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CFI Vacuum develops class outline for Adult Education Course

Jerry Small shares tips for educating today’s consumers

VDTA member Jerry Small of CFI Vacuum in Richmond, VA, took initiative last fall to try and educate his local consumers. Jerry said his local school system published a booklet offering adult education classes on just about everything. He said there were classes on everything from painting, dancing and stained glass to computer classes, small engine repair and more. When reviewing the booklet, Jerry noticed there was nothing in the area of vacuums, so he contacted the school board and offered his services to give a course on vacuum cleaner use, and maintaining/repairing them.

Because this was a new area, Jerry asked the members of the Vacuum Dealers Forum (VDF) and the Vacuum Dealers Trade Association (VDTA) for help. He gathered tips, brochures, and information that he could use in his class.

Jerry said, “I am in Henrico County, VA -- population about 280,000. We are located next to Richmond with an overall population for the whole area about one million. Considering those numbers, I was hoping for a nice turnout.”

Jerry said he first wrote an outline of what he was going to do and how. He felt there should be three parts to the class. Part one would include asking the students what they are trying to clean and then offering solutions based on their individual needs, be it canister, upright bagged or bagless. Part two would be how to use the vacuum, and part three would be diagnosing the problems of the individual’s vacuum and repairing.

Then he decided which night classes each phase/part would be reviewed.

Jerry commented, “Since repair was part of the class I listed the other dealers in the area and their specialties so that the students could get the parts for the class.”

However, when the spring booklet listing the classes came out, the class was listed for only one night (not three) and the cost of the class was $22 (which the county set). Unfortunately, Jerry said not enough people enrolled and the class was cancelled.

Nonetheless, Jerry said he wanted to share the outline he developed for the class with his peers in the industry in hopes that it can be of help to others trying to educate consumers. Another idea Jerry shared is to simply hold classes in your store using this outline. He said, “It may generate some additional store traffic!”


Here is a brief outline of what will be covered in this class
1. How to pick the best vacuum for your use.
2. How to use your vacuum cleaner.
3. How to maintain your vacuum cleaner.
4. How to repair your vacuum cleaner.

How To Pick a Vacuum
When picking out a vacuum you must decide what you are going to clean with it. Are you cleaning carpet, bare floors, upholstery, the garage, the car?

Next, how many floors do you have? Are your steps carpeted? Who is the operator? Can they carry it up the steps or get it out of the closet?

Now that we know how it will be used and who is using it, you can decide on the type of vacuum that you will need and what features and benefits you want.

The types of vacuums are whole house built-ins, uprights and canisters as well as backpacks, power teams, handheld, broom and robot vacuums.

Whole house vacuums are the cleanest and quietest to use. They either use straight suction, an air driven brush for carpet, or an electric driven power nozzle. Backpacks and canisters offer the same options for cleaning the carpet. These are the best choices for bare floors and getting under furniture. The backpack will let you do the job faster if you have large areas to clean. If you can’t or won’t wear it, don’t consider it.

Hand vacuums and brooms are specialty items to be used for a specific purpose and for the most part are not designed to clean the whole house.

Upright vacuums are sold the most. In uprights, there are two different types of air movement. The oldest type is direct, where the dirt is moved past a fan and thrown into the bag. The other type is where a canister type motor is used and the dirt is pulled in the dirt container or bag and then the air passes through the canister and through the motor; then exhausted. On some models you can get onboard tools.

Remember when you add features, the weight of the machine goes up. Cord winds, self propelled, tools onboard, etc. All are nice but they add weight.

Horsepower, amps and cleaning efficiency numbers do not tell the whole story. The engineers decide how well the vacuum will clean and how well it will filter the air passing through it.

When a vacuum is made to sell at a low price it may even have HEPA filtration, but that does not mean it will maintain its good filtration after the second or third time of use. When vacuums are tested at national consumer groups or labs they are only tested when brand new -- not after the machine has ever been used and the dirt container emptied. Also, when a vacuum is made for a price point, generally the materials are not the most durable. Some name manufacturers have some high priced machines that will give you three years of good use, while others can last 20+ years. But no matter what you have, it must be maintained on a regular basis.

Filters on some machines need to be changed every three months. Others should be washed at least once a month and some can go for a whole year until they need washed.

For belts, some last a lifetime but they are made to last and have safety devices installed to protect the permanent belt. Most other belts will stretch so they must be changed at least every four to six months to maintain the proper speed of the brush row.

Brush rows or brush strips on some machines need to be changed every five years because the bristles become soft and lose their cleaning effectiveness.

Motors today are mostly sealed bearings and for the most part they are balanced at the factory and can not be serviced or replaced. Some motors can still be serviced. The direct air machines for the most part fall into that category.

Warranties will vary with the manufacturers, but they all exclude abuse. Also, availability of parts and service will vary. Some manufacturers do not make parts and just replace the product. Others make you send it off and others have local service. Beware of buying on the Internet. Quite a few high-end vacuums charge a higher price on the Internet compared to if you buy it locally. Also, if you need warranty service, you have to send it back to where you bought it. These practices were put in by the manufacturers to protect their dealer network.

In order to maintain your cleaner, you must be able to get parts. Most independent dealers have most parts for most machines, either on the shelf or readily available in just a matter of days.

Some brands have restricted dealers who are the only place to get parts.


Before Vacuuming:

  • Check the bag or dust cup. If it is half full, empty or change it.\
  • Check filters. Clean or change, if necessary.
  • Check the belt. Clean lint and thread from pully and roll brush if needed.
  • Inspect the cord and plugs for breaks.

Adjusting the Vacuum:
Set the vacuum for the height of carpet to be vacuumed. (If you don’t know what setting to use, set the machine to the highest setting and turn it on, then lower while running until the roll brush agitates the carpet.) Not all vacuums have height settings; some are self adjusting. If using a canister, you may want to open the suction regulator so the vacuum only picks up the dirt, not the carpet.)

• Let the vacuum do the work for you and proceed slowly. You should only have to go over the carpet once. Also, do not bump into furniture or run over cords.
• Pick up anything that you can see, as penny or paper clips passing through the vacuum can cause damage to the equipment.

Care & Maintenance

  • Check for air and dirt leakage.
  • Change the belt at least every six months.
  • Wipe out the inside of the bag compartment when changing paper bags since some dirt may fall into the bag compartment when changing bags.
  • Unplug the vacuum by the plug, not the cord.
  • When wrapping the cord, always wrap from the machine and not from the wall. It keeps knots out.
  • Do not vacuum water unless the machine is made for that purpose.
  • If the vacuum makes strange sounds, turn it off, unplug it and do not use it until the machine is repaired.
  • Wipe the vacuum off when finished. Then store it.

Reprinted from Floor Care Professional, May 2008