Choosing the Right Vacuum

Choosing the Right Food Processing Vacuum

S3_with-backgroundHow do I choose the right HEPA vacuum or portable vacuum? The first step in purchasing a high-quality HEPA vacuum or portable vacuum is to get a feel for the basic specifications. The power of a vacuum isn’t always measured in horsepower – there are two other specifications that more adequately describe the performance of a vacuum: airflow and waterlift.

Airflow moves particles or debris through the hose and into your vacuum. An industrial vacuum with high airflow is typically better suited for picking up light/fine powders like flour and dry whey. Airflow is measured in cubic feet per minute (cfm).

Waterlift – also known as static pressure or vacuum – is the ability of an industrial vacuum cleaner to lift a standing column of water a given distance by evacuating the air in the column above the water. Waterlift is responsible for lifting heavy pieces of debris against gravity and is measured in inches of water or mercury. High waterlift is needed when collecting water, cooking oil or other heavier particles.

Choosing the right size and type industrial vacuum to fit your needs

CFM_27Gen08Industrial vacuums come in many different forms to satisfy specific applications for the food industry – portable vacuums for intermittent general cleaning, wet/dry vacuums,  stainless steel vacuums –  or you can decide on a powerful central vacuum system.

Continuous-Duty Vacuums vs. Intermittent-Duty Vacuums: If you need your HEPA vacuum or portable vacuum to pick very heavy debris, continuous-duty is your best option. If your cleaning needs are not as demanding, you can choose an intermittent-duty vacuum. Continuous three-phase power is the most economical configuration, but three-phase power is not available in every plant. You can choose a single-phase power option, but this can limit the power of the vacuum. However, a good single-phase vacuum will be more than enough if you require only general clean-up for an hour or less each day.

Central Vacuum Systems vs. Portable Vacuums: If your cleaning needs are very specific to certain locations – like multiple fixed production or processing lines  – then a central vacuum system with a drop-down hose for each working area would serve you well. However, many manufacturers need the flexibility to move the vacuum around and clean many areas around the plant. Portable vacuums are the right choice for that job.

Wet/Dry Vacuums: Don’t forget to take spill response into account when purchasing a vacuum. If you try to collect liquid with your dry-only vacuum you can easily ruin your investment and cause serious injuries. Wet/dry vacuums must have a grounded bypass motor to avoid electrical hazards. A stainless steel or polyethylene tank to prevent corrosion is also a good feature to look for in your wet/dry vacuum, along with an automatic shut-off valve to prevent overfilling.

The right filtration is critical for your industrial vacuum

CFM_27Gen16To safeguard a food processing facility against multiple sources of food contamination, particle size must be taken into account. For critical industrial vacuum applications, you should choose a HEPA vacuum to ensure that 99.97% of all particles down to and including 0.3 microns are collected and retained. For even smaller particulate (like viruses), an ULPA-filtered model is recommended. With an ULPA filter, you can collect and retain particles down to 0.12 microns. In addition, it is absolutely critical that the HEPA filter be installed after the motor in order for it to properly filter the exhaust stream. The motor’s commutator and carbon brushes generate dust, and if the exhaust stream is not filtered, that dust will simply be released back into the environment.

However, not all HEPA vacuums systems are created equal. For peak operating efficiency, a vacuum should have a multi-stage, graduated filtration system, which uses a series of progressively finer filters to trap and retain particles as they move through the vacuum.

CFM_27Gen14This multi-stage system protects the HEPA filters from blockage and excessive wear and tear, maintaining peak performance.

Ideally, a vacuum’s filtration system should use oversized filters, which slow airflow action across the larger surface areas and optimize the air-to-cloth ratio. This allows the vacuum to easily collect large volumes of debris over extended periods of time – while once again minimizing maintenance.

About Vacuums for Food Safety is your source for explosive dust and food safety hazard information. Nilfisk Industrial Vacuums is a world leader in explosive dust control, and their industrial vacuums have been helping companies improve their level of safety from explosive dust and food safety hazards for more than 100 years.

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Nilfisk, Inc.
Industrial Vacuum Division

740 Hemlock Road, Suite 100
Morgantown, PA 19543
Phone: 800-NILFISK (645-3475)
Fax: (610) 286-7350


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