So you?ve decided you need a new vacuum cleaner? It seems times have changed since last time you bought one of the home?s least sexy household appliances. Vacuum cleaners have come out of the closet and there has never been a wider choice of colours, funky designs and innovative technology as Sarah Cumberland reports.

But what type is the best? Barrel or upright? Bag or bagless? Should you buy one with a HEPA filter? Do you only need a little lightweight cordless unit for quick clean-ups or could you use a heavy duty ?wet and dry? machine for picking up pet ?spills?? Maybe you just want to be the first to have one of those robotic cleaners that operate like a pool cleaner. It?s no wonder your head is in a spin.

To help you make a decision, there are a few questions you need to ask yourself. What will be the main use of your vacuum cleaner? That is, what kind of surfaces do you have in your home?

Hard floor friendly

As a lot more houses are open plan, with wooden or tiled floors, people want a vacuum cleaner that is ?hard floor? friendly, says Paul Lipscombe, product manager – cleaning, at Samsung. The most popular machine for hard floors is the barrel (or canister) type. These are said to make up around 85% of models sold.

?Look out for bumpers on the actual vacuum unit to protect wooden furniture and walls from the usual knocks and scrapes they would receive from a hard plastic unit being dragged around,? Lipscombe says. ?Also, make sure your new machine has rubberised wheels which are gentler on hard floors than traditional plastic wheels.?

A vacuum cleaner without a brush bar, or one that can be retracted, will help prevent scratching of a timber floor and be more effective at picking up dirt. Many manufacturers now offer specific hard floor attachments.

Wall to wall carpet

If, on the other hand, you have an open plan, single storey home, which is predominantly carpeted, you may want to consider an upright model. According to Samsung?s Lipscombe, uprights are still considered to be the best vacuum cleaner for carpets. Moreover, they are easy to store in a cupboard.

Their main disadvantage is that they can be heavy, so they are not ideal if you have a weak back. Stairs can also pose a challenge for a heavy upright vacuum cleaner, which could be awkward or difficult to manoeuvre on a staircase. And, they?re no good if you want to vacuum inside your car.

When seeking a cleaner for carpet, one of the main features to look out for is a rotating brush (or a powered turbo head) which works to loosen and sweep the dust and dirt from inside the carpet pile.