Shopping for a vacuum can often be overwhelming and confusing. Models range widely in price and have a ton of different features and specifications. It can be a lot to process when all you want to do is find the right vacuum for your home. However, no matter what features or brand you may have in mind, the best way to dive into the search for the perfect vacuum is to start with basics. Almost all vacuums, from the value vacuums to top of the line models, fit into two different design categories: Canister vs. Upright Vacuum Cleaner.
The good news is that there isn’t really a wrong answer. Upright vacuum cleaners are more traditional and have been common in households since the vacuum cleaner first saw widespread adoption. However, as of late there is a rising trend in the number of consumers who are choosing canister type models over their more traditional, upright counterparts. This article will give you some more background on the advantages and disadvantages on both sides of the argument so that when you buy your next vacuum cleaner you can do so with confidence, knowing that you are equipped with the information you need to find the make and model that’s just right for your preferences and needs.
Let’s compare them one by one!
Table of Contents
It’s easy to tell the difference between a canister vacuum and an upright model but there are some technical specifications that classify a vacuum as an upright. Specifically, upright-type designs have their motors attached to the suction head. The suction head is dragged across the floor when the user pushes it in front of him. Basically, on an upright model, the motor is attached to the vacuum while a canister vacuum has its vacuum attached to the motor by a hose. Here’s a quick rundown of some of the pros and cons of using an upright vacuum.
- Carpets and Rugs
Having a motorized vacuum head attached to a powered brush makes upright models especially good for vacuuming lush carpets and thick rugs, but you can easily switch to hard floors on most models by toggling the power brush off with your foot. A powered brush head with a motor attached directly to it makes uprights a great choice for any home that carpeting or large area rugs.
Standing up and walking behind an upright is often easier on the back than using a canister model, which often involve a lot of crouching and bending in using the hose and getting it into the areas you want to clean.
Upright models easily fit in closets and corners due to their centralized design. Plus, there are fewer accessories and prep time involved in maintenance and storage.
- Cleaning Area
The vacuum/brush head on upright vacuums are, in most cases, wider than the wand heads found on canister models. A wider vacuum head means more area cleaned with fewer passes, so you get more done, in less time, using less effort.
Upright vacuum cleaners aren’t known for their discretion. They have very little sound insulation, in most cases, so there’s little to suppress the engine noise coming from their powerful motors.
Some heavy duty upright models can weigh as much as 20 pounds, and they on average they are heavier than comparable canister models. A heavy vacuum can be a drain on your enthusiasm and stamina, after all, it’s no easy task to drag a heavy vacuum across 10 rooms, carpeted wall-to-wall or lugging it up and down flights of stairs.
The big brush heads that were highlighted in the previous section come with a downside. Big, rectangular brush heads are unwieldy and blunt. It’s almost impossible to get them into corners and small nooks. To compensate for this lack of precision, most uprights have a hose attachment that can be used for tight spots.
The common alternative in design methodology to the traditional upright is the canister design. The technical criteria for canister vacuums is a wand ending in a cleaning nozzle, which is linked to the vacuum unit by a hose. The vacuum unit that powers the hose contains the motor along with the filter, collection bag, and other operating components of the vacuum. This contained unit is called the canister and is the element of the design which gives it its name. The canister has wheels and is dragged behind the user by the hose as they advance forward using the nozzle to vacuum.
lSince the canister design does not place limits on engine size, engineers can invent hugely powerful vacuums using this design. Additionally, they have improved suction and flow rates over upright models, making them faster, more effective cleaners on bare floors.
Canister vacuum cleaners weigh roughly between 9 Lbs and 24 Lbs, and they are lighter on average than comparable uprights. Some models, designed to be especially maneuverable and lightweight, changes cleaning stairs and ceiling moldings from a major nuisance conveniently into simple, tasks that are completed with ease.
