is important to have realistic expectations. This type of machine is heavier, much noisier and in general they don’t suck as well (despite what people say – check for yourself) but they do give an extra element of safety should fine dust or moisture accidentally get through to the motor. There is no guarantee that damage won’t be done if that happens though. The only time we would recommend a bypass motor machine is for builder’s cleaners who need extra protection against fine dust and pub cleaners for protection against puddles. In any case, most cleaners in the know prefer the lighter weight and extra suction of a high productivity flo-thru vacuum motor. My personal preference is the flo-thru motor machines every time – lighter, quieter and better suction. They are also less expensive too. The choice is yours, just don’t be fooled.

Mistake #4:
Thinking your new backpack vacuum cleaner can suck up a little bit of water even if the salesman said so

Following on from mistake #3, while a bypass motor backpack vacuum cleaner has a few disadvantages it does offer some protection if you accidentally suck a little bit of water. Even so, you should avoid any moisture at all costs. So many people become disappointed and angry after paying extra for a bypass motor vac and then it stops working due to moisture being sucked up. These vacuums are dry only and no manufacturer’s warranty will cover you if moisture is found in the motor. Don’t get sucked into this one.

Mistake #5:
Getting a backpack vacuum with the electrical cord hard wired into the machine

Very few things ever go wrong with a high quality backpack vacuum cleaner. That’s why in more than 95% of cases the most common repair is related to cord damage. No manufacturer’s warranty that I’m aware of covers you for cord damage and looking after the power cord is your responsibility. Most machines have the cord hard-wired into the machine. This is OK but when you experience cord damage it can be a major inconvenience and cost because you’ll need an electrician to rewire a new cord to your machine for you. That’s why choosing a machine with a cord that plugs directly into the side of the machine is a good idea. This is great when cord damage occurs because then you just swap leads. Put the new cord on and throw the old cord out. All backpack vacuums have cord restraints which do help prevent some cord damage, some are better than others so look into that too before making your purchase.

Mistake #6:
Picking a noisy backpack vac will drive you crazy!

Noise is especially a problem with many backpack vacuum cleaners because being on your back the source of the noise is so much closer to your ears. Some backpack vacuum cleaner machine noise is just unbearable and makes vacuuming very unpleasant. Be careful comparing decibel readings as there are many different standards for measuring vacuum cleaner noise. One of the variables is the distance the noise is measured from the device. Obviously this can have a major effect on the final reading which is why a low decibel reading on a specification sheet is not necessarily a guarantee of a quiet backpack vacuum cleaner.

Sure, you might feel like one of these guys with your fancy backpack vac, but you can't suck up water.
(Or ectoplasm, for that matter)

Mistake #7:
Choosing a machine that only uses expensive, non-generic and hard-to-get accessories and parts

Ever bought something only to find the parts are obscenely expensive, unavailable or very hard to find. With backpack vacuum cleaners this is common and very frustrating for owners. You can avoid this by only buying your new backpack vacuum cleaners from a reputable outlet who stocks all the parts and is willing to tell you the costs upfront of the replacement parts and consumables like vacuum floor tools, cords, bags, lid clips and filters. Test them out, ask to see there service centre and the area they stock parts before you buy. A good supplier will be happy to give you a quick tour.

Mistake #8:
Not asking about the duty rating of the backpack vacuum

Some backpack vacuum cleaners have brilliant specifications but were only ever designed to be used for 20-30 minutes at a time. Sure, you can use a vacuum cleaner for as long as you like but what happens is the machine will not last very long. Maybe it will survive just beyond the warranty period but that’s not ideal. Other backpack vacuum cleaners are designed to work for many hours of continual use and last for many years of heavy use. Be sure to get the vacuum that will suit your application. And be careful of machines which claim industrial ratings even though they are sold from retail vacuum cleaner shops. If a retail shop is selling ‘industrial’ buyer beware. It’s usually a marketing thing, not a machine quality thing. Most of the time it’s the vacuums with low duty ratings that try the hardest to appear “Industrial” or “Commercial”. A fancy sticker on the side of the vac does not make it any better than what it is. To be safe, only buy from a specialist commercial backpack vacuum cleaner distributor who deals with professionals and facilities every day.

Mistake #9:
Forgetting to have your new backpack vacuum electrically tested and tagged

This is only needed for those using their machine for a commercial application. For those who need this service, getting to a job and not being allowed to start by the safety manager because you don’t have a current test and tagged vacuum cleaner is very annoying and a big waste of time. All professional suppliers of backpack vacuum cleaners will offer this additional service if you require it. Be aware that some backpack vacuum cleaners require more than one test and tag. At XO2 you can add a Test & Tag service to your shopping cart when you buy a machine.

All the best with your next backpack vac purchase. These tips should help you avoid buying a lemon. No-one wants to invest in a new cleaning machine only to be disappointed with their purchase. If you’ve had a bad experience we’d like to hear from you. If you’ve ever bought a backpack vacuum cleaner that was a lemon get in touch and tell us what you learnt. We’d love to hear about what you’ve discovered and what you have found works best. It may be something we could add to this page to help others.

If you have any questions or need any advice on anything to do with backpack vacuum cleaners we are happy to help. XO2 has supplied, serviced and repaired almost every commercial brand out there and our guys know them instead and out. If you’re considering a machine and want our opinion just ask. Call XO2’s customer care team on 1300 123 499, or visit XO2's backpack vacuum cleaners online. 

Happy vacuum buying!

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