Sunday, October 24, 2010

How we Keep our Small Business Going

While I think that Vacuum Cleaners & Filtration are a noble cause and certainly important to me with the allergy issues I have, it is not the most exciting of topics.  I decided it was time for a new blog so that's not the first one that everybody sees.  What's on my mind is what's on my mind on most days:  how is our business doing?

There are many things to consider when answering that question.  First and foremost we have to pay the bills.  As with anything, even in the non-profit world I used to work in full-time and still do contract work in, you still have to pay the bills.  That one is taken care of; at least for this month.  I don't think we are different than most small businesses, we struggle, some months more than others, to pay our bills.  However, in an era where the economy is still slow, many businesses have closed and lots of people are out of work, we consider it a HUGE accomplishment that we can pay our bills every month.

The second, and probably the most important thing to consider, is "Are we Happy?"  We are a family-owned business.  The people who work for us are family, so it is more than just keeping employees happy, it is people I love and care about, even if they did not work for me.  When I met my husband I had taken a leave from my career as a therapist.  I told him it was my goal to work less and enjoy life more.  I haven't exactly accomplished the first one, but at least the work is different. We do have fun working together and I think most days we are happy doing what we are doing.

The next item to consider is contentment.  I love to shop and I love to make a difference.  Scouring for new products to have in our store and trying to figure out if they will do well is something that is fun for me.  When someone comes into our store and says, "That is so cool," well, I think I have made a difference.  But, when someone comes in with severe allergies or someone who is all about saving the earth and we have a product that make their life easier, then we have made a big difference.

But what about the customer?  We try hard to offer the best in Customer Service.  We are constantly looking at ways to improve.  I offer resources to our small staff and we have regular meetings where we talk about this.  The struggle is between keeping true to our mission, our goals, offering excellent customer service and making a living.  Sometimes it's hard to do all three.  Different customers want different things.  We cannot be all things to all people.  We do occasionally have to turn customers away.  We do offer suggestions, referrals, alternatives if we can.  I promise we'll keep trying.  I hope you'll remember we are doing our best.

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Saturday, October 16, 2010

Vacuum Cleaner Filtration

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Filtration is a mechanical or physical operation which is used for the separation of solids from gases (Air) by interposing a medium (Filter) through which only the air can pass. Oversize solid particles in the air are retained in the filter media, (depending on the pore size and filter thickness).
Filtration DiagramDiagram of simple filtration: oversize particles in the FEED (Dirty Air) cannot pass through the lattice structure of the filter, while air and small particles pass through, becoming FILTRATE.
If you can imagine in time, the more oversized particles that get stuck in the filter the harder it is for air to pass through and even the smaller particles will get caught up in the filter giving you less volume of FILTRATE but cleaner air with less particles. 
Note:  If it requires 10 lbs of pressure per square inch to keep the FEED flowing through the filter when it is clean, it will take more pressure to maintain that same flow amount after the filter has begun collecting the large particles and clogging up the pores of the filter.  How much more pressure will depend on the amount of oversize particles retained by the filter.
Looking back to the diagram, if the darker yellow area around the outside of the filter does not make a good seal with the filter and air is allowed to bypass around the filter, the filtration efficiency is compromised and the quality of FILTRATE is lowered sometimes the same as the FEED.  This effect takes place more as the filter becomes clogged with particles creating greater resistance.
HEPA FilterThis filter to be labeled in the USA as a HEPA filter, must meet HEPA Filtration Standards of filtration.  This standard is 99.97% efficient to .3 microns.  This in simple terms means it must remove 99.97% of all particles the size of .3 microns or smaller.
Today, a HEPA filter rating is applicable to any highly efficient air filter that can attain the same filter efficiency performance standards as a minimum and is equivalent to the more recent NIOSH N100 rating for respirator filters. The United States Department of Energy (DOE) has specific requirements for HEPA filters in DOE regulated applications. Products that claim to be "HEPA-type", "HEPA-like", or "99% HEPA" do not satisfy these requirements and may not have been tested in independent laboratories.

