The 2020 Central Vacuum Buyers Guide Released By ThinkVacuums

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A personal reference for determining the best central vacuum, written by the experts!

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What is a Central Vacuum System?

A central vacuum system (also known as a whole-house vacuum, built-in vacuum, or a power unit) is a vacuum system usually located in a garage or basement of a home or business and is connected to PVC pipes that runs through the interior of the walls. Inlets which resemble electrical outlets are added throughout the home or business allowing the user to easily plug a central vacuum hose into any inlet and easily move from room to room without having to lug around a heavy vacuum cleaner. These systems are designed to be more powerful than a traditional portable vacuum, offer lower noise levels, and reduce the re-circulation of dirt, dust, and allergens back into the home.

A central vacuum system is the modern way to clean a home or business. It has four basic components:

1. The Collection unit that is usually installed in a garage or storage space.
2. PVC tubing, installed inside walls and/or under floors, connecting the power unit to the inlet valves.
3. Inlet valves strategically located throughout the building.
4. Central vacuum tools and attachments

Sizing a Central Vacuum (Finding the Right Size for Any Home)

An important trick to purchasing the right central vacuum system is making sure it is sized correctly, not only by the square footage of the home but also for the length of central vacuum PVC pipe. The most important rating to look for is the "waterlift" which refers to the central vacuums suction power. This will determine how well the central vacuum system can pick up dirt through all of the piping.

Manufacturers rate their products by CFM (Airflow), Airwatts, and Waterlift (Suction Power). The most reliable measurement is the waterlift of a central vacuum. Always check the waterlift and specifications for this number when comparing different models. Smaller units usually have a waterlift rating of 105-120 inches. These units can handle up to a 2,500 sq. ft. home.

When it comes to selecting a central vacuum brand always look for the waterlift rating, price, service, and warranty. Look for a company that stands behind their products.

Top 10 Benefits of Owning a Central Vacuum System?

1. Exceptional Air Quality - Central vacuum systems eliminate the re-circulation of dirt, dust, and allergens back into the home. The long term health benefits are incomparable to the modern day vacuum cleaner.

2. Allergy Relief - A major benefit that most central vacuum owners don't realize is how much cleaner the indoor air quality is. Allergy sufferers always notice a reduction in their symptoms after using a central vacuum cleaner. Central vacuums pick up allergy-causing dust and remove them from the living areas unlike traditional vacuum cleaners because a central vacuum system is vented to the outside.

3. Ultimate Suction Power - Central Vacuum Systems are built with larger motors than the traditional vacuum cleaner and provide 2-3 times more power.

4. Savings & Added Value to Any Home - Central vacuum systems will be the last vacuum a consumer will ever buy for their home. It is a great investment that contributes to the long term value of any home. In addition to the added value, central vacuums are more durable and longer lasting than the common vacuum cleaner.

5. Convenience - It's as simple as plugging in a central vacuum hose into any vacuum inlet in a home without having to worry about pushing, pulling, dragging around an upright or canister vacuum cleaner.

6. Quiet Operation w/ Less Noise - Central vacuum cleaners eliminate the loud, irritating noise of portable vacuum cleaners because the power unit is not only insulated, but it also is located outside the living area.

7. Versatility - There are a variety of central vacuum attachments designed to clean any type of surface including, carpeting, hard flooring, draperies, furniture, crevices, corners, staircases, ceiling fans, mini blinds, cars, and so much more.

8. Complete Home Cleaning - Central Vacuums have a variety of cleaning attachments to choose from. These attachments are easy to change and can clean all surfaces in the home including carpets, area rugs, bare floors, bookcases, picture frames, baseboards, and more.

9. Half the Cleaning Time with Less Work - With a Central Vacuum there will be no more lugging around heavy canister or upright vacuum cleaners. Simply plug in a lightweight central vacuum hose and choose an attachment and start cleaning.

10. Save Money Long Term - Consumers will spend less time and money replacing inexpensive vacuums that break every other year. Central vacuums are built to last and require less maintenance.

