Watts, Airflow and Waterlift Explained

Watts, Airflow and Water lift Explained

A common misunderstanding on various forums that cover gutter vacuum cleaning is usually that one element is being more important than the other, these being the wattage, airflow and water lift of a wet and dry industrial machine. I’m going to try and attempt to elaborate so we can gain a greater understanding of how these elements are all major factors when choosing a gutter vac for your business.

The power of the suction is obviously an important aspect. That is what is going to clear the gutters faster, productively freeing up your time to proceed on to the next property.

The suction motor takes the electrical power from the source of power and converts it into a mechanical form of power suction with airflow. Perhaps a good analogy would be a human eating food, it’s not necessarily the amount of energy you put in, it’s how well a persons body processes that energy, some are better than others! No wonder that rating a vacuum for it’s ability to produce that suction via airflow is widely misunderstood.

Water lift

The sealed suction of a vacuum is achieved in inches of water lift, this signifies the performance of the motor. It’s the ability to efficiently convert the input power to the output power. Essentially the sum of water flowing through the nozzle. It is this that will tell you how well the machine will perform. The sealed suction is larger than the suction in which typically is produced with air flow.

When the motor is totally sealed, the term refers to how many inches the motor will vertically lift in a 1″ column of water. The water lift of a vacuum cleaner is useful indicator of performance, in that it is a means of comparing the suction of one motor to another and, generally speaking the more water lift the better – anything over 80″ is rated high, which is perfect for getting through those cleans efficiently and effectively.


Now, we know that water lift is an important factor, but we’re not lifting water higher than an inch or so out of a gutter. The initial lifting and movement of solid objects from the gutter into the drum of your vacuum is where airflow movement is key.

Airflow ratings are obtained by measuring the airflow through the power unit. It is the movement of air from one place to another and the force exerted by the moving air.  Again, the higher the airflow movement, the faster the suction performance drawing solid organic matter up the nozzle, and away from the gutter into the machine’s drum faster.


Wattage ratings are acquired by multiplying the amp power drawn from the power source, by the voltage of the power source.

The input power of the machine’s motor is measured in watts. As this specification doesn’t take into account the efficiency of the motor or the number of fans, the motor wattage is a valid way to evaluate and compare the power of the motor.

Compare motor input power in watts of machines or if you have to compare a machine rated in watts with one rated in amps, try to get the amperage rating of the motor only instead of the entire vacuum. You can then convert this to watts and have a meaningful comparison, otherwise it’s the equivalent of comparing pounds to dollars, you have to have a common denominator!


In summary the conversion of input power to output power varies between machines. It isn’t always the case that the greater the input power, the greater the suction. Where some machines have three motors pulling in power, other industrial vacuums can produce high suction and air flow amounts with one or two motors.

Therefore, all elements need to be considered and work in unison with each other to produce the best quality cleaning a device can produce. Essentially, they’re all important factors!