Cleaning your home is an unavoidable chore, yet not very many people enjoy it. Typically, the scenario plays out like this:
You drag a heavy vacuum cleaner from room to room as you switch from one attachment to the other. You heave and sigh while moving the furniture around. To make things worse, you have to endure the annoying sound of the device.
This clearly isn’t a pleasant chore, yet if you’ve done quite a bit of vacuuming, you’ll be familiar with this scenario.
But you don’t have to put up with this unnecessary suffering. A central vacuum system (also known as “central vac”) can significantly lighten this task.
Of course, a central vac will not magically make you love vacuuming. That’s far from being correct and definitely not the point. Instead, the system can make vacuuming a lot easier and remove most of the reasons people dread cleaning homes.
But if a central vac makes home cleaning a pleasant experience, why doesn’t everyone buy and use it? Why do some homeowners hesitate to install the system? Are these systems really worth the money?
Many central vacuum system reviews, including this one, are honest about the system’s pros and cons. Indeed, a central vac can provide a lot of benefits, but you need to also know the downsides of purchasing and installing the system.
This article will help you understand everything you need to know about these systems so that you can decide whether it’s worth the investment for you.
What Is a Central Vacuum System and How Does it Work?
You may have seen a long hose sticking out from a wall in your friend’s home, and they simply attach a vacuum head to the hose for cleaning. That’s the general picture of what a central vac is.
Now, here’s a clearer description of the system and how it works.
A central vacuum system is a whole-home vacuum system permanently installed in a home. The system consists of a power unit or motor, a dust container or canister, and several tubes, pipes, and hoses.
Apart from the hose that sticks out in different locations in the home, every other tubing system and pipes are hidden from view, usually inside the walls or under the floor. The system’s motor and the dust canister are installed in a storage room, basement, or spaces away from the main living areas.
The system works by sucking up debris and dust through the hose into the tubing system. The tubing system is powered by the motor and connects the dust canister where the dirt is collected. The debris container is typically large, which means you don’t have to empty it often.
Typically, wall ports, also known as air vacuum inlet valves, are located on the floors or within the walls in several places in the home. In traditional central vacuum systems, a vacuuming hose is moved from room to room. When it comes time to vacuum, all you have to do is plug a long hose into an inlet valve, attach a vacuum head, and turn on the system.
With retractable hose central vac systems, there is no need to haul hoses from room to room, inlet to inlet, or from one floor to another. The retractable hoses are hidden within the walls of the house and extended from the ports when it’s time for vacuuming.
As with traditional central vacs, a vacuum head is also attached to the retractable head for convenient cleaning.
While portable vacuum units need to be hauled from room to room, a central vacuum system’s suction unit is centrally located and accessible from all parts of the home through air inlet valves. If you use a retractable hose system, you have ready access to the tubing system in every room in your home without having to carry a hose from one vacuum inlet to the other.
Why You Should Consider a Central Vacuum System
Right off the bat, central vacs have extremely quiet operation. Unlike traditional vacuum cleaners that bother sleeping family members (and even neighbors), you can use a central vac without waking your sleeping baby or others in the home.
But beyond noise levels, some people are allergic to dust thrown up by conventional vacuum cleaners. If you or someone in your home has asthma or other respiratory issues, a central vacuum system might be an excellent way to avoid worsening the condition.
Besides, if you have pets that roam freely at home, you might want to consider a central cleaning system because this option handles pet dander more effectively.
But perhaps the biggest reason to consider a central vacuum system is its unmatched convenience. The system eliminates the need to carry heavy vacuuming tanks from one location to the other or floor to floor (in the case of two-story houses).
Cleaning the home is not a particularly enjoyable task. Therefore, it’s important to make it as easy and simple as possible. A central vac is one of the ways to bring about that ease.
Pros of a Central Vacuum System
OK, not waking up a sleeping child might not be a good enough reason to pay through the nose for a central vacuum system. After all, you can find some conventional vacuum cleaners with impressively low noise levels.
Installing a central vacuum system provides a good number of important advantages, including:
More Suction Power
Most central vacuum systems have motors with up to 5 times more power than their portable counterparts. The powerful motor accounts for more suction power, and in turn, it provides a deeper cleaning.
In other words, vacuuming might be less frequent since you get a more powerful and deeper cleaning with a central vac.
As a result of more suction power, the system cleans way much faster. Besides, cleaning hidden and tight spaces, as well as multiple areas, is easy-breezy due to the lightweight hose and accessories.
“Blow back” is a common problem with some conventional vacuum cleaner models. This is where the vacuumed dust escapes from the exhaust outlet back into the atmosphere.
With central vacuum systems, dust, allergens, and pollens are sucked directly into vents within the walls of the home. There is a near-impossible chance of dirt coming in contact with indoor air, resulting in cleaner air and a healthy environment.
These systems can work in several different ways, depending on the user’s preference. For example, the system can be installed with a central canister that collects dirt and is emptied periodically.
Vac pans or baseboard suctions can also be installed with the system. In this case, dirt is easily swept against the baseboard and sucked up.