Central Vacuums and Allergies

A central vacuum system has the power and versatility to make a home healthy for any consumer and their families that suffer from allergies. 20% of the population is affected by allergies or asthma, so it is important to rid a home of these harmful irritants. Central vacuums have many more advantages over the traditional vacuum cleaners when it comes to allergies. Vacuums are designed to suck up dirt, dust, and other microscopic particles that can be bothersome for those who suffer from allergies. But the truth is many vacuum cleaners can leave behind a lot of dirt. Vacuum cleaner quality varies greatly and some are built better to remove impurities from a home than others. Central vacuum systems have been proven to remove up to 100% of microscopic particles, dust, and other allergens in a home. With a central vac system, the motor and dirt canister are located in a part of the house such as a basement, garage, or closet. This ensures that when emptying the central vacuum bag or canister it is done away from living spaces and keeps the dust and dirt from reentering the home.

Below are some of the Health Benefits of owning a Central Vacuum::

  • They remove up to 100% of fine dust, dirt, microscopic particles, and other allergens.
  • Central vacuums are Ideal for both carpets and hard flooring and by using the correct attachments can ensure every part of a home is allergen free.
  • They offer various attachments for upholstery, curtains, pet hair, pet dander, hard-to-reach places, and other tight areas around a home. These are especially needed for dust, dust mites, and other allergy particles.
  • Because the power unit is typically installed in a garage or basement, emptying the canister or removing the bag is less likely to reintroduce allergens back into living areas in the home.
  • Central vacuums offer a much larger dirt collection canister and bags that only need to be emptied once every two to three months.

Concerned with allergies? Then an allergy central vacuum is a better choice over a traditional vacuum cleaner. Choose a central vacuum system that utilizes a disposable dust bag and consider one with a HEPA filter. A HEPA filter traps more than 99% of the tiniest particles so they don’t re-enter the home. Purvac Central Vacuums are a good choice for allergy sufferers.

Central Vacuums vs Traditional Vacuum Cleaners

Although the technology of traditional vacuums has evolved, they sometimes can be more expensive maintaining then Central Vacuums. Central Vacuum Systems have become a more practical and cost-effective solution for home cleaning. They also keep interiors cleaner, prosper in suction power picking up more dust, dirt, and debris, they are more convenient and offer more ideal positioning. Bottom line a central vacuum system is an investment in powerful performance, significantly cleaner indoor air, increases the value of any home, and convenience that will last the life of a home.

Bagged vs Bag-less Central Vacuums

There are many different types of central vacuum cleaners, but at the core, there are two main types, bagged or bag-less. However, there are some units called Hybrid units that can be used with or without a bag. Both types of central vacuums work the same way, they suck dirt and debris from the home. Additionally, both types can utilize a variety of accessories, attachments, and extensions that will make cleaning those hard to reach places much easier. Below are some Pros and Cons for both bagged and bag-less central vacuum systems.

The popular choice is a Bagged System; they are cleaner and easier. Check out this video that shows what it is like to change them. Bagged vs Bag-less Video

Bagged Pros

  • Containment - Bagged vacuums contain the dirt inside the bag that protects the user from breathing in the dirt, dust, and debris.
  • Suction Power - Bagged central vacuums allow more efficient suction power because of the vast majority of the dirt collected from the home is directed into the bag and then filtered through the filtration process in the central vacuum.
  • Air Quality - Bagged central vacuum systems trap more dust, dirt, and allergens and allow cleaner air to be exhausted back into a home while vacuuming.

Bagged Cons

  • Cost of Replacing Bags - Unlike bagless central vacuums, it is required for the purchase of new bags when needed. Depending on the type of central vacuum and the types of bags can be on the expensive side. However, most central vacuum brands have a variety of replacement bags from, HEPA, standard, and generic bags for every budget.

