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Sizing a Central Vacuum

Properly sizing the power unit of a central vacuum system is critical to the appliance’s performance. Photo: Beam

When buying a central vacuum system, it is very important to match the power unit to the house so that the unit is powerful enough to effectively pull dirt through the system from every nook and cranny on every floor. Buying the right size unit isn’t rocket science, but it can be a little tricky. You must take into consideration the square footage of your house, the length of pipe required to service the system, and the suction necessary.

When we’re talking about sizing here, we’re referring to the vacuum system’s main component: the power unit. Most manufacturers offer several models that range in size, power, and price—these are designed to accommodate various sizes of houses both in suction power and in canister capacity.

Though vacuums tend to be rated by air power, air flow, and horse power, these measurements are not good indicators of effective suction. The most reliable measure is “waterlift,” which is established by a factory test of a sealed vacuum system’s sucking power. Check the manufacturer’s specifications for this number when comparing one model with another. Smaller systems have a waterlift rating of from 105 to 120 inches. As a rule of thumb, these will handle a 2,500-square-foot house. Power units of equal strength do not vary much; in fact, many of the motors are made by the same manufacturer.

When it comes to selecting a brand, pay particular attention to price, service, and warranty. Look for a company that stands behind its product.


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About Don Vandervort
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Don Vandervort developed his expertise more than 30 years ago as Building Editor for both Sunset Books and Home Magazine. He has written more than 30 home improvement books and countless magazine articles. He appeared regularly on HGTV’s “The Fix,” and served as MSN’s home expert. Don founded HomeTips in 1996.

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