Another perk of the canister design’s versatility is the inclusion of sound insulation into the vacuum unit, a feature not often found on uprights since they have constrictions on the sizes of their vacuum units due to the nature of the design. As a result, canister vacuums usual are quieter than their upright counterparts. On average, canisters produce ambient engine noise at a level of 60-65 decibels while uprights, on the other hand, emit higher levels that start around 75 decibels.
Since the heavy vacuum unit is separated from the cleaning wand by a hose, you can wield the lightweight wand into tight corners, ceilings, or just about any other area that gives upright vacuums difficulty. You don’t need to move an entire vacuum cleaner, just the small wand, so getting behind furniture, up and down stairs, and around a litany of common household cleaning obstacles such as Venetian blinds and ceiling fans. Longer hoses and wand-extending accessories give some models an even further reach.
The cleaning wands found on canister vacuums have a huge variety of attachments and accessories. Often, there are often racks built into the canister or wand that keep all the accessories close and conveniently at hand. There are attachments for just about any cleaning scenario you can envision, including pet hair removal tools, crevice tools, and dusting brushes. With such a variety of accessories at your disposal you can quickly dispose of almost any cleaning scenario you may encounter in cleaning the average household.
- Set-up & Prep
The words “some assembly required” can be scary, even costly for people who are not mechanically inclined. You are probably going to have to do some basic preparation in the form of attaching accessories before you clean just about anything, making canisters less suited to quick cleanups.
Canisters can be a mess. They have a ton of accessories and other knick-knacks, plus the hose and canister don’t store in a self-contained, compact fashion like the upright does. However, if taken apart canister vacuums can be stored much more easily.
Navigating the often large vacuum unit around corners and obstacles as you drag it behind you can be a hassle, possibly damaging walls or corners if the canister doesn’t have a protective rubber bumper, and the canisters smaller wheels can sometimes get stuck on power cords and lush carpets. All these awkward movements can be a problem for people with chronic back pain and, in addition to bending over to maneuver the canister, you’ll have to bend over to change settings or access controls since they are usually found on the canister unit. However, some units have hand controls on the wand or controls on the canister that is large enough to be operated with your feet.
Comparison Table of Canister vs Upright
|Vacuum Type||GRADE\ Canister Vacuum||GRADE\ Upright Vacuum|
|Design||❪⚊❫ Motor housing unit (the canister) is separated from the vacuum head by a flexible hose. the canister is dragged behind user while cleaning and can be clunky and awkward||❪✚❫ All engine and vacuum components are contained in one, upright unit. The user walks behind the vacuum, pushing it across surfaces to clean. Neat and contained.|
|Cleaning Quality||❪✚❫ Varies by make, model, and manufacturer. Can be built with larger, more powerful motors due to the separate motor canister.||❪⚊❫ Varies by make, model, and manufacturer.|
|Portability||❪✚❫ Wand allows easy access to hard to reach areas, however, the canister is cumbersome and awkward.||❪⚊❫ Not good, they are often heavy and can be difficult to maneuver in tight spaces.|
|Weight||❪✚❫ Similar to upright, but the separated cleaning wand allows cleaning without lifting the heavy vacuum unity||❪⚊❫ Up to 20 lbs (9 kg).|
|Storage||❪⚊❫ Cumbersome, a lot accessories to keep track of.||❪✚❫ Self-contained design stores easily in closets and corners.|
|Noise||❪✚❫ Quieter on average due to fewer restrictions on the presence of sound insulation.||❪⚊❫ Loud, very little sound insulation due to the nature of the design.|
|Carpets||❪⚊❫ Sometimes include brush accessory for the wand, small wheels may jam up in more lush carpets||❪✚❫ Power brushes attached directly to motor create superior carpet-cleaning capabilities|
|Hard Surfaces||❪✚❫ Precision cleaning wand and specialty attachments make cleaning hard surfaces easy||❪⚊❫ Some have settings to clean hard-surfaces more effectively, like adjustable brush heads and ¡®suction-only- mode|
|Bag less/Bag?||❪/❫ Available in both varieties||❪/❫ Available in both varieties|
|HEPA ? (allergy filters)||❪/❫ Yes||❪/❫ Yes|
In this table, each design type is analyzed by category or attribute and a winner is decided. Winners are designated with the (+) sign and losers with the (-) sign, ties are denoted with (/)Now that we have given you some background on the pros and cons associated with the different approaches to vacuum cleaner design, we’re going to focus more on which variety is right for you. To determine which type will fit your needs you’re going to have to take into account your circumstances, preferences, and budget. Here are a few questions to consider when looking for a new vacuum. Answering these questions will help you discover what kind of vacuum cleaner is perfect for your home.
