Monday, May 12, 2014

Are Backpack Vacuums Back in the Limelight?

This article was originally published in ISSA.

Commercial backpack vacuum cleaners were first made available in 1987. Since then, they have certainly had their supporters and enthusiasts. However, backpack vacuums still have a much smaller market share of the overall professional vacuum cleaner market than upright models. This is most true in the United States, where uprights are by far the most frequently selected vacuuming system in residential and commercial settings.

However, there are some indicators that interest in backpacks is increasing, such as:
  • The technology has been refined and significantly improved over the years
  • Today’s systems are much more ergonomic and comfortable to wear and use compared to earlier models
  • The enhanced worker productivity that results from using a backpack is now undisputed.
Regarding the first two points, cleaning professionals in the market for a new vacuum are first encouraged to test drive a backpack. Invariably, buyers―especially new customers or ones who have not shopped for a new machine recently―will be surprised at many of the new and sometimes standard features available on some backpack models. Most manufacturers are now offering third- or fourth-generation backpacks, building on the proven advancements made over the decades.

As to the last point, ISSA published the first worker productivity studies in 1999 (now known as the 540 Cleaning Times) comparing a backpack vacuum cleaner to an upright machine. Those studies compared a 14-inch, two-motor upright vacuum cleaner with a 14-inch (floor tool) backpack vacuum. These were the results:
  • The upright machine was able to clean 3,240 square feet per hour
  • The backpack was able to clean 7,407 square feet per hour.
Other studies have been conducted since these initial reports and while the actual square footage may vary, in all studies, the backpack machine comes out ahead. This is important to know for cleaning contractors and other cleaning professionals. Many contractors are charging about the same per square foot as they were a decade ago and yet, virtually all of their costs have increased. The only way they can compete—or survive—is to find new ways to speed up worker productivity.

Check back next week to learn whether or not backpack vacuums are more thorough than alternative cleaning methods. 


  1. A vacuum back pack is a good investment for a cleaning service. Take your time to shop around.