Each part of the system is independent of the others so that any vacuum unit or any tool kit can be used with any pipe system. Care must be taken though in order to ensure everything works well in concert to produce an effective cleaning system.
What is a Central Vacuum System
People often ask why investing in a built-in vacuum system is better than buying portable vacuums. While it's true a central vacuum's installation cost often exceeds a portable's, the system's benefits prove more cost effective over time.
Portable vacuum industry studies show that homeowners buy a new vacuum every 3-5 years.
Our central vacuums average at least 25 up to 40 years household use without service or replacement.
Portable vacuums must be cleaned every 1 to 2 uses, and some mid-range to top-end vacuums require annual “tune ups” averaging $75 to $150.
Built-in vacuums get emptied about every 4-6 months and never require technical maintenance.
Not limited by size or weight, central vacuum power plants outperform portable vacuum motors. The superior cleaning power maximizes dirt and debris removal leading to increased carpet life.
Portable vacuums not only leave unhealthy debris in carpeting but even the best filters spew some amount of dust into the air inside your home.
Built-in vacuums are generally located in the garage and/or vented outdoors, so the exhaust never pollutes your living areas.
Working with only a hose and cleaning tool eliminates the strain from pushing heavy portables. Plus, built-ins are so quiet; you’ll never hear them running inside your home.
A built-in vacuum is a home improvement that adds to the value of your home, something no portable vacuum can do.
Inlets and Pipe Systems
Standard Inlet Systems using wall inlets to plug in the cleaning hose and turn on the vacuum are the most common.
An increasingly popular alternative is the Retractable Hose System which stores the hose ready for use when you are.
An option for any system are sweep inlets that eliminate the need for dustpans.
Though the best time to install a built-in vacuum system is during construction, retrofitting an existing structure is always possible and almost never requires opening drywall.
Vacuum Inlets are strategically located throughout the home and connect to the vacuum Power Unit via PVC Tubing runs where debris collects in the Dirt Can. In some systems, the exhaust from the vacuum is vented outdoors with an Exhaust Line.
When installed using VDTA approved techniques and recommended fittings, the chances that the tubing system develops a clog are virtually zero.
Send us your question regarding having your own Central Vacuum System installed!
STANDARD WALL INLETS are installed using either Low Voltage Only Plates (most commonly used in retrofits) or Dual Voltage (almost universally in new construction and in retrofits on a case by case basis). The cleaning hoses used with these inlets are 30’ or 35’ in length and their coverage areas (700-750 sq. ft. and 825-875 sq. ft. respectively) affect the number and placement of inlets in the home.
A WET/DRY vacuums system’s inlet locations are planned like standard wall inlets. Since liquids are expected to be vacuumed, only low voltage inlets are used and the tubing system has special installation requirements to prevent backflow or leakage at the plates.
RETRACTABLE HOSE systems have a hose built into each location eliminating the need to carry one from inlet to inlet or finding hose storage space. Hide-A-Hose TM, the most popular and cost effective of these systems, are low voltage only, store the hose in the tubing system and use the vacuum’s suction power to retract the hose. Their longer hose lengths allow for coverage up to 2400 sq. ft. per station.
SWEEP INLETS are placed where a broom is often used for quick cleanups (kitchens, laundry rooms, etc.) and take the place of a dustpan. A toe switch opens the inlet and switches on the vacuum, then debris are swept in and sucked back to the vacuum
Central Vacuum Units vary by power and filtration method. Larger homes require more powerful vacuum units as do retractable systems using longer hoses. While every vacuum has a maximum coverage rating in square feet, the best specification for sizing a vacuum to a system is Maximum Run Length (line distance from vacuum to furthest inlet). Filtration methods include bag filtration, filtered cyclonic, true cyclonic (filtered and unfiltered), and water filtered wet/dry units.
Understanding vacuum cleaning power, filtration types, and their interaction will assist when choosing a vacuum unit.
VACUUM CLEANING POWER is represented by AIRWATTS and derived by measuring the vacuum’s SUCTION and AIRFLOW during dynamic tests.
AIRFLOW is the unit’s carrying power, specified in cubic feet per minute (CFM or ft3/min.) when measured at the vacuum’s 2” intake, and translates to air velocity inside the tubing.
NOTE: AAA Central Vacuums prefers vacuums where both the airflow and water lift are greater than 100 each.
AIRWATTS is calculated by (SUCTION x AIRFLOW ÷ 8.5) since suction decreases as airflow increases as the test aperture opens during testing. The airwatts specified for a vacuum unit are usually test maximums.
Motors vary by size (fan diameter), # of stages (layers of impeller fans) and construction grade (residential vs commercial). Smaller diameter motors generally run at higher speeds with less torque, produce lower airflows and have shorter life spans than larger motors, while adding stages increases the suction of a given motor design. Commercial grade motors are typically of all metal construction and use more durable components than residential motors.
Some vacuums combine two motors into a single unit. In a series configuration, the second motor pulls off the exhaust of the first increasing the unit’s total suction. When both motors pull off the same chamber (in parallel), airflow increases.
Built-in vacuums are generally categorized as filtered, unfiltered (a.k.a. true cyclonic) or water filtered (wet/dry vacuums). Filtration’s primary function, of course, is to capture and collect debris vacuumed inside the home. Limiting the dust released in the vacuum’s exhaust is secondary.