    Applied to Vacuum Cleaners

Bagged Vacuums

A bagged vacuum cleaner whether an upright or canister, is a vacuum cleaner that the primary filtration is a paper, cloth or synthetic bag located either on the inside or outside of the vacuum cleaner.  This bag acts as the first level of filtration catching large particles and allowing the cleaner air with only smaller particles to pass through the pores of the bag.
In the past ten years most vacuum manufacturers improved their filtration and added an additional (secondary or final) filter to the bagged type vacuum cleaners.  This filter is many times called a HEPA (High Efficiency Particle Arrest) filter.
For a HEPA filter in a vacuum cleaner to be effective, the vacuum cleaner must be designed so that all the air drawn into the machine is expelled through the filter, with none of the air or particles leaking past or around it. This is often referred to as "Sealed HEPA" or sometimes the vaguer "True HEPA".  Vacuum cleaners simply labeled HEPA have a HEPA filter, but not all air necessarily passes through it. Finally, vacuum cleaner filters marketed as "HEPA-like" will typically use a filter of a similar construction to HEPA, but without the filtering efficiency causing poor airflow or less than desirable filtration.  Because of the extra density of a HEPA filter, HEPA vacuum cleaners require motors with higher airflow and suction combined to provide adequate cleaning power.

Bagless Vacuums

Bagless type vacuum cleaners whether they are canisters or upright vacuum cleaners, usually have a HEPA or HEPA type filter attached to their exhaust also.  Unlike the bagged type vacuums, bagless machines do not always have a primary filter as their first defense of capturing the large particles in the air that is being sucked into the vacuum.  Some are designed with pre-filters made of washable foam and most also use centrifugal force to attempt to separate the particles from the air and then finally force the air through a HEPA or HEPA type filter to expel only cleaned air.
Cyclonic Assembly DiagramSince most readers are familiar with the Dyson brand of vacuum cleaners we will use one of their cyclonic units as an example of how bagless vacuums work.  Keep in mind all bagless vacuum cleaners do work similarly the same.  Dyson uses the term cyclone technology, but it is still simply centrifugal force that separates the large particles of debris from the air.
This type of filtration is the equivalent to a low quality filter or vacuum dust bag.  Many (Not All) manufacturers also include a motor filter after the cyclonic assembly to catch somewhat finer particles prior to the air passing through the motor.  Once the air has been cleaned of the large particles it still needs to pass through a HEPA filter to finish cleaning the air before it is expelled from the vacuum.  All of these filters and even the centrifugal forces use energy and restrict airflow lowering your vacuum cleaner's efficiency.
Note about all information above:  Vacuum cleaners in and of themselves, do not loose suction, That is a myth.  Dirt clogging passageways and dirty filters are the cause of loss of suction.  The suction from the motor is relatively the same in a new motor or a 10 year old one.  Electric motors do not get “Tired” like gas powered engines.

What does all this mean to you?

When choosing a vacuum cleaner, filtration type and quality is an important part of the process.  We find that allergy sufferers tend to pay closer attention to the filtration quality of the vacuum and less attention to the overall design and efficiency of the unit.  If design and efficiency is over looked allergy sufferers might find themselves purchasing a vacuum that has a great filter but does not have the sealed aspect of the HEPA filter or a machine that does not have enough power to push the air through the filter thus lowering the overall cleaning effectiveness.  
In addition, many people purchase a less expensive vacuum based on what the outer box claims being tricked by the simple term “HEPA” rather than doing research to be sure that vacuum is properly designed by a creditable company with the correct balance of filtration efficiency, cleaning effectiveness and ease of use.
Since the introduction of HEPA filters to the vacuum cleaner industry, most manufacturers have been forced to boost the power consumption of the motor in the vacuums to the maximum allowed by UL (United Laboratories) for household appliances just to accommodate the back pressure or resistance caused by HEPA filters.  This has caused a great increase of energy consumption in mainstream box store vacuum cleaners and in doing so has caused more noise, shorter average life spans, and more heat generated by these electricity-hogging vacuums.


Vacuum cleaners are a major appliance in your home.  They offer great results when they are designed and manufactured correctly.  They do require the same amount of thought to purchase as does any other major appliance in your home.  Don’t sell them short and please do your homework, finally; by all means ask questions when making a purchase.

Health Risks

Boy with inhalerThe Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has linked fine particle exposure to adverse health effects, including premature death, aggravated asthma and chronic bronchitis.1 While individual particles are invisible to the naked eye, collectively they can appear as smog or dust clouds.

Particles measuring 0.3-0.5 microns in size have a greater likelihood of being deeply inhaled into your lungs, where they can be absorbed into the bloodstream or remain embedded in your lung tissue for extended periods of time.

Those at the greatest risk are the elderly and children, along with those with pre-existing respiratory or cardiovascular disease. Even the healthy, may experience dangerous symptoms from elevated exposure to particle pollution including:

  • - Irritation of the airways, coughing or difficulty breathing
  • - Decreased lung function
  • - Irregular heartbeat
  • - Heart attacks
1Health and Environmental Effects of Particulate Matter
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Hidden Offenders

Woman with AllergiesTo combat the severity of this health epidemic and the gravity of its impact, the federal government has passed the Clean Air Act requiring the EPA to set National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for the six air pollutants deemed most harmful to public health and the environment.2 Particulate matter (PM) constitutes one of these six most dangerous pollutants.

