Installing a Central Vacuum System

A Central Vacuum System is Ideal for both New and Existing Homes

By Mark J. Donovan

When in the market for a new vacuum cleaner, consider installing a central vacuum system in your home. Central vacuum systems are lightweight, extremely quiet and typically provide more suction than standard upright vacuum cleaners or canister vacuum cleaners.

Central vacuum systems offer numerous advantages over canister and upright vacuum cleaners. First, unlike a canister or upright vacuum cleaner you do not have to drag or roll around the heavy vacuum canister unit.

With a central vacuum system all you drag around the home is a durable lightweight hose and a fixture, such as a beater-bar. The central vacuum system’s canister is permanently affixed on a wall in the garage or utility room.

On each floor of the house a vacuum hose receptacle is mounted on a wall. When the vacuum hose is plugged into it, the vacuum cleaner automatically turns on.

Dirt and dust are picked up by the vacuum hose and are passed through a series of PVC pipes located in the walls of the home. The PVC pipes connect to the central vacuum system’s canister and power unit that collects the dirt and dust.

Again, normally the central vacuum system’s canister is mounted in the garage, basement or a utility room where its noise remains isolated. Also, due to the fact that a central vacuum system is permanently mounted, versus dragged around a home, it typically has a larger motor and storage area. Consequently central vacuum systems are higher performance and need to be emptied less frequently.

Installing a Central Vacuum System

Most homeowners think that central vacuum systems are usually installed in homes during the construction phase of them, and thus are not a possibility for existing homes.

Installing a Central Vacuum System

On the contrary, central vacuum systems can, and are, easily installed into many existing homes. The ability to install one is dependent upon access to the basement and attic spaces. Floor layout on the main floors of the home also plays a factor in determining the feasibility of installing a central vacuum system.

If you plan on installing your own central vacuum system you will first want to determine the location of the receptacles and ensure that the hose and beater-bar assembly can reach every corner of the home from the receptacle. You will also want to locate the receptacles in walls that have easy access to the basement and/or attic to allow PVC pipes to be installed. PVC pipes can also be run through closets or behind cabinets as well, so consider this when selecting a location for receptacles.

The central vacuum cleaner canister should be located in a garage, utility room or basement and preferably have the ability to be vented to the outside, though not necessarily required. Do not place the canister in a tight space or a space that could cause overheating of the unit.

Central Vacuum Performance

Each central vacuum system manufacturer typically offers several types of systems. Each type provides various levels of performance. The key metric for assessing a central vacuum cleaner system’s performance is its waterlift level. This waterlift measurement is not to suggest that a central vacuum system is meant to vacuum water. Instead it is just a standardize way of differentiating the performance of a central vacuum cleaner system. Typically a central vacuum system with 100 – 120 inches of waterlift can handle a 2000-3000 square foot home.

Central Vacuum System Costs

Central vacuum systems usually come with 25-50 feet of hose and an assortment of fixtures. Beater-bars are frequently sold separately.

A central vacuum system costs typically between $500 and a $1000, depending upon the brand, its performance and the fixtures that are included. Installation costs are similar. Typically you can purchase central vacuum systems from home improvement stores or electrical supply stores.

Though central vacuum system unit and installation costs are higher, they are well worth the investment due to their quietness, low weight, and high performance. They are also highly valued by homebuyers and thus are worth the investment not only for your needs, but also for future owners of your home.

For help on building a new custom home, see’s New Home Construction Bid Sheet. The New Home Construction Bid Sheet provides you with the knowledge on how to plan a custom home building project, and what to look for when hiring contractors for your new home construction. It also includes a detailed cost breakdown table and spreadsheet for estimating your own new home construction building costs.

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