How Do Vacuum Cleaners Work?

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How do Vacuum Cleaners Work
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Mark Johnson
Vacuum Cleaner Expert

When you sip your favorite juice using a straw, you use the simplest suction mechanisms of all time. By sucking the liquid up, you cause a pressure drop between the bottom and the top of the straw. With greater fluid pressure coming from the bottom than the top, you then push up the juice up to your mouth. ­

It’s the same standard mechanism at work when it comes to vacuums, though the execution is more complicated. So, that begs the question, how does a vacuum cleaner work? What mechanisms are in play to ensure your carpet and floors don’t have any unwanted particulates?

Lucky for you, this comprehensive guide will help you navigate through the inside system of a hoover to find out how the motor works when getting rid of all the dust and debris in your home.

You’ll also be able to understand why the typical vacuum design is exceedingly straightforward but relies on a host of principles to clean perfectly and effectively.

Upright Vacuum

Understanding How Vacuum Cleaners Function

It might seem like the most complicated device, but the traditional vacuums are made up of only six essential components which consist of the:

  • Intake port that may include several cleaning accessories
  • Exhaust port
  • Electric motor
  • Fan1 
  • Porous bag
  • Housing that features all the other components

So, when you plug your hoover in and turn it on, various things happen and here are some of them:

The electric current activates the motor. The motor is usually attached to the fan, which features some angled blades that resemble an airplane’s propeller.

As the fan blades turn, they force the air forward towards the exhaust port.

When the air elements are driven forward, the compactness of the particulates, and the air pressure, increases in front of the fan and decreases at the back.

The pressure drop at the back of the fan is like the pressure drop of the straw when you sip your juice. It drops below the pressure level outside the hoover (the ambient air pressure). It then creates suction, a partial space, inside your vacuum.

The ambient air then pushes itself into your vacuum cleaner via the intake port because the air pressure inside the device is lower than the pressure outside.

So, provided that the fan keeps running and the passageway through the vacuum system stays open, then there will be a constant stream of air moving through the intake port and out the exhaust port.

Vacuum Fan

Vacuum Cleaner Brushes and Dust Bags

As mentioned, a vacuum’s rotating fan generates a flowing stream of air moving through the intake port and out via the exhaust port.

According to experts, this stream of air acts like a brook of water. The moving air elements rub against any loose grime particles or debris as they move. If the debris is featherweight and the suction is intense, the friction carries the material through the inside of your vacuum cleaner.

It sounds complicated, right?

Well, it’s not. It uses the same principle that leaves and other items use to float down a river or stream.

However, some vacuums feature the rotating brushes2  at the intake port, which kick dust and dirt loose from your carpet steamer so that it can be picked up by the air stream.

As this dust-filled air makes its way to the machine’s exhaust port, it passes through the dirtbag.

These dust cups or dirtbags are made from porous materials which act as an air filter. They have tiny holes that are large enough to allow the air particles to pass through, but they’re also small for most dust and debris particles to fit through. Therefore, when the air currents stream into the dust bin, all the air moves on via the porous material. The dirt and debris are, however, trapped inside the bag.

You can place the dirt bin anywhere along the path between the intake hose and the exhaust port, provided that the air currents flow through it.

In upright vacuums, for instance, the bag is the last stop on the path: instantaneously, after it’s filtered, the air flows back to the outside.

Canister vacuums’ bags, on the other hand, can be placed before the fan so that the air can be filtered as soon as it enters the machine.

Using this simple idea, vacuum cleaner manufacturers design various vacuums with a wide range of suction capacities.

Vacuum Cleaner Variables

How the suction capacity in a hoover works, depends on several factors. Some of these elements include:

The power of the fan: For the strongest suction power, the motor has to turn at an incredibly impressive speed.

The blockage of the air pathway: When debris builds up in the vacuum dust cup, the air faces significant resistance on its way out. Each particle of air moves more slowly due to the amplified drag. It’s the reason most vacuums work better when you replace the dirtbag.

The size of the opening at the end of the vacuum’s intake port: Since the speed of your vacuum cleaner’s fan is constant, the amount of air passing through the sweeper per unit of time is also unwavering. It doesn’t matter what size you make the intake port; the same number of air particles will have to pass into the device every second. If you make the port narrower, the individual air particles will have to move more swiftly so that they can all get through in that amount of time.  When the airspeed increases, pressure decreases due to Bernoulli’s principle.

The drop in pressure translates to a more significant suction force at the intake port. Due to this potent suction force, narrower vacuum attachments can pick up the more cumbersome dirt particles than their counterparts.

Central Vacuum Systems and the Wet/Dry Vacuum Cleaners

Central Vacuum Systems

In the mid-1800s, vacuums used hand-functioning bellows to generate suction.3  They came in various shapes and sizes and were of little or no help in daily cleaning.

The first electric vacuums were developed in the early 1900s and were an automatic and immediate success (even if, for many decades, they were mostly sold as luxury items).

The most popular sweeper from that era that has been finding some resurgence in popularity today is the central vacuum system, read about best hardwood floor cleaner machine.

It turns your home into a cleaning system. It features a motorized fan in the basement or outside of your home that generates powerful suction through a series of interconnected pipes in the walls.

To use the vacuum, you need to turn on the fan motor and connect a hose to any of the pipe outlets throughout the house.  The dirt and debris are sucked into the pipes and dumped in a large canister, which you empty a few times in a year.

Wet/Dry Vacuum Cleaners

When you’re dealing with heavy-duty cleaning jobs, most people go for the wet/dry vacuums that can pick up fluids as well as solid objects. Liquid substances soak up any paper or cloth filters, so these cleaners feature a unique collection system.

The basic design is straightforward really: On its way through the vacuum cleaner, the air stream passes through an extensive area, which is positioned over a bucket. When it reaches this larger area, the airstream slows down; for the same reason, that air speeds up when flowing through a tapered attachment.

The drop in speed successfully loosens the air’s grasp, so the liquid droplets and weightier dirt specks can fall out of the air stream and into the pail.

So when you’re done vacuuming, you simply dispose of all the trash that was collected in the bucket.

Cyclone and Robotic Vacuum Cleaners

Cyclone Vacuums

They’re the most recent vacuum cleaner variations. The device was developed in the 1980s by James Dyson, and it doesn’t feature a traditional bag or filter system. Instead, it sends the air stream via one or more cylinders, along a high-speed spiral path.

The motion works in the same manner as a clothes dryer, a roller coaster, or a merry-go-round. As the air stream discharges around in a spiral, all of the dirt specks experience some strong centrifugal force: They’re thrashed outward, away from the air stream. In this way, the dust and all the debris is extracted from the air without using any sort of filter. It merely collects at the bottom of the cylinder.

The cyclone system is an improvement from the traditional vacuums — there are no bags to replace often, and the suction doesn’t decrease as you suck up more dirt, making it worth considering.

Robot Vacuums

Robotic Vacuums

Unlike the conventional vacuums, these self-operating gadgets clean all by themselves, thanks to a combination of motors, sensors, and a navigation system.

Since technology keeps advancing, soon, there’ll be more and better improvements on the basic vacuum-cleaner design, with more powerful suction mechanisms and collection systems. However, the standard way of how a vacuum cleaner works – using a moving air stream to collect all the dirt and debris, will probably stay here for a while.

So, before you get yourself that classy vacuum, you need to understand how they work to make your cleaning duties even easier.

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Mark Johnson

Mark Johnson

Mark advises business, individuals, and organizations on how to use and get the best purifiers so as to maintain their offices and homes. For a fresher and cleaner environment, he is the man for you. He loves ideas and concepts and uses his skills to make them a reality.

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