By Greg Illes
Whether we live in stick-and-brick houses or in our cherished RVs, the grime of daily living always seems to intrude. Dust, dirt and debris find their way into our pristine living quarters and suddenly— we just can’t stand it anymore.
Break out the broom, hand brush, damp rag or the vacuum cleaner.
At home, a vacuum simply means a little extra noise for awhile. But in the RV, a vacuum is a major strategic appliance decision. AC or DC? Hand-held or wand-style? Built-in or closet storage?
Until fairly recently, a decent vacuum cleaner meant a 120V AC model, which also meant that it required generator or shore power to operate. This is not a big problem if you’re hooked up in an RV park, but in the boonies it’s anathema to run a generator, and most boondockers avoid generator usage as much as possible.
Historically, non-AC vacuums meant rechargeable battery vacuums, with their wimpy suction and short endurance. But in 2015, we are not only in the lithium battery era, we are solidly into the high-voltage lithium battery era. The anemic rechargeable vacuums of yesterday have given way to some truly surprising appliances now available.
My personal story is a perfect example of this evolution. After boondocking for several years with our built-in vacuum, we found that we seldom wanted to fire up the generator to provide the 1,300 watts of power that it needed — so we looked for a suitable replacement in the rechargeable domain. When I searched the market for a useful unit, I found that the old 12V-to-15V battery-powered vacuums have been totally eclipsed by 24V, 28V, and even 36V units. Based on “okay” results with a 15V hand-held in my garage, I ordered a wand-style 24V vacuum.
To put it mildly, I was astonished. The 24V vac was a Black & Decker BDH2400FH (available on Amazon), and it was everything and anything that my 27-foot class A needed to keep ship-shape (they have a 36V model too). The suction was equal to 80 percent or more of my built-in, and the endurance was well over what was needed for a full cleaning of the floor and the most-dirty surfaces. It even has a carpet-roller head attachment.
We had already been happily using a Dyson DC44 (22V) in our house for small cleanup jobs, and it too was very well suited to the RV environment. Its battery, for example, is removable, which means it can be recharged without lugging the vacuum over to a suitable area in the RV. Eventually, we installed the 24V vac in our house and slid the Dyson into a convenient corner in the RV.
Recharging these units is pretty simple. They all come with a standard 120V AC charging module, so you can simply use a portable inverter and plug it into a 12V socket, then plug the vacuum charger into the inverter. Of course, if your RV already has a built-in inverter, you can use that. For the technically adroit, there are 12V-to-??V converters available that have interchangeable tips. These can be used directly in any 12V socket. And, with the newer lithium technologies, it takes only a couple of hours to fully charge the vacuum’s battery.
The Black & Decker and Dyson models appear to be the most RV-friendly, based on their form factors and ease of recharge. But, of course, there are many other models as well. A little research can turn up some pleasant surprises, and the market is continuously developing. (Editor: There are lots of rechargeable vacuum cleaners available on Amazon.)
Greg Illes is a retired systems engineer who loves thinking up RV upgrades and modifications. When he’s not working on his motorhome, he’s traveling in it. You can follow his blog at www.divver-city.com/blog.