Fine particles originate from a variety of sources. Outdoors, they're generated by the 'usual suspects'... diesel trucks, fuel combustion and power plants.

What might be surprising to learn is that fine particles are polluting your indoor air quality as well - contaminating the very air your family breathes in the confines of your seemingly safeguarded home. These invisible culprits have many sources including wood stoves, air fresheners and most vacuum cleaners.

As a result of normal motor wear and tear, vacuum cleaners can actually pollute the air you breathe - exhausting millions of fine particles per minute. And, unfortunately, legislation has yet to be put in place to regulate these indoor polluters.

2 Particulate Matter, American Lung Association.

Carbon Emissions

Carbon emmisions ChartInterbasic Resources (IBR), an accredited third party laboratory undertaking the testing of particulate contamination and filtration performance verification, was commissioned by Miele to conduct an efficiency test of five leading vacuum cleaner brands to assess their respective emissions' rates.

One test was conducted to determine the volume of carbon dust particles emitted from each vacuum cleaner's fan. The ensuing test results were alarming with the poorest performing unit discharging over 13 million particles (0.3-0.5 micron in size) per minute. These sized emissions constitute the very particulate matter that the EPA warns, and regulates, against.

Miele captured motor emissions most effectively, emitting 638 times fewer carbon dust particles than the average vacuum cleaner tested.

Filtration Efficiency

Filtration ChartIBR tests were conducted to measure complete emissions efficiency – evaluating each unit's overall capture and retention rate. At Miele, we believe it is essential that dirt, dust, allergens, pet dander and other lung damaging particles are not only confined while vacuuming, but retained. The test findings reveal that Miele captures significantly more fine particles, with the nearest brand releasing 21 times more particles per minute.

On average, a homeowner will vacuum three times a week for approximately twenty minutes per session. Resulting IBR data showed that the leading bagless vacuum cleaner has an emission rate of 175,928 fine particles (0.3-0.5 micron in size) per minute. Therefore, vacuuming with this model for one 'session' will emit over 3.5 million particles, leaving one to conclude that one week's worth of vacuuming will subject you to over 10.6 million particles.

Note: Requires free Adobe PDF Reader

Safeguarded Air

 Happy familySafeguard the air you breathe
You take every measure to provide superior care for your home and most importantly for your family – selecting pesticide-free produce, locating eco-friendly cleaners and using toxic-free detergents. But the very task you perform to clean your home, vacuuming, may not only be ineffective, but a cause of indoor air pollution.

Not all vacuum cleaners are created equal. In fact, IBR tests have proven Miele to be 99.99+% effective in both capturing and retaining particles 0.3 micron in size (that is 1/200th the width of a human hair) and larger.

Original Sealed System

Improperly sealed vacuum cleaners allow air, and particular matter, to escape from non-filtered openings. Miele vacuum cleaners offer a true Sealed System, each individual compartment and the system as a whole are sealed with one continuous, durable rubber gasket.Air-Clean SystemOriginal
Miele's exclusive Sealed System design combines with the following three elements to ensure your indoor air quality:
  • Use of the very best raw materials available.
  • Unique, electrostatically charged filtering dustbag and an innovative spring-loaded collar that traps debris
  • A selection of high-quality filter cartridges, including a certified HEPA filter.

Buyer Beware


Consumer AlertImitation turns from flattering to dangerous when imposter vacuum parts are put to use. Miele's Sealed SystemTM design is the most effective and hygienic method of removing particulate matter from your home... but only when genuine Miele dustbags and filters are used.

Tests conducted by IBR show that a counterfeit dustbag and filter does not effectively capture particles - increasing your exposure to harmful substances.

Not only will counterfeit parts increase your exposure to fine particles; IBR test results show that they reduce your vacuum's air flow. Undermining cleaning performance by more than 12%.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Customer Service

Customer Service:  what is it?  Do you have it?

I will be the first to admit we don't do it perfectly.  Any one of us at will admit there have been times that we have been short with a customer, less than helpful or plain un-helpful.   It is not something  we are proud of, but know that we are human.  It is something we constantly talk about, look for resources about and ask the others to keep us in check about.

I was beyond shocked, however, when a customer told my husband (and business partner) that one of our competitors yelled and cursed (using the two foulest words, in my opinion, that you could use with anyone) at him.   I do not consider myself a prude.  I am not easily offended by foul language.  I have even been known to use foul language.  But not AT someone and never at a customer.  Even when I did ask someone who was in our store to leave (he was not a customer; he was actually a contractor who was behaving inappropriately in front of a customer and her child) and was hot under the collar and probably red-faced, I managed to keep my composure, not raise my voice and repeat that he needed to leave.

