Within the realm of vacuum (dust extractor) specs and measurables, many features compete for top honors, to include filtration efficiency, durability, ergonomics, specialized attachments, and ease of maintenance. But make no mistake, when the machine meets the concrete, airflow and water lift are what it’s really all about. For maximum vacuum performance in a surface prep environment, high marks in those two metrics are absolutely essential.

In our industry, the most important gauge for vacuum performance is typically airflow, measured in cubic feet per minute (CFM). High airflow ensures that a large volume of air (and therefore dust and debris) is moved quickly through the vacuum system. Think sucking up lots of light stuff. During concrete grinding, a vacuum with high CFM can effectively capture and contain fine silica dust before it becomes airborne, thereby providing a cleaner work environment and protecting worker health. High airflow is also crucial for maintaining effective suction over larger surfaces. This is particularly important in industrial settings where the work area can be extensive, like in warehouses, factories, and superstores.

Running a close second to airflow, water lift indicates the vacuum’s ability to handle heavier debris and liquids and is measured in inches of water column (inH2O) or millibars (mbar). Also known as “sealed suction,” this measure refers to the maximum height a vacuum can lift water vertically. Higher water lift values signify greater suction strength, vital for heavy-duty cleaning and debris removal. It’s also helpful with HEPA filters, as they offer higher resistance due to the finer filtration. Concrete grinding would be a classic example of the need for high water lift, as large amounts of dust and debris are generated. On the other hand, too-high water lift would not be ideal for shot blasting, as you do not want to vacuum the shot until it’s sufficiently broken down.

Ultimately, a good balance between airflow and water lift is ideal. For surface prep vacuums (dust extractors), this range typically falls between 150-300 CFM for airflow and 80-120 inches of water lift. This equilibrium ensures efficient dust and debris removal to match the needs of various surface preparation tasks. Vacuums with these specifications, along with high filtration efficiency (HEPA filter), durability, and ease of maintenance, will enhance productivity, safety, and cleanliness on the job site. Von Arx offers a full lineup of dust extractors to meet these expectations. And once you select your machine, there is only one last thing to consider. Is it true that when you clean out a vacuum cleaner, you actually become a vacuum cleaner?