Under the RRP, if lead is disturbed in a carpeted area, you must use a beater bar (the kind of rotating brush found in home vacuums) when vacuuming the floor. There are two kinds of beater-bar attachments – electric and air-powered. Electrical beaters have built-in motors that plug into the wall or a standard receptacle on the front of the machine. Air-powered beaters are spun by the force of the vacuum's suction. Electric beaters are more powerful, but air-powered ones are simpler, lighter, and less expensive.
Some manufacturers offer a limited set of attachments, while others sell attachments for any task a vacuum could conceivably be used for. Most attachments (including beater bars) can be swapped from one brand to another, so don't let a lack of available attachments dissuade you from buying a vacuum you like.
Chris Kennel works for City Side Remodeling in Denver.
Type of Motor
Some manufacturers will try to differentiate their vacuums from the cheaper models sold in big-box stores by pointing out that their machines use bypass motors. And it's true that bypass motors are superior to the cheap flow-through motors found in shop-style vacs – but they are not necessarily better than the flow-through motors used in some higher-quality HEPA vacuums.
Canister models (left) are by far the most common type of HEPA vacuum. Tool-activated models (center) include an outlet for tools to be plugged into. When the tool comes on, the vacuum is activated, so that the hose can collect dust as it's generated. Backpack models (right) don't hold much debris but they're highly mobile and good for use on uneven ground.
Flow-through models use an impeller to create a single stream of air. This stream enters through the hose, passes through the filters, and then exits through the motor, thereby cooling it. In bypass models, a sealed impeller pulls air through the hose and filters and exhausts it without sending it through the motor. A fan cools the motor with a separate stream of ambient room air.
The flow-through design can be a problem in inexpensive shop-style vacuums because dust and grit can get through the filter and cause premature wear to the motor, and the motor may overheat if airflow is reduced by a clogged hose or filter. Such problems are unlikely to occur in a HEPA vacuum, however, because the air coming out of the filter is cleaner than the room air. If the hose ever did clog, a pressure-relief valve would open to admit cooling air or a thermal-protection switch would shut down the motor before it could overheat.
The dial on this tool-activated vacuum (left) allows the user to turn down the suction; you might want to do this while collecting dust from a sander or to prevent the machine from pulling plastic protection off the floor. You can reduce suction on vacs without this feature by uncovering a secondary opening (right) on the wand.
Bosch Power Tools
Fein Power Tools
Traditionally, contractors have vacuumed without using rotating brushes (beater bars), but the RRP requires them for carpet-cleaning. Electric beater-bar accessories (top) contain their own motors and are powerful but expensive. Turbo models (above) are lighter and more economical; they're driven by the air moving through the hose.