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How home food sealers work with vacuum sealer bags

Food sealing systems fall into three general types: Commercial-duty internal-type "chamber" vacuum sealers (type #1), where your product is placed entirely within the machine for sealing, "external vac" sealers built for commercial use (type #2), and "external vac" sealers built for home consumer use (type #3). Consumer-style vacuum sealers are also referred to as "clamp" or "clamping" vacuum sealers because during operation the lid clamps down over the open end of the vacuum sealer bag.

With chamber-type commercial vacuum packaging systems, the product is placed entirely in a chamber like the one in the drawing at left, below. The lid is closed, and a high speed commercial vacuum pump extracts the air from the entire chamber. When the air has been extracted, a commercial-grade heat strip (indicated in red, below) automatically seals the bag, then air is allowed back into the chamber surrounding the vacuum sealed bag, and—with fully automatic machines—the lid reopens and lifts on its own. The vacuum sealed product is removed, and the process is repeated to seal the next bag. Commercial machines of this type use economical laminated poly-nylon bags that are smooth on both the inside and the outside (not embossed.) Some chamber type machines also offer a gas-flush option, which automatically flushes the vacuum chamber with inert gas (most often nitrogen) after evacuation of the air, and before sealing. This results in a bag that contains no oxygen, but is not sucked down tightly. Items as fragile as potato chips can be vacuum sealed without damage this way.

Drawings above represent the three basic types of vacuum sealing systems, shown from a side perspective. The heat sealing bar is shown in red. Dotted lines in the left and right-hand images represent the vacuum cavity within those machines. The yellow block represents the material to be vacuum sealed in bag.
Chamber Vacuum Sealer (Commercial Duty) External-Vacuum Sealer (Commercial Duty with "Snorkel") External-Vacuum Sealer  (Home Consumer Duty)
Chamber Vacuum Sealer
(commercial duty)
External-Vacuum Sealer
(commercial duty with "snorkel")
External-Vacuum Sealer
(home consumer duty)
Uses smooth bags Uses smooth bags Uses embossed bags (with ridges)

With external-vacuum sealers, the product remains outside the machine. Air is extracted by means of a retractable "snorkel" probe (illustrated in green in the image above) in commercial external vacuum sealers. Home-duty external vacs extract air using a small vacuum cavity which the open end of the bag is laid into while the machine clamps down over the bag. This design requires home-duty external vacuums to use pouches made with embossed plastic, so the air can be evacuated through the clamped-over section of the bag, by means of ridges embossed into one side of the bag material. 

Selecting the best vacuum food sealer & vacuum sealer bags

Purchasing a quality home-duty food sealer is a smart move for the home gourmet, gardener or sportsman who will be doing a relatively small volume of packaging. Likewise, a commercial vacuum packaging system is a good investment for anyone with a restaurant or commercial food operation, who wants to dramatically extend fresh storage life, provide customers with a higher quality and more appealing product, reduce waste, and easily enable portion control.

Could a commercial machine be best for you? Between the obvious commercial operator and the typical home user, is another type of food vacuum user: The user who isn't actually doing commercial work, yet is sealing a higher volume of bags than most home users. Some people who are shopping for a home-duty machine would be way ahead to buy a small commercial vacuum, rather than a machine made strictly for home use. Initial investment will be higher for the commercial machine, but there are several major benefits to commercial machines, including much lower operating costs. Commercial vacuums offer:

  • Higher production rates: Seal more bags in less time
  • Long machine life span even under heavy volume use
  • Easier and lower-cost serviceability
  • Wider selection of bag sizes and types
  • Lower plastic cost

Plastic cost is the primary price issue in moderate to higher volume applications... even more important than machine cost. Because vacuum sealer bags for commercial sealers (either chamber type or commercial external type with snorkel probe) don't require special features like surface ridges, they cost less. For the typical home user, using the ridged (aka "embossed" or "channel") plastic with a low cost home-duty machine makes perfect sense because a much lower volume of plastic will be used during the life of the machine. But for medium or higher volume home users, the lower cost of the smooth plastic used by commercial external or chamber vacuum sealers can save you a lot of money in the long run, and the breakeven point might arrive sooner than you'd think. If you'll be using medium size bags, a commercial machine would cost no more to purchase and operate than a home-duty machine by the time you've sealed approximately 1000 to 1500 bags. At that point the commercial machine has paid for itself in plastic savings, and it then continues to generate major savings for you through continued use of the very economical commercial bags. Add to this the commercial vacuum's convenient operation, longer life span and higher production rate, and it's clear that the advantages of a commercial chamber vac shouldn't be overlooked. If you'll be doing small quantities, then by all means, one of our quality home-use machines may be the ideal, economical solution for you. But if you'll be sealing 80 or more packages monthly, don't buy a "consumer style" vacuum sealer without first doing the math on total operating costs (machine and plastic cost, and operating time) over a two year period.

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