- What kind of flooring do you have in your house? Hard surface (tile, wood, etc.), carpet, or both?
- How much is storage space an issue in your home?
- What’s your budget? How much do you plan to spend and do you have any leeway to spend more to get the features you want?
- Do you own pets that shed or frequently have them in your home?
- Do you or anyone living in your home suffer from indoor allergies?
- How is the layout of your home? Are there stairs, tight corners, or small spaces that need to be vacuumed?
- What is your tolerance for noise?
FAQ’S of Choosing Canister or Upright
Let’s run down these questions in detail and explain how your responses will guide you to the type of vacuum cleaner that’s right for you.
What kind of flooring do you have in your house?
For homes with wall to wall carpeting, an upright vacuum cleaner’s powerful brush head and wide cleaning berth making them especially good at cleaning carpeting, while canisters are better performers on hard surfaces and bare floors. Wall to wall carpet? An upright may be best. Hardwood floors? A canister will probably work better for you. Most homes, however, have a combination of both, and if you fall into that category it’s up to you to figure out what type will be best for your balance of surfaces. If you decide to buy a canister vacuum but you have carpeting in your home, be sure you buy the accessories and attachments you need to clean your carpets effectively.
How much is storage space an issue in your home?
If storage space is a big issue on your screening list, then you should consider an upright. It’s pretty much universal truth that uprights are easier to store than clunky canisters, and some upright models are even designed to be especially slim and easily-stored.
What’s your budget?
Vacuum cleaners can range from $50 to $1200 in either category. However, dollar for dollar, you usually get more for your money buying an upright since canister models with equivalent features are often more expensive, so whatever you are planning to spend, you will most likely get more for your money buying an upright than you would with a canister vacuum in the same price range. However, even with the price disparity, if you have lots of hard surface, stairs, or storage in your home the canister may still be a better choice due to its versatility and maneuverability in tight quarters. Also, keep in mind that spending more money doesn’t always get you higher quality. Shark and Oreck, for example, make some of the highest rated vacuum models on Amazon and tend to be on the more moderately priced end of the price spectrum.
Is pet hair an issue?
Anyone who owns and loves pets know how difficult it is to get dog and cat hair out of upholstery and carpets. If you’re one those weary pet owners who can’t seem to free your house of its perpetual fur coat, a canister vacuum offering special attachments specially engineered to pick up pet hair could be just the right thing. There are a ton of available accessories for canister wands that work great for handling pet hair, like special rubber tendril attachments that grab pet hair from soft surfaces like couches and mattresses; crevice tools that get into corners and crevices where stubborn pet hair builds up; and upholstery brushes that can remove fur and hair from couches, love seats, and other upholstered furniture.
Do you or anyone living in your home suffer from indoor allergies?
For chronic allergy sufferers, some vacuums can accommodate HEPA allergen filters that trap particles up to .3 microns in size. A vacuum with a HEPA filter is the best option for anyone living with an indoor allergy sufferer since these vacuums leave behind less of the dander, dust, and debris that trigger most people’s allergy symptoms when they vacuum. The exhaust filtration traps even the smallest particles, keeping them inside the bag and not dispersing them into the air via the high-speed motor exhaust. Your allergic friends will thank you for the clean air in your home as a result of the HEPA filter in your vacuum, as they will notice a definite difference. HEPA filters and sealed systems can be found on both upright and canister type vacuum cleaners.
