Central Vacuum Systems Buying Guide Central Vacuum Systems Buying Guide
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Central Vacuum Systems Buying Guide

Should you buy a central vacuum system for your home? What is the best central vac to buy? This unbiased central vacuum buying guide will help you with these decisions.

If you would like to be able to vacuum your house quickly and quietly, without dragging around a vacuum cleaner, consider installing a built-in central vacuum system.

A central vacuum simply plugs into wall outlets for awesome convenience.

With a central vacuum system, all you have to carry is a lightweight hose and a wand with a cleaning head. When you plug the hose into a wall or floor inlet/receptacle, the vacuum turns on automatically. Dust and debris travel through the hose into a pipeline of PVC tubing that runs through house walls, floors, or attic to a large power unit/dirt-collection canister that is typically mounted in an out-of-the-way place such as the basement, garage, or utility room.

Because the vacuum motor is located outside the living area, you can vacuum quietly without disturbing TV viewing or phone conversations. And fine dust particles aren’t blown back into living spaces as typically happens with most portable cleaners—another important factor, especially for people sensitive to airborne dust. Canisters typically need emptying only two or three times a year.

Three or four inlets are usually sufficient for a 3,000- square-foot house if they are centrally located. The 30-foot-long hose allows you to vacuum two or three rooms from a single inlet receptacle. Bottom line is that the hose much be able to reach from one of the inlets to every corner that will be vacuumed.

Before buying any central vacuum equipment, you’ll need to make sure one of these systems is appropriate for your house. If it is, you must determine the right size of unit to buy and the amount of piping and number of components necessary. To do this, you must figure out the layout of the system.

From below the floor, central vacuum tubing can be stubbed-up into walls. In this photo, low-voltage wires for the switch are being connected.

Is a Central Vacuum Right for Your House?

Though central vacuum systems are a wonderful convenience in most homes, they’re not right for everyone. Built-in central vacuum systems are easiest to install in new construction, so—if you’re already opening up walls for remodeling or other home improvements, this is probably an excellent opportunity for installing one of these systems easily.

Then again, a central vacuum system can be retrofitted into most existing houses with relative ease. Just how easily depends on your house or—more specifically—access into a basement, crawlspace, or attic for routing the piping. In a single-story house with a basement or crawlspace, tubing can run under the floor and stub up a short distance into walls or directly serve floor inlets (by far the easiest method when retrofitting). Interior, non-bearing walls not supported by foundations or beams are generally easiest to penetrate from below.

Most houses need one or two inlets on each story, centrally located. Though inlets are best located along the base of interior walls, they may be installed in floors if they are placed away from foot traffic (all floor inlets should have metal covers). If a house has limited access below floors—as with a two-story house, for example—tubing must route elsewhere. Typical solutions are to run tubing vertically through laundry chutes, behind cabinets, exposed in closet corners, or boxed in at one of a room’s corners. Another popular option is to run tubing horizontally in an attic and then drop it down through a wall or into a closet or cabinet. The best runs are short, straight, and direct.

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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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