Vacuum Cleaner Watts – What To Know

If you’re looking around for a vacuum cleaner, you’ve probably seen many different models, all with varying amps, watts, and air watts.

When you’re trying to find a capable vacuum cleaner, you might come to the conclusion that more watts = a better vacuum.

Stop right there, because you’re already misinformed at this point.

Let’s break down the actual specifications that you should look out for, as well as clearing up any misconceptions about trying to find a good vacuum cleaner based on the amount of watts it uses.

Watts and Vacuum Cleaners

Before we dive in here and try to explain things for you folks, let’s get a brief summary on wattage, amps, and what they really mean in terms of your vacuum cleaner’s performance.

To keep things simple, electrical power is measured in watts.

How exactly do we calculate a watt? Simply multiply Volts (V) by Amperes (I). V * I = W

Take a look at a common vacuum spec of let’s say, 12 amps. Let’s assume we’re in the United States, where 120V is the norm.

120V * 12A = 1440 Watts.

Because most household breakers are rated at 15 A, 12 A runs at 80% of the capacity of the breaker. This also explains why if you try to plug in another appliance or anything that draws 3 A of power while your vacuum cleaner is running, you’ll likely trip the breaker.

But wait! I thought we are talking about Watts determining how good a vacuum cleaner is?

How Many Watts Is A Good Vacuum Cleaner?

The simple answer is, it doesn’t matter how many watts a vacuum cleaner uses in terms of performance.

Watts are not a measurement of a vacuum cleaner’s performance in any way.

The same can be said about amps.

It doesn’t matter how many amps a vacuum cleaner uses either, as the performance depends on other factors besides power drawn.

Just because a vacuum cleaner or particular model may draw more power than another, it doesn’t mean it has more suction or is a better vacuum, but rather that it simply draws more power.

While it’s true that a vacuum cleaner that draws more power has the potential to have more suction as a result, the design of the vacuum cleaner is a much better indicator of suction strength.

A poorly designed vacuum that uses 1440 Watts can have horrible suction compared to a vacuum cleaner that only requires 1200 or less Watts!

What About Vacuum Cleaner Air Watts?

We’re glad you asked, because air watts are actually related to the airflow of the vacuum, while regular watts are not.

If you’re ever going to judge a purchase of a vacuum cleaner based on some technical information, definitely use air watts, which is something that you’ll see when you’re shopping for cordless vacuum cleaners.

If Watts Aren’t Indicative of a Vacuum Cleaner’s Performance, What is?

Now that we’ve explained why Watts aren’t a good measure of performance, we can at least point you in the right direction for things that you should look out for.

If you’re looking for a powerful vacuum cleaner, it’s dependent on many factors including:


A vacuum cleaner that is designed efficiently can absolutely have better performance/suction than another vacuum of higher wattage requirements.

This includes the design of the hose, floor nozzle, motor, bag/canister, and more.

Manufacturers such as Dyson pour billions of dollars into research and development so that they can create energy-efficient vacuum cleaners with exceptional suction strength.


If you’re not buying a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter, then you’re missing out.

Some manufacturers such as Miele and their C-series of vacuums provide excellent filtration, thanks to a high quality filtration media, as well as high efficiency of filtration.

Top of the line filtration ensures that every second spent vacuuming is worth it, due to massive amounts of dust and particles being pulled out of your environment and into your vacuum cleaner’s bag or canister, without being released back into the air.

Materials Used:

Higher quality materials means that the manufacturer can design the vacuum cleaner in an efficient, yet powerful way. Not only that, but higher quality materials will typically result in a longer-lasting vacuum which will save you money in the long run.

Airflow Specification:

Unlike regular Watts, airflow specification, which is measured in CFM, (cubic feet per minute) can be a reliable way to measure a vacuum cleaner’s airflow/cleaning ability. Higher CFM will always be better than lower.

Dependable Brand:

There are plenty of different vacuum cleaner manufacturers that have been around for over 100 years. Stick with a dependable brand if you want a vacuum cleaner that can handle all of your cleaning needs.

Hoover, Miele, Dyson, Bissell, are a few to name.

Watts Are Not a Suitable Way to Measure a Vacuum Cleaner’s Performance

Now that you have a much better idea of what to look out for if you’re trying to find a dependable vacuum cleaner with good suction, you’ll spend less time worrying about Watts and more time focusing on looking at aspects such as design, brand, filtration, airflow specification, and so on.

Remember, Watts have nothing to do with measuring the suction or performance of a vacuum cleaner!

Mark Fields is a licensed HVAC technician who's been in the industry for over 27 years. He's capable of handling much more than a simple vacuum cleaner, but his expertise and technical knowledge is unrivaled. Troubleshooting guides, technical specifications, and any other information that's beyond the scope of most people is his specialty. When he's not fixing an incredibly complex HVAC unit, he loves golfing, fishing, and spending time with his wife and daughter.

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