What’s the layout of your home?
How open is the layout of your home? Is it an open-concept floor plan home or a cramped city row-house? Do you have stairs and high ceilings or do you live in a one-story ranch? These are just a few of the things to consider when looking for the right vacuum for your home. As a rule, canisters are easier to maneuver through narrow spaces and on stairs. Plus, their hoses and reaching attachments make cleaning high ceilings and corners much easier. Upright vacuums, however, are easier to store and may be a better choice for smaller homes like apartments where the floor plans are simple and streamlined and where there are no stairs to worry about cleaning.
What’s your noise tolerance?
If noise is a concern in your home, no matter what the reason, a canister vacuum is almost always the better choice since their design allows for the implementation of more noise insulation. While some uprights are designed to run more discreetly than most, uprights can be very loud and some high-power upright vacuums may even require hearing protection to use.
So, which is best for you?
As you may have figured out at this point, this is a complicated issue and there aren’t any wrong answers, For those reasons, I have broken down the verdict into sections depending on what the primary characteristic you may be seeking in your search for your next vacuum. Now let’s drawdown and see which vacuum cleaner takes home a win in this showdown.
Winners By Category
When you’re looking to get the highest quality vacuum possible at the lowest cost available, upright vacuums are a clear choice. Design complications with canisters make them universally more expensive than comparable upright models. No matter how good of a canister vacuum you get, spending the same amount of money on an upright will almost certainly get you a better vacuum.
Canister vacuums take the win in this category. With all the attachments and accessories they come with they can tackle just about anything put in front of them. Although more uprights are coming out with hoses and attachments to supplement their versatility, the quality of the attachments never seems to be as high as those found on canisters where the wand and its accessories are the primary vacuum head. It’s also well suited to cleaning hard-surfaces and, with the right attachments, carpets as well. You can even use a canister vacuum to vacuum out your car, no need to wait for your next wash to drop change in the car wash vacuums to clean your car’s upholstery and carpets.
And the winner of our main event is… drum roll, please… canister Vacuums! They’re more powerful, since the encapsulated engine design isn’t limited by having to attach directly to the vacuum head and unit, like in upright models, and the same freedom that engineers found in designing the motor were used to reduce noise, allowing them to install added sound insulation that, again, isn’t possible to incorporate into upright models. It’s well suited to vacuum both hard-surfaces and carpets as well, just make sure you pick up the right accessories for the flooring and surfaces in your homes.
Now let’s look at the best vacuum type for different floor plans and surfaces
Open Concept Design / Open Areas and Space
Upright vacuums are easier to push and maneuver in open spaces than canisters are with their cumbersome, drag-behind vacuum units. For an added bonus, the wider brush heads commonly found on upright vacuums help you clean open areas even faster
Although uprights often have features that make their cleaning performance on hard-surfaces better, like the ability to deactivate the power brush and use suction only or an adjustable brush head that can be lowered to clean hard surfaces by giving them a closer clean. However, specialized attachments and accessories available on canister vacuums give them a slight advantage in this category.
Hopefully, this article gave you some education and guidance that you will find useful in making your next vacuum purchase. Again, there is no universal answer to the question, ‘which is better?’ There is no wrong answer. Who knows, maybe you’ll decide to get both! Whichever style is right for you, be sure to take into consideration things like features, price, and customer reviews when looking for the perfect vacuum for your home. With a thorough assessment of your needs and preferences, and a little shopping around, you’ll find the perfect vacuum to help ease all the numerous aggravations that you may be dealing with using your current vacuum cleaner.
So, what do you think? Based on the attributes expanded upon in this article, which style do you think is best for you and why?
I hope that you find the insights presented in this article useful for your next vacuum purchase, and remember there are no wrong answers. Find the one that works for you.