In 1876, Melvin Bissel patented a manual sweeper that changed housecleaning forever, eliminating the need to lug rugs outdoors to beat the dirt out of them. The revolving-brush sweeper still has a place in many homes today, though many people prefer the ease of the more modern electric vacuum cleaner.
The manual sweeper, because it uses no electricity, is the obvious energy efficient option. While the energy efficiency of electric vacuum cleaners is constantly being improved, even a very efficient vacuum can't compare to a manual sweeper. On the other hand, vacuum cleaners are efficient in that it takes less time and human energy to use them, especially when it comes to cleaning large areas and dirtier carpets that a manual sweeper can't easily clean.
A sweeper is very light, easy to store and the dirt it collects is easy to empty into the trash; it can sweep under beds and sofas, and it's easy to use for quick cleanup because there is no setup involved. A vacuum cleaner may be light and compact, and the vacuum power is a convenience because it pulls out dirt automatically. Electric vacuums usually use bags that have to be replaced and have to be set up within the range of an electric outlet, and heavier units are not convenient for small jobs.
Sweepers clean surface dirt from floors and short carpeting. They aren't as useful for thicker carpeting or very dirty carpets. A vacuum cleaner can clean all kinds of carpeting, but are less useful on hard floors. With attachments, however, an electric vacuum cleaner can clean upholstery, drapery and auto interiors, all things a manual sweeper can't do. An electric vacuum can effectively clean almost any sized area, while a manual sweeper is best used in smaller spaces.
The cost of a good manual sweeper can be about the same as a cheap vacuum cleaner, and it will likely last much longer. Inexpensive sweepers run much less than any new vacuum cleaner, so are the cheapest option of all, but are also unlikely to last very long. A higher end vacuum cleaner can cost significantly more, and a central vacuum cleaner system, which requires special installation in your home, costs significantly more than a stand-alone model.
Delaware-based Daisy Cuinn has been writing professionally since 1997, when she became the features editor for her local biweekly music newspaper. She has been a staff writer and contributor to online and offline magazines, including "What It Is!," Celebrations.com and Slashfood. Cuinn holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Temple University.