Again, I will admit, it is sometimes hard to smile and be nice when you are being yelled at or cursed by a customer.  But take the high road.  Stand your ground, ask politely, then insist, if they get out of control, but I can't imagine what could be going on that I would ever yell or curse. 

By the way, my husband told me this story after I commented that I guessed customer service today consists of an employee pointing and saying "they're over there," when you ask for assistance.  I have walked out of more than one store recently because I asked for assistance and was pointed across the room and no further help was forthcoming.

Again, I go over with this our little sales group.  How do we treat customers?  Do we greet them as they come in the door?  Do we offer assistance?  Do we allow them space if they want to browse?  Do we offer to carry the vacuum out to their car?  Even if it was a vacuum they brought in but decided not to get repaired?  Do we thank them for coming in?  Do we ask if we've done all we can do for them?  I hope so.  I also hope if we don't, you will let us know. 

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Sunday, October 10, 2010

Miele Vacuum Cleaner S5 Vacuum Libra for allergy and asthma

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Miele Press Release

New Miele S5 Libra vacuum helps homes find a healthy balance
Allergy and asthma sufferers may find relief with the new Libra HEPA vacuum
Princeton, NJ – August, 2010 – Just in time for the fall allergy season, Miele introduces the Libra vacuum in a hot new mango red color. Proven in scientific tests to outperform other HEPA vacuums, the unique Sealed System™ technology, AirClean™ Filter-bag™ and certified HEPA filter found in the Libra make Miele the popular choice for allergy and asthma sufferers nationwide. It’s a little known industry fact that consumers may be at risk as improperly constructed vacuums spew micro particles into the air as they “clean.”
“It’s counterintuitive to think that your HEPA vacuum cleaner may actually be making your home dirtier while you clean,” states Paul McCormack, spokesperson for Miele. According to a recent scientific study commissioned by Miele and conducted by Interbasic Resources, (IBR), a nationally recognized product research laboratory, new evidence proves that not all HEPA vacuums do what they say.
“In fact many leading name brands spew out 2-14 million lung damaging particles per minute into the air actually making your ‘clean’ house an environmental hazard. On the other hand, Miele vacuums make your home cleaner and safer by capturing and retaining 99.99+% of harmful irritants – on average 622x better than other HEPA-filtered brands,” concludes McCormack.
The Libra comes just in time, as this allergy season may even be longer. According to Dr. Paul R. Epstein, M.D., associate director of the Center for Health and the Global Environment at Harvard Medical School, growing seasons are lengthening thanks to global warming. "Hay fever is typically caused by trees in the spring, grasses in the summer and ragweed in the fall," he explains. Given warmer climates and increasing levels of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere, weeds are experiencing outrageous growth patterns and extending allergy sufferers misery.
Libra’s stylish full-sized S5 canister offers an Electro Comfort eletrobrush for grooming and deep cleaning carpets and a Parquet Twister floor tool for easily cleaning all hard, smooth surfaces such as tile and hardwood flooring. This innovative combination effortlessly tackles pet hairs, house dirt and allergens. Power control lets homeowners increase or decrease suction to safely clean furniture, drapes, mattresses and pillows using three integrated cleaning tools found conveniently onboard.
The S5 Libra vacuum cleaner retails for $949.

About Miele Vacuum CleanersMiele is the world’s largest family owned and operated appliance company, founded in 1899, and a leading maker of quality vacuums – legendary for their powerful performance, advanced filtration and brilliant design details that set the standard for floor care and cleaning.
Miele’s long heritage of vacuum firsts dates back 83 years to the use of Bakelite as a sound dampener in 1927, the advent of convenient integrated tools and stunning fashion colors in the 1960s to the world’s first HEPA-certified vacuums in the 1990s. Throughout the century, these award-winning advances have established Miele as the “must-have” status vacuum – hailed as “so smart it could start its own Mensa chapter” and “it’s like the BMW of vacuum cleaners.”
Beyond the frequent accolades, design awards and sleek good looks, Miele continues to focus on making vacuuming easier through patented new technologies like the S7 SwivelNeck™ as well as longer cords, automatic flooring sensors, powerful Vortex Motor Systems™ and silence settings. Miele’s passion for quality and innovation has resulted in a vacuum that excels not only in cleaning performance, but also in the area of filtration. According to recent independent tests, there’s no other vacuum on the planet that removes dust, dirt and allergens as efficiently as a Miele canister or upright. Miele’s unique combination of AirClean™ Filter-bag™, HEPA filter and Sealed System™ design is 99.99+% effective in capturing lung-damaging particles. The key to this design is its hygienic self-closing AirClean™ Filter-bag™ whose revolutionary multi-ply filtering material helps homeowners dispose of the captured particles without coming in contact with them.
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Miele Vacuum Cleaners Endorsed by Wools of New Zealand

