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issue: June 2006 APPLIANCE Magazine

Floor Care Appliances
Fighting Dust and Mold

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by Erin Biesen, Assistant Editor

New features and flexible designs are answering the variety of demands that consumers have regarding their floor care products.

The Hoover Z Bagless upright vacuum is considered a “sports utility vacuum” that can cover the various floor types in consumers’ homes.

In a market where robotic vacuums are increasing their presence, consumers have an ever-growing selection of floor care products that range from specialty stain-fighters to “sport utility” vacuums that cover all types of floor surfaces. Floor care companies are striving to make the tedious task of vacuuming more enjoyable and less like work. There are vacuums that will clean their own air filters and those that resist the bacteria and mold that can grow inside deep cleaners. Designers are creating products to “wow” consumers and the market.

Long Lasting

Dirt Devil (Glenwillow, Ohio, U.S.) began the development of its new Reaction™ vacuum by looking first to consumer surveys and comments. Once it gathered consumer opinion, it began the design process, including testing multiple concepts. The company focused on creating technology that would fix each consumer issue, then built the vacuum around the technology.
The dual cyclone chamber system was once such technology. The dual cyclone chamber allows the air to spin at higher velocities than with a single cyclone system. “This means that, in the end, there is better dirt separation, so more dirt falls to the bottom of the dirt cup and does not go into the filter,” Brad Crozier, product manager, Dirt Devil, Upright tells APPLIANCE. “It doesn’t end up clogging the filter, which is what really causes loss of suction.”
In order to achieve this, the company needed to add chrome cylinders to act as air directors, channeling air to the bottom of the dirt cup. “If those weren’t in there, air would basically spin freely in the dirt cup and wouldn’t go down to the bottom,” Crozier says.
The dirt cup can be emptied from the bottom. The vacuum also features a washable, lifetime HEPA filter that is said to trap 100 percent of common allergens.
Central vacuum cleaners are another solution for consumers needing powerful, long lasting floor care products. They are not new to the industry, but they are a growing trend for new homes in many markets. Beam Industries is the central vacuum division of Electrolux and creates central vacuum systems under the Beam, Electrolux and Eureka brands.
Central vacuum systems have three basic parts, including the power unit with the vacuum motor and the dirt collector, which is typically mounted on a wall in a garage or a basement. The dust receptacle can usually collect between 4 gallons and 7 gallons, depending on the model. The second component of the system is the piping that goes through the walls of the home from the power unit and connects to strategically placed inlet valves. According to Larry Hartley, marketing director with Beam Industries (Webster City, Iowa, U.S.), “One valve will cover about 700 square feet of space. On the average new home in the U.S., at about 2,200 square feet, three to four outlets would be installed.” The final component of the system is the hose and attachment set, which typically includes a 30-foot hose, a handle, a wand, and tool accessories with an electric power brush for carpet cleaning.
In capturing these particles that other floor care products leave behind, central vacuums help in improving air quality in the home. “All of the dirt, dust and debris that a central vacuum comes in contact with is completely removed from the living area,” Hartley says. “Other floor cleaning or vacuum products—uprights, canisters, sweepers—all either leak dust and debris back into the room where they are picking it up or at least exhaust air back into the room, which stirs up particles that are already in the room.”
The Yellow Jacket is the newest product offered from Beam Industries, offered in the Eureka brand of central vacuum systems, and it fits in any cabinet in the home, including kitchens, bathrooms, laundry rooms, or mud rooms. Even though it is a condensed version, it has the power to clean a home up to
1,800 square feet and can be installed with up to two central vacuum system inlet valves.
“Tubes can be installed inside the walls, depending upon where the homeowner desires to plug in the central vacuum hose,” says Hartley. “It’s also possible that an inlet valve can be installed on the side wall of a cabinet with a small piece of tubing connecting the valve to the Yellow Jacket.”
Consumer studies had shown Beam that homeowners were interested in a basic central vacuum system for small homes, condos or town homes. In the past, the company had created systems for motor homes and recreational vehicles that needed to be compact. It began the design and engineering process by working with these products and modifying the compact units to a 7-inch diameter and 14-1/2-inch long body.
“The Yellow Jacket fills an important segment of the consumer market. In some cases, installing a full-size central vacuum system, particularly in a town house or condo is impractical, expensive or both,” Hartley tells APPLIANCE. “The Yellow Jacket offers an alternative that gives these homeowners the convenience of a central vacuum system that is designed for a smaller living space.”
There are also additional features for the Yellow Jacket as well as for full-size central vacuum systems that the company has created to make vacuuming a bit easier on the consumer. Beam Industries has an optional KickSweep™ that can be placed in kitchens, laundry rooms or mud rooms. It is usually located on the side or just underneath the toe kick area on the cabinets and is connected to the central vacuum power unit. The consumer would kick the switch on and any dirt or dust that is swept toward it is sucked up. “The front end of it functions like a dust pan. As you sweep the materials in it sucks them away,” explains Hartley.
The various benefits continue beyond the power and accessories, to the amount of time that a system would last. According to Hartley, warranties in the industry typically cover 5 years to 10 years, and the company knows that 20 percent of the systems are over 15 years old and are still working.

