Below are some of the things to look for and evaluate when selecting a backpack vacuum.
Costs: Especially now with the uncertainty of the economy, hotel properties are watching their budgets closely. Even if green is a hotel’s priority, cost is often the deciding factor. Backpack vacuums range in price from about $200 to more than $1,000. Managers should evaluate backpacks on a feature-by-feature basis and determine which cleaning solutions and features best fit their needs.
Weight: Some of the early backpacks were about 15 pounds and wearing them became very uncomfortable in a relatively short time. The goal of green cleaning is to protect the environment as well as the user and, therefore, worker comfort must be viewed as a green issue and addressed when shopping for a backpack vac. Managers should look for machines weighing between 10 and 11 pounds. This has proven to be a comfortable weight for most users.
Harness: The harness, which fits over the shoulders and around the waist of the user, has been the focus of considerable research and design. Look for machines designed with what is called a “comfort-fit,” with a padded, adjustable shoulder harness and belt. Ergonomically designed to work with the user, some systems even have tool storage on the belt to help facilitate worker productivity.
Ease of use: The harness makes the backpack machine easier to wear. However, if the machine is bulky, too large, or poorly designed, it can still be uncomfortable to use, especially for a user of small stature. One option to consider is a smaller backpack—for instance a six-quart machine. These machines have all of the power and features of a larger backpack, but in a compact and easier to handle size.
Noise level: One area of equipment that has needed to be improved is sound output to reduce noise pollution. A big drawback of early backpacks was their noise level. High sound levels can cause worker fatigue, irritability, and stress. Machines with a decibel rating of about 70 dB have proven to be quiet enough to cause minimal discomfort for the user.
Air filtration: As mentioned earlier, many green cleaning experts strongly support the use of backpack vacuum cleaners because they can help protect IAQ. Some backpacks have a multiple air filtration system—some as many as four stages—that help capture and trap impurities before they can become airborne. For hotel properties, an optional HEPA filter increases this protection because it can capture and hold up to 99.97 percent of allergens and impurities, preventing them from becoming airborne. Just as with schools and medical centers, for a hotel property, selecting a backpack with a HEPA filter is strongly recommended.