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Miele Press Release
No. 029/2010

Wools of New Zealand Endorses Miele Vacuum Cleaners
Miele vacuums identified as ”wool-safe” by global premium carpet brand
Princeton, New Jersey, August 2010 – Wools of New Zealand – a brand representing the standard of excellence in wool carpets and rugs – has teamed with Miele to promote wool-safe vacuums.
Wools of New Zealand works in partnership with manufacturers and retailers to promote carpets and rugs meeting stringent criteria regarding quality and New Zealand wool content. On the retail side, Wools of New Zealand works closely with 700+ showrooms throughout the country and is forming a special group of luxury showrooms recognized as Premier Partners. As part of this exclusive program, Premier Partners will offer customer incentives for those purchasing select Miele vacuum cleaners to protect and care for their fine floor coverings.   
One of the most important maintenance steps for wool carpet is vacuuming. Regular and thorough vacuuming, at least once a week with wool safe tools, is recommended to maintain the beauty of wool carpets and rugs. To ensure consumers use vacuums that will clean without damaging fibers, Wools of New Zealand elected to partner with Miele given their international reputation for gentle, yet effective carpet cleaning.
“We are proud to partner with such a quality brand to ensure the long lasting beauty and cleanliness of their carpeting,” states Scott Lombardi, National Sales Manager for Miele vacuum cleaners. “It’s tragic to see the damage caused to these absolutely magnificent rugs by other vacuums that rely on aggressive roller brush action for deep cleaning… all they’re doing is literally eating the carpet fibers.” Miele vacuums have long been acclaimed for a perfect balance of thorough, yet gentle grooming and superior airflow that hygienically and effectively removes debris nestled deep down in carpeting without damage to the fiber network.

Wools of New Zealand endorses four specific Miele models from the S4 compact and S5 full-size product lines: S4 Polaris, S4 Neptune, S5 Ariel and S5 Pisces. They are instructing their retailers to confidently recommend these vacuums to care for fine woolen floor coverings. In addition, Miele is offering exclusive vacuum coupons for Wools of New Zealand Premier Partners to give to customers purchasing wool carpets and rugs. The coupon allows customers to obtain up to $100 off the purchase of a new Miele Polaris, Neptune, Ariel or Pisces vacuum cleaner at any participating authorized Miele dealer.
"This is a win-win partnership that was developed in response our retailers' requests," says Elise Demboski, Executive Director of Wools of New Zealand, North America. "When customers ask about vacuums, our retailers want to recommend a product they know is safe for use on wool. Miele is an extremely reputable company with vacuums that exceed the criteria for being wool safe.”
About MieleThere are only a few brands in the world that have sustained their vision, traditions and high-quality standard for more than a century. Fewer still that can claim consistent family ownership and international brand name integrity. And only one that is recognized for creating the world’s most innovative appliances. Founded in Germany in 1899 with a single promise of Immer Besser, a phrase meaning Forever Better, Miele has dynamically grown to become the world’s largest family-owned and operated appliance company with over 16,000 employees, 12 production facilities, representation in nearly 100 countries and annual turnover of €2.77bn, approximately USD$3.67bn (2008/09).
As a premium appliance brand represented on all continents, Miele is steadfastly committed to the highest quality, performance and environmental standards. The company’s innovative heritage, state-of-the-art design and engineering aesthetic have inspired comparison to other powerhouse German brands synonymous with innovation: Mercedes-Benz and BMW.
Miele’s range of exceptional consumer appliances includes: vacuum cleaners; laundry systems; rotary irons; dishwashers; built-in convection, speed and steam ovens; cooktops; ventilation hoods; refrigeration; wine storage and coffee systems. Additionally, Miele Professional (the commercial product division) offers dishwashers, washing machines, tumble dryers and rotary irons for commercial use as well as washer-disinfectors for medical, dental and laboratory applications. 
For more information, consumers and design professionals are invited to call 800.843.7231, log on at or visit one of Miele’s modern product showrooms in Beverly Hills, CA; Boca Raton, FL; Chicago, IL; Dallas, TX; Princeton, NJ; New York, NY; Wellesley, MA; San Francisco, CA; Scottsdale, AZ and Seattle, WA.

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