What Does Peak HP (Horsepower) Mean on Shop Vac?

What Does Peak HP (Horsepower) Mean on Shop Vac

If you are a fan of Shop Vacs and heard the story that it was going out of business, take heart.  It isn’t going anywhere, actually – it was simply coming under different ownership.

At the time those stories began circulating, in 2020, Shop Vac had its facilities in Pennsylvania, New York, and China.  At that time, Shop Vac was about to go out of business, although that soon changed.  

In January 2020, GreatStar Tools USA purchased Shop Vac, the result of which was to keep the facility in Williamsport, PA, open.  It remains open and is turning out Shop Vac products today.  

GreatStar Tools is a subsidiary of Hangzhou GreatStar Industrial Co. LTD, which is based in China.  Hangzhou GreatStar is headquartered in Huangzhou, Zhejiang Province, China.  Shanghai is in Zhejiang Province, just to give you a general idea of its location.  It mostly produces hand tools, but Shop Vac is one of its family of companies manufacturing products for the shop.

Why Are They Called Shop Vacs?

Since Shop Vacs are used primarily at construction sites and in woodworking shops, the name Shop Vacs was chosen as appropriate. They are much more powerful than a home vacuum cleaner as they come with larger and more powerful motors, needed because they are expected to be able to pick up much larger and heavier objects. 

With strong suction, they are capable of lifting bolts, screws, and nails, among other things that find their way to the woodworking shop floor.  Home vacuums, by contrast, are expected to be able to lift small particles and dirt from the floor or carpet.  Shop Vacs will also suck up liquid and particles of much larger size.

What Other Companies Make Vacuum Systems for Shops?

Shop Vac is probably the best-known shop vacuuming system, but it is not the only one.  Both Rigid and Craftsman also make well-known shop vacuum systems and are among the best-rated:

Craftsman CMXEVBE17594.  This model from Craftsman comes with a 6.0 peak HP motor and is very capable of taking care of the cleanliness of your garage or woodworking shop.  Its 2.5” in diameter hose has the ability to turn 180 degrees at both ends and preventing the hose from kinking.  

It’s a dry/wet system that includes a 3-year warranty as a part of its purchase.  Outside of the shop or garage, it can also handle cleaning up grass clippings in season and leaves in the fall.  With a 20’ electrical cord, you’ll be able to move around well and freely as you clean up your shop.  It also has a 12-gallon tank that can hold a lot of shop debris and liquid.  It will run you around $120.

CRAFTSMAN CMXEVBE17594 12 Gallon 6.0 Peak HP Wet/Dry Vac, Portable Shop Vacuum with Attachments
  • POWERFUL PERFORMANCE: 6.0 Peak HP and 12-gallon drum ideal for projects in the garage, on the…
  • DUAL-FLEX TECHNOLOGY: 2-1/2 in. diameter shop vacuum hose features Dual-Flex technology for…
  • BUILT-IN BLOWER PORT: Rear blowing port on this wet/dry vac allows for quick cleaning of leaves and…
  • EXTRA-LONG POWER CORD: 20 ft. power cord provides reach for most chores and wraps neatly around…

Ridgid 1450 and Craftsman 12007 models are also highly rated shop vacuums and come with just a little bit more power at  6.5 peak HP and 14 – 16 gallon tanks.  They are among the strongest of shop vacuum machines and are a bit more money at around $180.  If your shop generates a lot of mess (sawdust, bits and pieces, bolts and such, or liquid, it might be worth considering this price jump.

Just for comparison, a professional grade and size Shop Vac will run you closer to $200.  While some consider that to be a name premium, most consider the Shop Vac to be a reliable system with solid features and worth a few dollars more.  Yet, Craftsman, Ridgid (both owned by the same parent company), and Vacmaster are among the top-of-the-line as well.

On Sale
CRAFTSMAN CMXEVBE17595 16 Gallon 6.5 Peak HP Wet/Dry Vac, Heavy-Duty Shop Vacuum with Attachments
  • HEAVY-DUTY: Powerful 6.5 Peak HP provides extra power for large projects in the garage, shop and on…
  • BUILT-IN BLOWER PORT: Rear blowing port on this wet dry vac allows for quick cleaning of leaves and…
  • OVERSIZED DRAIN: Built-in oversized drain on the wet/dry vac allows for convenient emptying of…
  • DUAL-FLEX TECHNOLOGY: 2-1/2 in. diameter shop vacuum hose features Dual-Flex technology for…

Shop Vac vs Dust Collectors

It comes down to the CFM – cubic feet per minute – power of the two common shop machines.  How much can each pull is the determining factor in this comparison.