After various consumer studies, Eureka introduced the new “O”-shaped handle on the Optima (pictured) and the Uno to provide comfort to consumers while vacuuming.

Microbe War

Consumers have been known to complain about the odor that comes with deep cleaning products. Bissell (Grand Rapids, Michigan, U.S.) is addressing the issue with the ProHeat 2X™ Select, offering a continuous cleaning technology called Microban® antimicrobial product protection that is designed to keep consumers and their carpet dirt apart.
Bissell was also reacting to the comments from consumers about how they didn’t like being exposed to the dirty water and they felt there was more dirt in the machine than they could get out. Consumers did not want to maintain the machines and clean them after every use, and there were concerns that storing the machine in a closet or basement adds to the growth of mold and bacteria. The company still suggests a thorough cleaning, including rinsing and wiping of the product, but now Microban® antimicrobial product protection will take care of a majority of those problems, even when it is not in use.
Microban® antimicrobial product protection constantly inhibits the growth of odor and stain-causing bacteria, mold and mildew on and inside the product. “Microban® antimicrobial product protection is a technology that is housed within the material that the unit is molded out of. It is an ongoing reaction that occurs over the life of the product,” says Truxton Wildes, senior product manager. “It will actually help prevent the growth of mold, bacteria and mildew or microbes.” He explains the technology constantly migrates to the surface of the plastic to maintain the microbe-fighting condition.
The appliance incorporates an on-board heater to raise the temperature of water in the holding tank up to 25 degrees above what came out of the tap. The company’s research throughout the years has confirmed that heated water cleans carpets better, which is already an accepted notion in dishwashers and other cleaning appliances.

Unique Designs

Vacuums are being created with unique designs to add convenience and simplicity to consumers’ lives. For Hoover’s (North Canton, Ohio, U.S.) Hoover Z™ bagless upright, designers had a more unique approach than usual. Working from a list of consumer feedback, the company went to the drawing board and began building the product from the ground up.
The Hoover Z™ bagless upright is called a “sport utility vacuum,” and was engineered to provide all-terrain cleaning for homes with carpet, tile, hardwood flooring, and linoleum. The DigiTouch™ Control Pad allows consumers to simply touch the desired option for an automatic adjustment between three height settings for high, medium or low carpet heights; automatic hard surface setting, which stops the brush roll to clean hard floors; gentle brush setting for cleaning special surfaces including floors, rugs or draperies; and diagnostic indicators that offer troubleshooting to alleviate damage and keep the vacuum working.
The Z-Fold configuration specific to this design allows the vacuum to adjust between upright and canister operation. Russ Boyer, product manager for Hoover says it provides the performance and convenience of an upright with the flexibility and stability of a canister.

Bissell released the ProHeat 2X Select Upright Deep Cleaner that features built-in Microban® antimicrobial product protection to continuously fight the growth of odor and bacteria inside the product.