TRUE CYCLONIC VS CYCLONIC
TRUE CYCLONIC SEPERATION
True cyclonic filtration is a mechanical process where a miniature tornado, or cyclone, is created inside the vacuum’s separation chamber, accelerating the vacuumed air which flings debris out of the air stream into the collection can. The air then passes through a wide mesh screen to stop any remaining fiber (hair, lint, etc.) before it’s pumped up to the vacuum motor. Since true cyclonic vacuums have no filters, they deliver their full Vacuum Cleaning Power at all times but do need their exhausts vented outdoors to release uncaptured dust.
Filtered cyclonic vacuums do swirl the air in the vacuum collection chamber, but since most don’t establish a True Cyclonic action, require a filter to stop debris from entering the motor. These filters can be cartridges (disposable or washable), washable foam, cleanable cloth bags, or self cleaning filters. These vacuums don’t require outdoor venting but in some cases it’s desirable.
Bag filtered vacuums use disposable bags to both filter and collect debris. Open mouth bags resemble trash can liners, whereas sealed bags have an adhesive flap to cover their 2” opening for disposal. Bag filtration generally has the highest dust retention and is the best choice if the vacuum must be located inside the home. Hepa filters are available for some models.
WET/DRY WATER FILTRATION
Wet/Dry vacuums swirl the vacuumed air through a water curtain separating the debris. The water then falls to a collection tank where it drains into the home’s sewer line when the vacuum shuts off. These vacuums must be vented outdoors to release the moisture in their exhaust.
FILTRATION VS VACUUM PERFORMANCE
Different filtration methods affect the vacuum’s delivered cleaning power over time as the filters become dirty, in the same way air conditioning is lost as its filter needs replacement.
True cyclonic vacuums deliver their full cleaning power at all times since they have no filters to impede air flow. Filtered vacuum units lose delivered performance at different rates depending on the filtration medium, and while this doesn’t preclude a vacuum’s viability, it must be factored in to create an effective vacuum cleaning system.
HOSES, TOOLS & KITS
Central vacuum tool & hose kits contain everything needed for floor and general cleaning in the home. Which tool kit best suits a home’s cleaning needs revolves around the flooring mix and carpeting types.
Most cleaning kits focus around the tools used for vacuuming carpet, the three main categories being Straight Suction Kits, Air Driven or Turbine Brush Kits, and Electric Carpet Kits. “Steam Cleaning” kits use the hot water extraction process used by most professional carpet cleaning companies
Standard system hoses come in 30 and 35 foot lengths. Non-switched hoses turn the main vacuum on when plugged in and off when removed. Switched hoses turn the vacuum on and off from the hose handle and are available with 120 volt wiring to run electric carpet brushes.
Hide-A-Hose retractable hoses are unwired and come in 30, 40 and 50 foot lengths.
ROTATING CARPET BRUSHES
Carpet brushes clean and groom wall-to-wall carpeting and area rugs and run by either an electric motor or a non-electric air driven turbine.
AIR DRIVEN/TURBINE BRUSHES
Air driven brushes use the suction from the vacuum unit to drive the brush. Floor cleaning models are available up to 12” wide while hand held stair models are about 6” wide. Though they do not come with carpet height adjustments, the best quality turbine brushes, when matched with the appropriate vacuum unit, can clean virtually any carpet type.
ELECTRIC CARPET BRUSHES
Electric brushes have a built-in motor to drive the carpet brush. Floor sizes run up to 14” wide with handhelds at about 6”. These brushes are effective on any type of carpeting, often come with carpet height settings, and can include features unavailable in turbine brushes.
STRAIGHT SUCTION FLOOR TOOLS
Straight suction tools have no moving parts, cleaning by suction only, and are available in three designs, carpet only, bare floor only and combination. Straight suction is considered the best way to clean short, knap-less carpeting, i.e. berber, commercial, sculpted.
Wands are available in metal or plastic and are either telescoping or non-adjustable. Multiple wand can be snapped together to reach high ceilings, etc.
The most common hand tools are for dusting, upholstery cleaning and crevices. However, there are such a plethora of specialty tools that one is probably available for any cleaning job you can imagine.
Owner: Michael Bronecky
AAA Central Vacuums Contractors License #726359
SUCTION represents the vacuum’s raw pulling power reported in inches of water lift (“H2O) under sealed conditions (no air movement) in the unit’s specifications.
Dual User or multi-user systems allow more than one person to vacuum simultaneously. Pipe diameter for these systems increases as the branch lines junction approaching the more powerful vacuum unit requiring engineering and installation expertise to ensure optimal performance.
HOW TO PICK A CONTRACTOR
Perhaps the best way I can advise about choosing a contractor is to tell you about our experience getting a pool built for our home…click for full story(pdf)
•Check Licensing, Bonding & Insurance.
•Check License Status & History.
•Check Reviews & Ratings.
•Check Association Memberships.
•Is Contractor Knowledgeable?
•Does Contractor Give Clear Explanations?
•Does Contractor Give Direct Answers To your questions?
•Does Contractor understand your needs?
•Does Contractor seem genuinely concerned about your project?