Shop Vac:  a small-size shop vac will have 60 – 75 CFM; a medium-size shop vac will be in the 75 – 150 CFM range, and a large-size shop vac will be over 150 CFM.

Dust Collector:  with a woodworking equipment requirement of between 250 – 1000 CFM, you can see where this is going; it will depend on how many power tools in your shop are running simultaneously and generating dust.  

Average size table saws and other power tools likely to be in the woodworker’s shop will need between 300 – 600 CFM to clean effectively.  A shop vac is just not going to cut it.  

The dust filtering capability of even the most powerful shop vac is just not nearly as strong as even a small dust collector, as the dust collector is going to be able to pull air and dust through the filter at a much greater CFM.  While a large-size shop vac could pull air and dust in near the low end of a dust collector, the latter will be much more effective in gathering dust in your shop.

We’ve written of dust collection systems on these pages in the past, and you will find a couple of pieces here and here if you wish to read up on them as well.

Do You Need a Filter On Your Shop Vac If Collecting Dust?

Simply stated, yes. 

For fine debris like dust, it’s best to use an effective filter bag or HEPA collection bag for that fine particulate matter.   HEPA is an acronym for “high-efficiency particulate air (filter is dropped off since HEPA sounds cooler than HEPAF).  If you don’t use a filter bag, the dust is simply going to be gathered up and sent back out into the air you just collected it from.

Are Shop Vacs Just For Woodworking Shops?

If you’re like us, you use your house vacuum cleaner to clean out your car and maybe even vacuum your outdoor sitting area, patio, or deck.  So, why not use a shop vac for something beyond the shop?

With the ability to pick up both dry and wet, the shop vac has a place in settings other than just the shop downstairs:

  • The fireplace
  • A big kitchen mess (both wet and dry)
  • The charcoal grill
  • Drain a flooded basement
  • Unclog a sink drain or suck up that wedding ring you dropped down the drain

There are five quick ones, but we’re sure you can come up with more.  

How Much Horsepower Does a Shop Vac have?

Stanley - SL18116P Wet/Dry Vacuum, 6 Gallon, 4 Horsepower Black

It depends, of course.  How much money would you like to spend, and what model do you have in mind?

Perhaps the better question is, how much do you need?  What kind of mess do you make in your shop?  How many power tools are generating that debris, and are they all or most working simultaneously?  How about liquid spills?  

We’ve already noted the beasts in the group – the Ridgid and Craftsman models, their 6.0 peak HP motors, and their 14 – 16 gallon tanks.  That’s a lot of sucking power and a great deal of storage at one fill, of course, and would be for the larger woodworking shops with numerous power tools (table saws, miter saws, planers, etc.).

They’re both wet and dry vacuums, too, and can handle larger debris, bolts, nails, screws, and water spills.  Their motors can generate that kind of power.  They come with multiple nozzles, one for dry, one for wet, and a utility nozzle that can handle a variety of materials to be scooped up.

What Does Peak HP  mean?

The power ratings for shop vacs are expressed as peak HP or peak horsepower, and you will want to know both what that means and what peak HP rating you want/need for your woodworking shop.

When the performance of a shop vac is tested, the measurement used for that rating is the motor output, including its inertial contribution to that output (power).  Inertial contribution refers to the energy that is generally stored in both motors and rotating generators, and it gives motors the tendency to keep rotating.  

So, in addition to the power generated by the motor’s operation, there is also the inertial contribution inherent in the motor itself.  While it may not be a great deal of energy, it nonetheless contributes to the power available to the shop vac’s operation.

Peak horsepower is the combined power of its operation plus the inherent power in the motor to continue to rotate.

Somewhere in that 6.0 peak HP rating of the Craftsman mentioned earlier and the 6.5 peak HP rating of the Ridgid is that small contribution of power from the motor’s inertia and the power being generated by its operation. 

It may sound a bit technical, and it sort of is, but it is also real.  It also sounds bigger/better/stronger to be able to say 6.5 peak HP, too.

For those of you in the market for a shop vac and are comparing the various brand names and power ratings, we did find a video that you might find helpful.  At the least, it will demonstrate some of what we have written today. 

You’ve likely gathered that we believe a woodworking shop should have both a dust collection system and a shop vac.  One can not adequately replace the other.  If your shop has the kinds of power tools that will generate messes needing a vacuum strong enough to gather it up, your shop is also likely generating a lot of dust.  Each one has its strength and its place in your shop as a result.

A clean shop is a happy shop.  We don’t really say that often, but you get the message.

Last update on 2022-11-26 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API