Vacuum Cleaner Belts come in many styles, and hundreds of sizes. Typically,
domestic vacuums use a belt to drive an agitation device - also called brush
roller. With only a few exceptions, most vacuums use either a flat belt, a round
belt (O-RING style) or a geared belt (also called toothed / notched belt).
The Type of belt your vacuum uses is very important, not only for
durability's sake - but also performance. The type and condition of belt your
vacuum uses will have a major impact on the systems ability to clean carpeted
surfaces. Proper agitation (Beating, sweeping and brushing carpet fibers) is
nearly 70 percent of a vacuums cleaning ability. You can also read that as less
than 30% of vacuumed soil (on a carpeted surface) is removed by suction.
Suction is very important however,. It is suction that pulls the dirt that
has been beaten or brushed from the carpet into the vacuums collection media
(paper bag or dust cup). Suction (airflow) is also the key factor in cleaning
hard surfaces or when using the vacuums hose with attachments. Without suction a
vacuum cleaner could only bring dirt to a carpets surface. While obviously both
suction and agitation are important in vacuuming carpets, it is the agitation
that actually cleans them.
Most all manufacturers use a brush roller made of wood, metal or plastic
driven by a suction or brush motor through the use of one of the three kinds of
belt - Round, Flat or Geared.
Round belts are the earliest style of belt as they were simple to produce and
easy to engineer on a vacuum. Unfortunately the round style of vacuum belt is
generally run in the same space as vacuumed dirt. This means nearly all the
dirt, paper clips, staples and hair you vacuum pass around the belt - cutting,
nicking or scratching the belt along the way. These belt also had to stretch a
longer distance, placing more stress on the brush roller and the motor bearings.
This type of belt is still in use today on some domestic commercial vacuums. The
average useful life of these belts can be sometimes measured in minuets of use
in commercial applications. For home use, most vacuum can go 3 or 4 months
before the noticeable reduction of cleaning ability as the belt begins to
stretch and slip.
As belts moved from a natural rubber compound to more synthetic ingredients
they became a little more durable, but more importantly they could be
manufactured in styles other than "round". Enter the flat belt,
perhaps the most common belt in use on domestic vacuums today. The flat belt is
circular as all other belts but have a flat face. This is important because the
point of contact could be expanded from 3/16 on a round belt up to
5/8 or even 3/4 on a flat belt. I guess you could say that
"there is more rubber where it meets the road". More contact mean less
slippage, however the vacuums fault tolerance is still built in.
What is vacuum belt fault tolerance? - The rubber belt runs on an extended
motor rotor shaft designed to hold a belt in place up to the brush roller. The
belt is stretched into place for normal use and requires stored tension in the
rubber belt to operate. If the vacuum is used and put into a condition where the
brush can not turn the belt is designed to burn, then break. While this is a
pain to anyone cleaning on Sunday before company comes over, it is a necessary
evil. If the belt did not stretch, burn then break then it could possible be the
motor that would try to stretch, burn then break. Just imagine that every time
you caught the corner of a throw rug, or vacuumed up the kids socks you had to
replace the motor in your vacuum. So this fault tolerance, while a bit low-tech,
Flat belts are also most often run in a circular fashion as well, instead of
the twisted route the round belt takes to deliver performance in the proper
direction. This allows the manufacturers to run the belt off one side of the
brush roller, instead of the center where the dirt is. This is a great
innovation as well because you can eliminate premature failure due to dirt and
soil in the belt path, and you also move the belt close to the brush roller
bearing reducing stress on the entire machine.
Flat belts were defiantly an improvement to vacuums in general, and continued
to be improved themselves. One company has introduced a Kevlar© vacuum belt. As
you might imagine, this belt does not stretch but is tensioned by an external
pulley. The hope is that this belt will have an extended life of 8 to 12 months.
Also recently, Hoover has combined flat belts with another style of ridged belt
called a "V" belt. The "V" belt is used to drive the roller
because it is hard and not subject to cuts and scratches in the brush roller
chamber. The flat belt is used farther back in the chain protected from the dirt
to provide tension, extending its life 2-3 times that of normal flat belts.
The last design of belt is considered by us in the industry as the best.
While many variations exist, the geared belt is the most efficient method by
which to drive a brush. The geared belt is also called a positive drive system
because the energy of the brush motor is transmitted directly to the brush. The
brush and motor are locked by fixed teeth to each other trough a tensionless
cogged belt. This direct connection results in higher cleaning efficiency
because the brush can be driven at a faster speed regardless the age of the
belt. Flat belts stretch as they become used (and warm) losing their tension.
This can mean a vacuum with a worn tension belt will clean 40% - 80% less
effectively than a vacuum with a new belt. Your vacuums belt is always
stretching - losing it's tension from the moment you put it on even wile at rest
stored in the closet.
Geared belts are not used under tension. You do not stretch a Geared belt
into its place. Geared belts are also usually reinforced, made of neoprene and
fiberglass just like those in a car. Geared belts are also many times more
durable than flat or round belts. Reinforced geared belts will typically last
years under normal household use, and in many cases will last the life of the
machine - never needing replacement.
There is really only one drawback to geared belts; the initial cost of the
vacuum. Geared belts are usually used on two motor vacuums, either canister
powerteams or European two motor uprights such as Lindhaus or Windsor. Not only
is a separate suction and brush motor required, but also electronic sensory
systems to tell the user when something is wrong in the brush. These new
electronic sensors take the place of the old burning belt, stopping the system
in an instant when something other than dirt and dust is accidentally pulled
into the nozzle. Imagine that, instead of driving all over town Sunday looking
for the right vacuum belt, you simply pull juniors toy soldier out of the
vacuums brush, and start cleaning again.
As you can see, belts are very important to your home vacuuming efforts, and
the technology behind vacuum belts is still changing. The newest advances in
belt technology are clutched brush systems with gearing reduction allowing the
use of a geared belt on single motor vacuums, and even the new "beltless"
vacuums that have actually embedded a motor into the brush roller - eliminating
the need for a belt completely. Always keep a fresh vacuum belt on hand, or
upgrade to a geared belt system and your time will be better spent while you