Almost one-third of all central vacuums sold in the U.S. are installed in existing homes without tearing out sections of walls or ceilings.
Many homeowners shy away from installing central vacuum systems in their existing homes, because they fear that the installation process must be part of a full-scale renovation. However, almost one-third of all central vacuums sold in the U.S. are installed in existing homes without tearing out sections of walls or ceilings. In fact, the entire installation process usually takes less than a day.
Central vacuum systems are built into the home. They include three basic components. A power unit that includes the system motor, filtration and a collection bucket is typically installed in a garage, basement or utility room and provides three to five times more cleaning power than a traditional vacuum. PVC tubing and wires are installed inside interior walls and between floor joists that connect the power unit to strategically located inlet valves. A powered 30- or 35-foot hose and attachments plug into the inlet valves and activate the system.
The added cleaning power and the location of the motor outside the living area allow a central vacuum system to completely remove captured dust and allergens without blowing air into the living space during cleaning. As a result, installing a central vacuum system earns certification points under both the National Green Building Standards and LEED for Homes.
Planning Is Key to Retrofit Installation
“An existing home installation should look like the house was built with a central vacuum system,” says Jim Carmichael, central vacuum category manager for Electrolux and a former BEAM central vacuum system dealer. “You’ll want the dealer to visually inspect the home before the installation to determine where to place the inlet valves in interior walls, where to place the power unit and the best route to install the tubing and wiring that connect the system.”
Homes with unfinished basement ceilings, crawl spaces or attics allow for simple installation, Carmichael says.
When installed, the inlet valves cover approximately 600 to 700 square feet of the home; the average home of 2,400 square feet will only need four inlets, at the most. The inlets are installed in interior walls at the same height as standard electric plugs. Small holes no larger than a standard electrical outlet are cut into the drywall to accommodate each valve; the valves are then connected to the system by vacuum tubing inside the walls from below or above. The vertical tubing then is fitted to a main trunk line that is installed between floor and/or ceiling joists from a basement, crawl space or attic that connects to the power unit. All the inlets in the home are tied into the one main line to assure the best suction possible and the least amount of tubing. Cover plates attached to each valve conceal all of the tubing and wire.
A thin, lightweight electrified hose is inserted in the inlet valves and activates the vacuum from a touch of the switch on the hose. One advantage of a central vacuum is that the homeowner can clean a room from top to bottom—floors, furniture, crown molding, ceiling fan and baseboards—without having to change inlet locations. When finished, simply turn off the vacuum at the hose handle and hang the hose in the closet. The only maintenance for the central vacuum system involves emptying the system’s collection canister every three to four months.