The following article is a review of the Milwaukee M12 Compact Vacuum, and is intended to be an info page with some description, photographs and technical specifications as provided by the manufacturer.
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In the course of my contracting work, despite having an arsenal of power tools that will accomplish a myriad of tasks, I realised I had one weakness – and that’s during the cleaning up phase. At the end of a work day, sweeping debris from the job site could be tedious, and I sought a simpler way to make life easier. I was also feeling the itch of getting something new for the collection of power tools, and search in the direction of Milwaukee and Ryobi, since I am already on both their 12V and 18V cordless solutions respectively. While Ryobi has a powerful 18V system for a cordless handheld vacuum, I ultimately went with the Milwaukee M12 Compact Vacuum, for reasons which I will go through below.
The Milwaukee M12 Compact Vacuum runs on 12V lithium-ion batteries of which I already have quite a number used in my other M12 cordless power tools from this manufacturer. That means I could just buy the vacuum bare, i.e. without battery or charger, which helps keep the cost down. Even then, this M12 Compact Vacuum cost me US$85.00, which I didn’t think was cheap. For starters, this tool doesn’t fall in Milwaukee’s FUEL series, and hence does not utilise the company’s well-known powerful brushless motors.
Still, the Milwaukee M12 Compact Vacuum is fitted with a high performance motor that delivers 33 cubic feet per minute of air suction. In my tests, the vacuum runs at constant power until complete battery depletion. The power does dip slightly in the last few minutes of battery life, but still remains highly usable, unlike most competing conventional cordless vacuum cleaners in the market. Even then, the drop is only perceivable when you switch to new fully charged battery, with the sudden noticeable increase in motor noise.
Speaking of noise, the M12 Compact Vacuum does operate with considerable noise, registering a 88.5 dB on my sound pressure level meter measured at about one foot away. This is not unlike many other commercial vacuum cleaners in the market – my Electrolux Ergorapido ZB3012 registered a 79.5 dB from the same distance. While this may indicate high power (or a lack of adequate sound insulation), it is also a reminder that late-hour vacuum work could just very well annoy the neighbours. Noise issues aside, the M12 Compact Vacuum works extremely well and is effective at what it was designed for. Noise measurements are usually taken at about a metre away, but I’ve measured from a foot’s distance in order to squeeze two devices within the photo frames below. By comparison, noise emanating from a TV set at normal volume is about 65 to 70 dB measured from a foot away. Yes, I just measured that as well!
The Milwaukee M12 Compact Vacuum comes with a number of attachments, which are attached to the nozzle of the vacuum. The wide utility nozzle is suitable for floor and carpet vacuuming, as well as for use on sofa and other furniture. The crevice tool with its slim profile allows reach to tight spaces and corners, such as ceiling and wall corners, and deep spaces in between cushions and the car. Dust in between vent holes on electrical appliances is also best vacuumed with the crevice tool as the smaller orifice cross-section area increases the rate of air flow and suction pressure. An extension wand in included to increase the reach of either of these two attachments – useful for under the bed vacuuming work!
Large Clear Window and Reusable Filter
The M12 Compact Vacuum features a large clear window view of the dust canister and filter within, so that it is easy to check debris fill level without needing to open the assembly and check. One could also check to see if the filter is covered with too much dust and dirt, which could affect its performance. One quick look and the tool user can then determine if removing the canister to empty it or clean the filter is necessary.
The vacuum unit is not designed for wet vacuum use, and should not be operated over wet or damp areas as water ingress may result in filter media damage and motor failure.
The M12 Compact Vacuum uses a reusable 42-pleat conical filter that resembles some automobile air filter. Removing it from the vacuum is simple and straightforward. First remove the canister by pushing the unlock switch and rotating to the unlock position to access the filter within, and then twist the filter and disengage it from the vacuum unit. The filter should be twisted open by holding the finger tabs so as not to damage the filter medium and pleats. Cleaning can be done by shaking the dust loose, or with a toothbrush. Do use a brush with very soft bristles, as normal bristles tend to be a little too harsh on the paper medium.
Battery and Run-Time
What makes this system so ideal is you can run the vacuum “continuously” as long as you have a charged spare battery at your disposal. The only break is when you’re swapping a depleted battery with a fully-charged one. The Milwaukee M12 Compact Vacuum boasts best-in-class run-time of up to 29 minutes on a single charge using the company’s high capacity 4.0Ah XC4.0 REDLITHIUM batteries. Compare this with the aforementioned Electrolux Ergorapido which runs on an 18V lithium-ion that provides 37 minutes run-time but takes 4 hours to charge, the Milwaukee M12 Compact Vacuum has a run-time of up to 29 minutes on a single charge, and the battery takes about an equal time to fully charge. And with the batteries charged “out of body”, the vacuum could still be run on a spare battery while the depleted one is charged on a separate charger. This means a lot less downtime. Maybe even none, if you keep one or two batteries charged and available, like I do. I don’t own the high capacity 4.0Ah battery, but running this vacuum with my 2.0Ah and 3.0Ah definitely allowed me a run-time of 20 minutes and more. In comparison, the older Ergorapido (e.g. ZB3003AG) operates on a 12V Ni-MH battery with a run-time of 24 minutes but takes an astounding 16 hours to charge – in-body – rendering the Ergorapido vacuum unusable while it is being charged. The Milwaukee M12 Compact Vacuum is of a totally different system and design altogether.
The Milwaukee M12 Compact Vacuum’s portable size makes it easy to bring along to job sites. That also means it is easy to bring it along to my condo’s car wash facility and do my own vacuuming before washing the car. This I did recently and found it to be the ideal vacuum cleaner for the car. I have used a few auto vacuum cleaners in the past and they either have unreasonably short run-time or required plugging into the car’s cigarette lighter socket to work. The M12 Compact Vacuum runs as long as you have charged spare batteries on hand, and with practical run-times of over 20 mins each, one would only need one or two batteries for a complete car vacuuming job.
|Battery voltage||12V lithium-ion|
|Motor performance||33 cubic feet per minute|
|Run-time||up to 29 minutes (4.0Ah battery)|
|Filter type||42-pleat conical reuseable|
|Tool length:||470 mm (18.5 inches)|
|Tool weight:||1.02 kg (2.25 lbs)|
I am not sure if the M12 Compact Vacuum was designed for long period daily use over a large coverage area like for the entire house, but for such frequent and extended operation, to avoid premature damage, I’d probably opt for a mains powered vacuum cleaner. I don’t vacuum the house very often, which makes running a battery-operated small-sized vacuum cleaner such as this feasible. The Milwaukee M12 Compact Vacuum makes for an effective total vacuuming solution that I am now using not only for the car and at job sites, but also for the home. Being compact and lightweight, it is comfortable to use for long durations, and easy to get into tight spots and crevices like wall corners and under the bed. And under the sofa.