Getting a Handle on Floor Care Comfort

Eureka looked at the issues that consumers felt were the most important when vacuuming. They wanted a product that is easy to handle and maneuver as they clean. “As we watched consumers clean, we found that they gripped vacuum handles more than eight different ways in search of a comfortable position for pushing and pulling the unit,” explains Randy Sandlin, director of industrial design for Electrolux and Eureka. Another issue the company discovered was that consumers move all around while cleaning—bending, kneeling and reaching. This forces consumers to move their hands along the vacuum looking for a comfortable position.
The design team then created four different circular handles of varying diameters, seeking to cure user discomfort. “The first-ever ‘O’-shaped handle design lets wrists and hands move naturally along the circle to eliminate awkward twists and turns, as well as the need to refit your grasp when pushing and pulling the vacuum,” says Sandlin. “This shape allowed for continuous flow of movement that made maneuvering through the home comparatively effortless.”
The “O”-shaped handle is coated with a special soft-touch spray to make it more comfortable for consumers. “The spray removes the cold, plastic feel of the handle and makes it more inviting to grip,” says Sandlin.
Eureka designed the Optima with about half the weight of most uprights. David Voigts, vice president of product development at Electrolux Home Care Products North America (Bloomington, Illinois, U.S.), says, “It is compact and easy to use, it weighs less than 12 pounds and yet it still has the performance of a 12-A motor.”
Uno is Eureka’s full size upright that also incorporates the “O” shaped handle. “We took the consumer insight we learned when we developed the Optima and adapted it to the full size Uno product,” Voigts tells APPLIANCE.
One difference from Optima is that Uno does not have a filter in the bagless cup design, so it’s easier for consumers to empty. It incorporates a self-cleaning spin duster that looks like a feather duster. “Once you use the duster, you put it back into its holder on the vacuum, you flip the lever and the suction is diverted into that chamber. It spins the duster around, cleaning the dust off of it,” explains Voigts. “This also gives the duster a new static charge for the next time you use it.”
Under the Electrolux brand, the company released the Electrolux Twin Clean canister vacuum. Again, the company looked to consumers’ studies to help in defining the features of this floor care product. The company saw a global trend towards canister vacuums and looked to European consumers to name the problems and frustrations with bagless canisters. One of the larger issues was that consumers found the task of cleaning the pleated filters to be a hassle.
The canister features two pleated filters, one in the air path that is used in vacuuming, the other in the secondary chamber. The machine has an on-board indicator that tells the consumer when to check and clean the filter. In order to clean the filter, the user opens the compartment, turns the filter bracket and pulls it up, extracting both filters. “Simply rotate it and reinsert it,” Voigts says. “The machine knows that you have done that and it turns itself on and readjusts the suction to the dirty filter side. Then you just rotate that filter through a series of clicks for a few seconds and it shuts itself down. The vacuum then knows there is a newly cleaned filter in the chamber, the old one has been cleaned and you can go back to vacuuming.”

Beam Industries, the central vacuum systems branch of Electrolux, has created a smaller central vacuum system that fits into kitchen and bathroom cabinets for condos and town homes and can come with an additional Kick Sweep feature.

Future Floor Care

Over the years, floor care consumers’ demands and desires change. It is difficult to say what the future will hold for floor care, and even industry insiders have different ideas of the products that consumers will be looking for.
Crozier of Dirt Devil predicts that cyclonic technology will continue to be at the forefront in the near future. Toward the end of 2006 and in early 2007, Crozier believes the technology will have an even stronger presence in the market.
Hartley of Beam Industries views lifestyle as more of a focus for the wants and needs of consumers. Indoor air quality is one of the more important issues that families will focus on in terms of their floor care products. Busier lifestyles will lead to consumers emphasizing the need for a good quality cleaning in less time.
Quality and value is the future that Voigts of Electrolux sees. “People are really looking for a little better machine,” he says. “They don’t just want the cheapest one and they don’t want to spend a fortune.”

Suppliers mentioned in this article:
Bissell Homecare, Inc.
Beam Industries

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