Another way the system can work is by spinning air in a canister and dumping it outside the home. This is known as the Cyclonic system.
Apart from the nearly inaudible suction sounds during operation, central vacs are virtually silent inside the house. Typically, the motors are located outside the home, so the noise level inside is almost nonexistent.
Less Frequent Emptying
The large dust canister is centrally located in a dedicated space, such as a utility room or basement. The canister’s large size means you might need to empty it only three to four times yearly.
The central dust canister is sealed, effectively preventing the spillage of contaminants into the indoor air.
Less Wear and Tear
Longevity is arguably the single most important advantage of a central vacuum system. You don’t need to worry about replacement parts since it can take up to ten years or more before new parts will be required.
Besides, with central vacs, there are hardly any cases of blockages that can slow down or even stop the cleaning routine.
Easy to Use
There is nothing complicated about these systems. There is definitely no steep learning curve. As long as you can attach a hose to a cleaner—something everyone can do—you can operate a central vacuum system.
Vacuum inlet valves can be located at various points in the home, so it’s a lot easier to access the hose from just about any part of the home and make the cleaning routine hassle-free.
Excellent Option for People with Mobility Issues
If the prospect of lifting a 20-pound vacuum cleaner dampens your desire to clean, you’ll be pleased with the lightweight hose of central vacs. Unless you choose to have plenty of attachments, a hose is probably the only thing you’ll need to lift.
With inlet valves located at different easy-to-reach areas of the home, it’s easier to access and use the hose.
The system is compatible with a lot of conventional vacuuming tools and accessories. This gives you a broad range of attachments to choose from to make cleaning easier.
Increased Home Value
By installing a central vacuum system, homeowners can increase the value of their homes by a few thousand dollars. That’s a pretty worthwhile investment, especially if potential home buyers appreciate a central vac.
Cons of a Central Vacuum System
Regardless of all the benefits, there’s no such thing as a perfect system. However, a central vac doesn’t have too many downsides. The disadvantages include:
High Upfront Cost
Here’s one thing all central vacuum system reviews agree on: these systems are expensive!
Purchasing and installing the system might run into several thousand dollars, depending on the power, size, fittings, ports, hoses, and other accessories that come with it.
One way to reduce the cost is by outfitting the system into new home construction. But if you already have an existing home, it becomes more expensive and difficult to bypass walls, wirings, and other systems to install the central vac.
Less Energy Efficient
Generally, central vacs are less energy efficient when compared to their traditional counterparts. Of course, they are larger and more powerful than the smaller vacuum cleaners, explaining why they consume more power.
The systems usually come with long hoses of up to 30 or even 50 feet long. These will require ample storage space and might pose a challenge for some homes that are tight on space.
Dragging a long central vacuum hose around during cleaning might not be convenient, especially for vacuuming stairs. A long hose can even damage walls, scratch floors, and deface expensive furniture. That’s beside the risk of tripping over them during the cleaning process.
While the long hose can be hidden, you will still need to haul attachments. Dealing with long hoses and attachments can potentially cancel out the convenience of not having to push a heavy vacuum cleaner around the home.
A central cleaning system has immense benefits—no arguments there. In fact, the pros clearly outweigh the cons. However, is it the right option for your home cleaning needs?
The system might not be worth the investment if:
- You are tight on budget. Central vacs are quite an expensive luxury when compared to quality hand-held vacuum cleaners.
- You live in a small apartment or have a small home of about 1,200 square feet or smaller. The cost of a central vac outweighs all the vacuuming you will probably need for such small spaces.
- You have mostly hard floors (stone, wood, or tile). Hard floors are best cleaned by mopping or sweeping. Also, you might not need a central vac if you have wall-to-wall carpeting. The system works best with rugs.
- You clean only on occasions. Installing a central vac and not using it often is not the smartest way to use your hard-earned cash. If you don’t clean very often, you will probably be better off with a traditional vacuum cleaner.
This is not one of those central vacuum system reviews where the benefits are hyped to make readers buy into the system. For this reason, we strongly recommend giving serious thought to the suitability check above before making your decision.
If you love a central vac, but one or more things on the suitability check make it not worth the investment for you, consider checking out the following conventional vacuum cleaners that can ease your cleaning routines.
Factors to Consider When Installing a Central Vacuum System
There are a handful of factors to consider if you’ve decided that a central vac is the right home-cleaning solution for you.
Installing these systems is not like buying any bagless vacuum cleaner that comes with a return policy, where if something doesn’t work, you can return the item and get a refund with “no questions asked.”
In many cases, installing a central vac involves a complete overhaul of the home, requiring some careful considerations. If something doesn’t go right, you’ll have to go through many hassles to have it fixed.
Here are some of the most important things you need to think through.
Finding the Right Installer
As you probably already know, even the best central vac system will perform below expectations if it’s not properly installed. In other words, your system is as good as your installer.
An easy way (and usually, the best option) is to ask for recommendations from family, friends, and even neighbors with a system installed. This does two important things.
