When you are crouched down, sweeping the crumbs off the floor after dinner, have you ever wished that the wall would magically open up and just swallow the mess?
In a sense, that is what a central vacuum can bring to your home. As the name suggests, the vacuums use a unit placed in a centralized location (often the basement or the garage) and extend vacuuming power to the rest of the house through a series of strategically placed inlets backed by hidden pipes. When it is time to tackle a mess, instead of heading to the closet to retrieve the portable vacuum, you attach a hose to the nearest inlet or pull out a retractable hose and flip a switch.
While both central vacuums and portable vacuums are more than capable of handling most household vacuuming jobs, there are some differences. Central vacuums can be used on all surfaces from hardwood to carpet to non-floor surfaces such as fans and blinds. Since dirt is captured in the vacuum’s canister by design, central vacuums are a valuable tool for those seeking better indoor air quality.
Another obvious difference between portable vacuums and their central cousins is that central vacuums are built into the home. The easiest time to do this is during new construction, when the pipes and hose inlets can be built into the walls.
The installation process can start before the home is built. The central vacuum installer can review the building plans to says map out the best location for the canister, pipes and inlets. They’ll talk to the owner about their options, including whether they prefer a standard or retractable-hose valve.
While it’s most convenient to build a central vacuum into a home under construction, they can still be installed if the home has already built. In many cases, installation takes only a day. As long as there is access to walls, crawlspaces and the attic, experienced installers should be able to handle the job. The level of installation difficulty, however, depends on the home. Installers will aim for a design that allows the vacuum to reach everywhere in the home.
Central Vacuum Features
While you are planning your central vacuum installation, you will be able to choose from a number of features so you can adapt your new central vacuum to your lifestyle and cleaning needs. Think carefully, because you are in this for the long haul. Some central vacuums can last for 20-30 years, or even longer.
Start with the part of the vacuum you’re going to handle the most—the hose. Do you want a standard or retractable hose? If you choose a standard hose, you will have to attach it manually to the inlet every time you vacuum. Retractable hoses can be pulled from the inlet. Some models even turn on automatically when they are pulled out. You’ll have different-sized hoses to choose from, so you can place the size you need in the rooms where you will use them the most. You might want to keep a shorter hose near the dryer for cleaning the filter, a longer one in the garage for car cleanup. Some owners keep them in areas where they often encounter messes, like near the cat’s litter box.
A standard hose will have to be manually attached to the inlet every time you vacuum. A retractable hose is pulled out from the inlet when you need to vacuum. Some models turn on automatically when the retractable hose is pulled out. Different sizes of hoses are available for placement in certain rooms, like a vacuum or garage. Some central vacuum owners favor a short, 10-foot hose in their laundry room to clean their dryer filter. Others put them in areas near their cat’s litter box for easy cleanup.
Speaking of putting features where they are needed, the “automatic dustpan” is popular among central vacuum owners. This allows dirt to be swept into the base of a wall, with the system inlet placed in the kick panel under cabinets or in the base moulding.
Choosing the canister: Like portable vacuums, some central vacuums use bags, while others are bagless. Some also can convert to a wet-dry system. Most central vacuums hold 7-10 gallons of debris. Also consider where you are installing your canister, as it can affect your cleanup options. Some models have valves mounted on the surface of the canister, which, if you place your unit in the garage, gives you the option of easy access for vacuuming your car, garage, or outdoor debris like leaves.
Like portable vacuums, some central vacuums use bags, while others are bagless. Some also can convert to a wet-dry system. Most central vacuums hold 7-10 gallons of debris.