Allergy Standards Limited (ASL) is excited to announce a new addition to its asthma & allergy friendly®Standards portfolio: the Robotic Vacuum Cleaner Standard ASP:03-09/101
This article presents an overview of what is relevant to people with asthma and allergy when looking at vacuum cleaners, why it is challenging to test robotic vacuum cleaners (‘robots’ from now on) and what approach ASL adopted to assess their impact on indoor air.
Allergy Standards Limited (ASL) develops Certification standards for a variety of product categories. These standards are based on research, product testing, using the expertise of partners, and subject matter experts where necessary. All standards are peer-reviewed by a panel of medical experts in the field of asthma and allergy and the final version of the Standard is approved by the ASL Scientific Committee.
Allergy Standards has previously developed standards for manually-operated vacuum cleaners under the ASP:03 category. In brief, testing is designed to ensure that a vacuum cleaner aligns with the following principles:
- The vacuum cleaner must have the capability to reduce the dust and allergen burden from flooring
- Vacuuming must not result in excessive allergen or particulate exposure to the operator
- The vacuum cleaner must have the capability to effectively trap particles without leakage through the filter, seals, bag or canister/frame
- The vacuum cleaner must maintain suction performance as the dust reservoir fills or the filter begins to clog
- Performing a bag change or emptying of the receptacle must not result in excessive allergen or particle exposure to the operator
- The vacuum cleaner must have the capability to reduce the dust and allergen burden from a crevice in hard flooring
More information on the standard, the criteria and the test methods can be found on the industry page of our website.
Testing a robotic vacuum cleaner
Robots operate autonomously and require less human intervention or presence during the cleaning cycle. Although not all functions are automated (emptying their receptacle still requires a direct human intervention), they represent a potential benefit for people with asthma and allergies, as they can reduce their exposure to dust and allergens. Their construction and subsequent performance are different to manually-operated vacuum cleaners in a number of ways:
- It takes longer for a robot to clean a room, as its suction and cleaning ability, especially on carpet, are lower than manually-operated vacuum cleaners. To compensate, cleaning cycles may be more frequent and the nozzle is often equipped with side rotating brushes, which can represent a higher risk for airborne particle emissions.
- Robots are not always designed to reach corners, crevices or other difficult-to-reach areas. They are not a substitute for manual cleaning but may help to reduce the intensity and frequency of heavy cleaning cycles by maintaining a higher standard of cleanliness, particularly in commonly used areas of a room.
- Manual handling of robots affects their operation, making current vacuum cleaner assessment methods inadequate. For example, the assessment of leakage in manual devices is done off the floor with the nozzle taken off. This would not work for robots as they often stop functioning when taken off the floor.
- A robot’s cleaning pattern is determined via a cleaning algorithm and varies between brands and models. This poses a challenge to the assessment of device performance under controlled lab conditions to enable comparison between models. Manufacturers have responded by incorporating a test mode to enable product assessment to be conducted under more controlled conditions. This does not align with the approach of the Certification Program which aims to replicate the home environment during product testing and assessment. Our certification requires that robotic vacuum cleaner be tested in real operating conditions and not in test mode.
In summary, the methods used to assess manually-operated vacuum cleaner performance must be looked at and modified for robots.
Testing a robotic vacuum using the new standard
In the first part of the asthma & allergy friendly® ASP:03-09/101 Standard testing protocol, we seed a piece of flooring with test dust that contains dust mite allergen and cat allergen, and then run the robot vacuum cleaner over the flooring to test how much allergen is removed (certification principle 1). This is repeated multiple times in two different types of flooring (linoleum and carpet) with a newly seeded flooring after each pass. As the robot receptacle or bag fills up after each pass, we measure the reduction in suction loss (Certification principle 4).
To ensure that vacuuming does not result in excessive allergen or particulate exposure to the operator (Certification principle 2) we use a controlled environmental chamber to measure particles and allergens in the air when the robot is vacuuming the room. A control run in a clean room is used to assess motor emissions from the robot and the capability to effectively trap particles without leakage through the filter, seals, bag or canister/frame (Certification principle 3). This is done on a linoleum flooring and a carpet to reproduce the different home setups.
One of the easiest ways for dust and allergens to get into the air from vacuuming is when the bag or receptacle is full and is being emptied. The design of the device can have a big impact in minimising the amount of dust and allergens that are released into the room when the bag or receptacle is emptied. We test this by emptying a full bag or receptacle in the environmental chamber, using the user manual instructions, and we measure the particles and allergens that are released when this is done (Certification principle 5).
Robots fulfil similar functions to manually operated vacuums. However, one may not be considered a substitute for the other but rather each may contribute as part of a multifaceted approach to improve indoor air quality
Current testing methods for manual vacuums are not suitable to assess robots in line with the principles of the asthma & allergy friendly® Certification Program, therefore the ASL team has developed new innovative methods to assess their impact on the indoor environment.
We would love to discuss this in more detail! Please get in touch to get your robotic vacuum cleaner certified!
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