Vacuum Wattage Vs. Power

Vacuum cleaner manufacturers use lots of terms to position their appliances as better than competitors. They often use wattage and power as ways to support claims and sway you to pick their brands. If you see a 10-watt vacuum cleaner next to a 12-watt vacuum cleaner, and they’re both the same price, don’t rush to judge the 12-watt model as the best choice. The 10-watt model may have features and components with more power.


Power relates to the motor, performance and electricity.

The wattage of the vacuum cleaner indicates the amount of power, usually electricity, that's sent to the motor of the vacuum. Wattage is measured by multiplying the amperage of the vacuum by the voltage of the electrical outlet. For example, a 10-amp vacuum that’s plugged into a 120-volt outlet will have a wattage measurement of 1,200. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, most vacuum cleaners range from 1,000 to 1,440 watts. However, it's important not to confuse wattage with suction power. Wattage simply tells you how much power the motor has at is disposable, not how it will perform at picking up dirt from floors.


The power of a vacuum cleaner relates to several things: the amount of electrical voltage required for the vacuum, the wattage power of the motor, the suction power or air wattage of the vacuum and the electric voltage power requirement needed to operate the vacuum. Most residential vacuum cleaners can be plugged into a standard 110- or 120-volt electrical outlet and should be plugged into only outlets with no more or no less than 110- or 120-volt capacities to prevent tripping the circuit breaker and blowing a fuse. The wattage relates to the power of the motor. For example, a residential upright vacuum might have a 12-watt motor. Air wattage is the term used to describe the suction power and is more commonly used to rate central vacuum cleaners. However, more manufacturers are beginning to list air watts for new upright and canister-style vacuums as a selling feature.


All vacuum cleaners, whether hand-driven upright models or central vacuum systems, rely on watts and power. Technically, power has a more macro application and relationship to vacuum cleaners, and wattage has a more micro relationship. Wattage is one measurement of electric power, just as amps and voltage are measurements. The other basic similarity is that both power and wattage can be measured.


Power also has both tangible and intangible properties. You might look at a large upright vacuum cleaner standing next to a small, stick-style vacuum and describe the large vacuum cleaner as having more power, just by comparing them in terms of size. You could also walk into a retail store and say to a salesperson that you want a vacuum with lots of power. Wattage, on the other hand is a tangible, fixed unit of measurement. Power can be variable as well as fixed, and vacuum cleaners rely on an input of power to produce an output of power to operate.

About the Author

Cheryl Munson has been writing since 1990, with experience as a writer and creative director in the advertising industry. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism with a focus on advertising from the University of Wisconsin in Madison.