Vacuum cleaner suction power: everything you need to know!

vacuum cleaner suction power

When you buy a vacuum cleaner, you naturally want to get the most powerful vacuum cleaner possible. The higher the suction power, the more dust can be sucked up from, for example, a deep-pile carpet. But, what actually determines the suction power of a vacuum cleaner? And when do we speak of a high suction power? We tell you everything you need to know and have developed a handy vacuum cleaner suction power chart!

Factors that determine the suction power of a vacuum cleaner

There are a number of factors that affect the suction power of a vacuum cleaner. For example, the connection of vacuum cleaner parts to each other is extremely important: if there is false air, the suction power will immediately be less strong.

  • Connecting parts: the better the parts connect to each other, the higher the suction power. Preferably provide parts that the brand produces itself and that belong to your type of vacuum cleaner.
  • Nozzles: the narrower the nozzle, the stronger the suction power. A turbo nozzle is a narrow nozzle that can easily suck hair from carpets, for example.
  • Applications: a vacuum cleaner can be more powerful on softer floor types than hard floors like laminate.
  • Maintenance: a blockage in the vacuum cleaner rod or a heavily soiled vacuum cleaner filter makes a vacuum cleaner less powerful. It is in any case advisable to replace or wash filters in time, as it has a positive effect on how long a vacuum cleaner last.
  • Vacuum cleaner bag contents: it is known that a full vacuum cleaner bag results in less suction power. With a bagless vacuum cleaner, you don’t lose suction power, even if the dust container gets full. Read more about this in my bagless vacuum cleaner vs vacuum cleaner with bag comparison.

I would also like to reflect on a misunderstanding in the world of vacuum cleaners. I often hear around me – still – that you can tell how powerful the vacuum cleaner is by the number of watts of a vacuum cleaner. That is no longer the case: vacuum cleaners work more and more efficiently and the parts are continuously developed.

This allows a vacuum cleaner with a lower wattage to be even more powerful than a variant with a higher number of watts.

“The number of watts of a vacuum cleaner says nothing about the suction power of a vacuum cleaner. Maybe in the past, but not anymore.”

Robbert Tigchelaar, Vacuum Cleaner Expert

The energy label is no longer: no insight into power

There has been no energy label for vacuum cleaners since 2019. That is quite unfortunate, given that an energy label provided the following insight:

  • Suction power on hard floors (scale from A/Good to   G/Poor)
  • Suction power on soft floors (scale from A/Good to  G/Poor)
  • Dust emissions (scale from A/Good to G/Poor)
  • Energy consumption per year (expressed kWh)

The vacuum cleaner energy label was introduced in 2014: vacuum cleaners could no longer be produced with more than 1600 watts. As I mentioned before, the label was abolished again 5 years later, as the edits on the label would be negligible.

vacuum cleaner energy label

The energy label of a vacuum cleaner used to be. © Vacuum Tester

At the moment, vacuum cleaners seem to cheat a bit with the number of watts, since the lack of an energy label makes this less visible. For example, the Consumers’ Association recently claimed that Philips would have marketed less efficient vacuum cleaners with a higher number of watts than older models.

Vacuum cleaner suction power chart

After a lot of puzzling, we at VacuumTester and our team have developed a vacuum cleaner suction power chart. We looked at the best suction power you can achieve with a suction brush. We have made a cross between the dirt size (small or coarse) and the type of surface (soft or hard).

vacuum cleaner suction power chart

As you can see above, the suction power is mainly determined by the type of suction brush. If you are going to buy a vacuum cleaner: always pay close attention to which suction brushes you get. For example, not all vacuum cleaners have a turbo brush, something that is a requirement in our research into the best vacuum cleaner for pet hair.

Example: Dyson V11 suction power

Let’s take an example: the Dyson V11. It is arguably one of the best stick vacuums at the moment, known for its high suction power. But, by no means on every surface and for every type of dirt. For example, you have the Dyson V11 Animal: it comes with an animal hair brush, with which the suction power for vacuuming animal hair is better than the standard V11.

How is the suction power measured?

It is good to also consider the measurement of suction power. Because, how is the suction power of a vacuum cleaner actually measured? A ‘Vacuum Test Gauge’ is often used when measuring the suction power. This actually measures the displacement of water, which says more about the suction power of a vacuum cleaner. You also speak here about measurement unit Pascal.

Airflow vs Suction

Many vacuum cleaner studies also use a so-called anemometer, also known as an air speed meter. By placing the vacuum cleaner on the air speed meter, you can determine how quickly the air is sucked in. This is also called the Airflow of a vacuum cleaner.

That the Airlfow differs from the Suction power becomes clear in the video below.

FAQ: frequently asked questions about vacuum cleaner suction power

My vacuum cleaner doesn't suck: what now?

There may be a blockage or an air leak in your vacuum cleaner. Check if the vacuum cleaner is blocked somewhere: for example in the vacuum cleaner rod. It could also be a full vacuum cleaner bag or a clogged (HEPA) filter.

How do I improve the suction power?

You can sometimes improve the vacuum cleaner's suction power by cleaning the vacuum cleaner and washing filters. It can also be good to keep checking the vacuum cleaner for possible air leaks.

How do I measure the suction power of my vacuum cleaner?

You can measure suction power in different ways. One of the most common measurements is by water displacement: the more water that can be displaced, the more powerful the vacuum cleaner. This is measured by unit Pascal.

Why does a vacuum cleaner sometimes have a suction power control?

This allows you to adjust the power yourself. If you are vacuuming a carpet, you obviously don't want to suck it up: by adjusting the suction power you don't vacuum it.