Consumers now look for performance, filtration and low noise in addition to power when choosing a vacuum cleaner, since most companies now produce 12-amp models. Manufacturers including Robi Motor Products Corp, Metropolitan Vacuum Cleaner Co, and Iona Appliances and Miele Appliances feature filtration systems in both upright and canister style vacuums. Also, low noise models are promoted by Eureka Co and Panasonic.
With the amp war apparently over, such vacuum features as overall cleaning performance and power, filtration and quiet operation have become hot topics in the floor care industry. Most sources agree cleaning performance comes out on the top of desired features, followed by power and air filtration. However, the final decision on what features will drive the market in 1995 is up to the consumer.
Consumers often think the higher the amps, which go up to 12, the better the vacuum. But since most manufacturers offer 12 amps and major players use their own rating systems, amps have become less of an issue.
"A key to 1995, given 12-amp machines are selling at $119, is going to be cleaning performance and those features that take the drudgery out of using the product," said Ray Brown, vacuum buyer at Sears. "Only the consumer will tell us that."
Hoover strongly believes in conveying value, whether in appearance, performance or additional features, said Jerry Lauer, vice president of marketing.
"We go up the line and there is a logical progression in those value-added categories," Lauer said. "But I think the ability to clean the carpet is still the number-one attribute that consumers are looking for in a vacuum cleaner, and Hoover delivers that."
Filtration is a feature that's getting attention.
"The ability of a vacuum to contribute to a better home environment by cleaning the air is an attribute that some people use in their decisionmaking process," Lauer said.
Hoover offers this market a new soft-bag model in its value-priced Encore Supreme line, The lightweight machine (model U4293-930) has a Soft'n Light triple filtration system that traps dust and dirt, leaving the air clean after vacuuming.
Ryobi Motor Products has introduced a new High Efficiency Microfiltration (HEMS) system for its uprights. It's offered on a soft-body Singer model, and Ryobi plans to expand the HEMS line in 1996, the company said.
Metropolitan Vacuum Cleaner, which markets canister vacs, has a triple filtration system and offers 0.3-micron filtration. "It's super-fine filtration," said David Stern, marketing director.
Many companies said filtration is a highly motivating step-up feature because many people are concerned about dust and allergens.
"Air filtration is a big deal to consumers," said Nick Varankis, vice president of sales for Iona Appliances' U.S business. "There are 50 million people that have some type of allergy or reaction to airborne particles."
The HEPA filter in Iona's Fantom vacuum cleaner filters at 99.97 percent down to 0.3 micron.
Bob Loeffler, marketing manager at Miele Appliances, which markets a high-end canister vacuum with a HEPA filter as part of its assortment, explained HEPA units make a lot of sense.
"The problem is the particles are so small, a lot of machines have trouble containing them," Loeffler said. "A HEPA filter captures 99.97 percent of all particles 0.3 microns or larger and so it holds onto those allergens."
Koblenz Electrica's high-end Endurance line has a five-stage filtration system using Filtrete from 3M, said Tom Godwin, western regional sales manager.
The unit combines a quiet function with a high-efficiency, five-stage electrostatic microfiltration system with replaceable cartridge that removes 99.5 percent of germs, dust, bacteria, pollen and dust mites.
With suggested retails of $89 for the 6.5 amp machine and $99 for the 8.0 amp machine, Koblenz believes the Siluetta will give them an entree into the mass market.
Riccar America's upright vacuums use Filtrete by 3M and high filtration bag systems treated with Bactrastate, an antimicrobial treament.
Oreck has received a good response to its Oreck XL with hypo-allergenic filtration system, which was constructed to trap the dirt in the machine rather than going in the air, said Bob Karem, vice president of sales. Several vendors pointed out good filtration goes hand in hand with a well-built machine. Otherwise users can have air escaping before it ever reaches the filtration points, suppliers said.
Another nuance in the vac trade are units with a bypass system, sometimes referred to clean air systems. In a bypass system, dirt and debris are sucked right into the bag, bypassing motor and fan, thus eliminating possible mechanical damage from objects.
Royal has added this type system on its new Maximum Vacuum Power upright, calling it MotorGuard.
Noise reduction is another feature some industry sources believe will become more important.
To satisfy both clean air and noise concerns, Eureka has introduced the Quiet Kleen feature in its Victory and Excalibur lines. Quiet Kleen offers consumer quieter operation and provides additional filtration, the company said.
"It is definitely quieter to the ear and that's what counts," said john Hoppe, vice president of marketing at Eureka.
Panasonic, has designed machines with low noise operation in mind since its start, said jim Rogers, national marketing manager.
Another feature the company has added is a Dirt Sensor, designed to take the guess work out of vacuuming. The feature is available on its upscale uprights and canisters priced from $219 to $369.
The Dirt Sensor uses red and green LEDS to indicate to the user if the area they are vacuuming is clean. Red means dirt is still entering the machine; green means the dirt flow has stopped.
At the same time vendors seek to add new features, they are making physical improvements to make products easier to use.
The back saver feature on Eureka's Victory line is a new ergonomic handle that eases strain on the back. The feature reduces users' bending, when they are vacuuming under furniture.
Meanwhile, Bissell said its upright with detachable portable makes cleaning easier because of the machine s light weight and versatility.