How to find out if your stick vac battery sucks, and what you can do about it.
One of the downsides of cordless convenience is the lack of runtime.
While sticks are brilliant for cleaning spills or small areas, most don’t go long enough between charges to tackle a larger home. Worse, as their batteries age, you don’t have to lose much runtime before they become unusable.
We think you should get at least four years of normal use from a stick vac (using it twice a week) before its battery capacity falls below 65% to 70%. If you don’t, contact the retailer and ask for a fix.
However, you shouldn’t expect to get a whole new vac. If the problem is just a tired battery, it’s an easy fix that saves unnecessary e-waste.
You can compare the runtime of your stick vac with our test results for 41 models. We run each model on full power and measure its runtime with a new, fully charged battery. You can measure how much capacity your stick has lost by repeating our test with your older vac, then making a simple calculation.
Fully charge the battery.
Select maximum power.
Install the main motorised cleaning head.
Start a timer.
Turn your vac on or hold the trigger until it stops spinning.
Stop the timer.
Calculate the battery capacity % = 100 x (current runtime/new runtime).
If we haven’t tested your model – check your manual, or the manufacturer’s website. You’re looking for the stated runtime on maximum power (which will be the lowest stated runtime).
Battery failure isn’t an exact science, but when remaining capacity drops below about 70%, you’ll start to run into bigger trouble (for example, your vac running erratically or not charging properly).
Runtimes are measured on max power with a motorised cleaning head fitted (if supplied).
If your vac isn’t charging at all, the fault could be with the charger.
Look for a charging light on the charger or vac when it’s plugged into the wall (and make sure it’s turned on!). Check your manual to see what indication should appear while the vac is charging.
If the charger plugs in through a docking station, it’s worth removing it and directly connecting it to your vac in case the fault is a dodgy connection through the dock.
If there’s a light on the vac or charger that doesn’t come on, it’s a sign the charger is a dud. Used as directed, we don’t think a charger should fail for the life of the vac. If you suspect yours is at fault, contact the retailer or manufacturer and ask for a replacement.
Your stick loses runtime (battery capacity) every time you use it, and even while it sits unused. Though there’s no way to stop this, you can slow it down.
Here are our tips to get the most from a stick vac battery:
Don’t run it until it’s empty (stop before the battery is fully drained, and recharge it more often between uses).
Li-ion batteries lose capacity each time they are discharged and recharged. A full discharge and recharge (100% to 0 and back to 100%) does more damage than several partial cycles that add to the same runtime.
Don’t leave it fully charged (only recharge it fully just before you need to use it).
When it’s not in use, a battery at 100% charge loses capacity faster than one that’s only partially charged.
Keep it at room temperature – heat makes the battery lose capacity faster.
Put it in a cool place when it’s not being used (or being charged), out of direct sunlight. Also, don’t charge it up immediately after use (let it cool down first).
I've got a Dyson V6 at home. It's had a good life, but its battery was on its last legs after four years of use. When it was new, I got seven minutes runtime on maximum power – that dwindled to just over four minutes. It had just 60% of its original capacity left.
I was happy with everything else about the V6, so I used a few tricks to eke out a little more life from it:
Keep your vac clean and empty its bin frequently.
With dirty filters, a full bin and a brush bar wrapped in hair and fibres, my V6 ran for 4min 15sec on maximum power. Cleaning everything and emptying its bin gave me an extra 20 seconds (10%) runtime.
Turn the power down.
I had to run my V6 on “max power” to clean my carpets. However, on my wood and tile floors I could turn it down, greatly extending runtime, and still get a good clean.
Only turn it on when you need to clean.
Moving about an area using the V6’s trigger only when I was cleaning meant I could eke out a third or more of extra cleaning time.
Tip: There’s a comprehensive guide to maintaining its stick vacs and diagnosing faults at https://support.dyson.co.nz/SupportHome. I followed this advice when tackling my V6. It’s a good example of the sort of advice all manufacturers should make available to consumers.
I bought myself time by changing how I use my V6, but its failing battery eventually meant it didn’t always recharge properly, and sometimes cut out after only a minute or so of use.
Ultimately, it needed replacing.
Dyson offers a two-year warranty on its vacs (no use to me and my four-year-old model). Now, I don’t believe a costly, big-brand stick vac should last for just two years (and nor do many consumers – in our recent survey, only a quarter strongly agreed that the warranty was a good indication of product life). However, I’ll concede I’d had reasonable use from my vac.
This is where catastrophic failure becomes a good news story. Dyson makes batteries readily available for all its stick vacs. The battery for my V6 cost $99, with free delivery.
Installing the battery was a breeze, needing two screws to be removed and replaced. The replacement took all of a minute and needed no specialist skills other than being able to turn a screwdriver.
The result is a runtime back to seven minutes and five seconds. The rest of the stick works perfectly, and I’ve got it back to being as good as new.
Battery life alone shouldn’t determine the life of the vac. We expect corded vacs to go for at least eight years.
It’s reasonable to expect to replace a stick vac battery. I was willing to pay $99 after four years of use from my V6, and I expect the replacement battery to last for another four years.
However, cordless stick manufacturers should do better. They know the batteries will need to be replaced long before the rest of the vac wears out. An enlightened manufacturer could steal a march on its competitors and come clean with consumers. It could provide a guarantee that its batteries will last for so many years, or it will replace them for free.
With spare batteries also available at a reasonable cost for owners of longer-lasting vacs, the enlightened manufacturer will keep their sticks sucking, and owners happy and loyal, for many more years.
Too many broken vacuum cleaners are clogging our landfills. In our recent survey, 22% of consumers admitted to throwing a broken vacuum cleaner out with their regular rubbish.
Even recycling should be the last resort. It’s a much more efficient use of resources to keep using a vac, rather than recycle it.
Associate Environment Minister Eugenie Sage recently announced electrical and electronic products as one of six priorities for a regulated product stewardship scheme, under the Waste Minimisation Act.
This means manufacturers will become responsible for the products they sell once those products reach the end of their life. The hope is that the mandatory scheme will encourage them to make products more durable, repairable and recyclable, as they’ll be saddled with the cost of dealing with their failures otherwise.