First, it ensures quality. Of course, if an installer does a great job for someone you know, they’ll likely repeat the same feat in your home. Secondly, recommendations and referrals are likely to get you better deals.
Another way to find the right installer is by searching out reputable companies online with long-term experience. If you choose to go this path, you will need to pay close attention to client feedback and customer satisfaction ratings of these companies.
You also want to fully understand their service package and warranty policies. That’s the only way to ensure quality service in case something goes wrong. In a nutshell, go through a considerable number of central vacuum system reviews before choosing a company.
The size of the system depends on the size of your home. No matter the type of central vac you choose, it’s important that it’s the right size for your home.
Your home’s square footage, the number of rooms, and floors are all important considerations that go into ensuring complete coverage of every area of your house. Equally, the flooring type and the amount of suction required are necessary to determine the correct central vacuum system size for your home.
It’s usually best to allow the installer to do a thorough job of measuring and estimating the right size. If you have determined that you have the budget for central vac, it makes no sense to pinch pennies when it comes to getting the perfect system size to offer full coverage of your home.
You want every room properly covered and every floor to have access to the system (for those in a two-story house).
How the System Fits
Another important consideration is how well the system fits your home. This usually means choosing the best positions for the inlet valves, hoses, and the location of the dust canister.
Unless you’re performing a major home renovation or planning to include a central vacuum system in the construction of a new home, it’s important to consider how the tubing of the system will fit into your existing space.
Typically, inlet valves would mount on the wall or go on the floor in single-story homes. That means the pipes or tubing system will likely go under your flooring. Consider installing the dust canister somewhere a bit farther away from the main living areas, such as the basement or a utility room.
If you have enough space in your laundry room or garage, those could also be good locations to put the dust canister for your central vacuum unit.
For homes with solid flooring, the best method for fitting the system would be to hide the tubing in closets and at the back of cabinets. Consider getting retractable hoses, as these can be extended as needed.
Pipes would need to be routed into various parts of the home through the shortest distances from the system’s motor to ensure optimal performance.
Thankfully, you don’t have to worry about replacing your central vac for a long time. However, you’ll need to be prepared for the cost of replacement parts.
With that said, maintaining the system is by far cheaper than the overall cost of owning hand-held cleaners.
For starters, standard vacuum cleaners need to be replaced every three years or thereabouts. On the other hand, a central vacuum system will need replacement parts approximately every ten years.
Secondly, if your installer has a solid service plan, you can expect the system to perform like brand new even after about twenty to thirty years.
Cost of a Central Vacuum System
A central vac is not cheap—there’s just no better way to say it.
Typically, you can expect to spend an average of about $1,000 to $3,000 to install the system in a home measuring 2,500 square feet approximately. While this upfront cost is generally considered huge, it’s worth it considering the efficient vacuuming the system will provide for several years.
If you’re wondering why the cost is rather on the high side, here are some reasons that impact the overall cost of the system.
Retrofitting Versus New Construction
Retrofitting is often a more expensive option but is the only way to install a central vacuum system in an already existing home. It involves working around obstructions in the home, and that usually means taking things apart and renovating.
But if you’re building a new home, you can expect to pay a little less since the system will be factored into the home’s design.
There’s a wide range of accessories you can order with a central vacuum system. These accessories make vacuuming your home easier and enjoyable. A few of these include automatic dustpans or vac pans, brush rolls, retractable stretch hoses, carpet beater, and more.
Of course, it goes without saying that the more accessories you order with your system, the higher the overall cost of the central vac.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long do central vacuums last?
Typically, a central vacuum system should last for at least 20 years or more, with most having a lifetime warranty on the unit. If it’s properly maintained, the system should last way more than that.
How does central vac turn on?
Typically, a switch with a low-voltage wire connects each inlet to the central vac unit. Turn on the switch to use the electric floor brush. There’s also an on/off switch on the system’s tank.
Do central vacuums need to be vented?
Yes, central vacs need to be vented to expel germs, fumes, and even some noise. The recommendation is to vent the system outside for the best indoor air quality. Do not vent into a concealed space or ceiling in the house.
However, if you live in a place where it’s impossible to vent the system outside, consider choosing a filtered or bagged unit instead of a cyclonic unit.
How do you check for leaks in a central vacuum system?
The easiest way to check for leaks on a vacuum hose is by feeling for air leaks. To do this, turn on the system, extend the hose, and move your hands along its length.
But whether you can find a leak on the vacuum hose or suspect a major problem from the tubing, it’s always best to get your original installer to trace and fix the problem.
How often do you empty a central vacuum?
The number of times you should empty your central vacuum cleaner depends on how often you use the appliance. Typically, dust canisters require emptying at least once every 3 to 6 months.
Indeed, if you have a preexisting home, it can be difficult and more expensive to retrofit. However, considering the system’s longevity as well as the other benefits, it’s a more attractive proposition, especially for those within a budget.
No matter the number of central vacuum system reviews that you go through online, and regardless of how highly praised the systems are, the ultimate decision to purchase and install one is yours to make. We only hope that this honest review will help you to make an educated decision.