Bagless Pros

  • Cheaper to Operate - Having to purchase central vacuum bags are eliminated, however, filters will need to be replaced and cleaned more often due to having all dust, dirt, and allergens moving through them and can often be expensive.
  • Knowing When It's Time to Empty - Bagless central vacuums utilize transparent canisters so the user can see how full and know when it's time to empty. Central vacuum cleaners have larger canisters as well and don't need to be emptied as often as the bagged units.

Bagless Cons

  • Allergen Exposure - Bagless central vacuums are not recommended for those who suffer from allergies because the exposure to the dirt when emptying the canister can be messy at times.

Breakdown of Central Vacuum Features

Dirt Collection – Consumers can choose between a bagged, bagless, or a hybrid system which can be used with or without a bag at any time.

Filtration - Central vacuum filters purify the air by removing potentially harmful dirt, dust, and debris that may cause damage not only to the central vacuum motor but the health of people and pets. There are many different types and styles of central vacuum filters. Some of these include cartridges, foam, cloth bags, etc. but no matter the style they all protect against excessive amounts of fine dust and dirt from reentering the indoor air.

Motor Types - There are three types of central vacuum motors, Flow Through, Peripheral, and Tangential.

  • Flow Through Motors are inexpensive and are generally used in conventional canister and uprights with the larger more powerful versions used in central vacuums. Aside from being less expensive they also make a central vacuum sound quieter since there isn't a cooling fan.
  • Peripheral Motors are typically less expensive than a tangential type motor, these motors actually employ a cooling fan on top of the motor which blows fresh clean air over the armature and exhausts it peripherally through the vents on the side of the motor.
  • Tangential By Pass Motors are the more expensive than the others. This style is the most commonly used motor in the central vacuum industry. The implementation of a tangential exhaust ensures all heated and dirty exhaust is removed from the motor chamber and expelled maximizing longevity.

Air-watts - Like electrical watts, air-watts is a measure of the ability to remove dirt. In central vacuums, air-watts are calculated after measuring the suction at different size inlet openings. It is most important to measure air-watts at openings between 1/2" and 7/8" diameters. This range represents using common attachments such as a floor brush, crevice tool, or powerhead.

CFM (Cubic Feet Per Minute) (Airflow) - Some central vacuum systems are sold on the credentials for a high CFM. However, maximum CFM ratings occur when the central vacuum is wide open with no restriction to airflow. Consumers add a hose and a cleaning attachment which restricts airflow. The higher the CFM's, the higher the suction power will be.

Waterlift - While the CFM refers to how much air the motor can move, the suction measurement that tells us what the vacuum can pull or lift up is determined by water "Waterlift" For the waterlift test, airflow is absent because the water causes a sealed suction which allows the user to measure the pure suction force of the motor.

Amps - This number represents the amount of electrical current consumed by the central vacuum motor when in use. The complication is that the more electricity the motor uses, the more powerful it is. This is not necessarily true because if the current is not being used efficiently, amps are a poor indicator of cleaning power.

Decibel Level - Decibel is a measurement of sound volume, the average human ear cannot hear perceive a significant difference in volume between 5 decibels. Manufacturers who offer quiet units will generally provide a decibel rating for their units promoting how quiet their units are.

Maintaining a Central Vacuum System

When comparing central vacuum systems with the cost of replacing or repairing traditional vacuums, there is no comparison. The traditional vacuum cleaner is cheaper by far for a short-term use. With a traditional vacuum cleaner consumers will probably have to replace them about every three years, however, with central vacuum maintenance the consumer will only need to change the dust bag once every few months due to the bigger dirt capacity’s and replace the filter every couple years.

With a strong service plan a central vacuum can last 15 to 30 years. The longevity makes the central vacuum system more competitive in overall cost comparison.

Central Vacuum Tools & Attachments

Central vacuum tools and attachments are just as important as the central vacuum system. Even with a very powerful central vacuum, choosing poor accessories can overall affect the cleaning performance of the unit. The good thing is these systems have a large variety of central vacuum accessories for better performance and a better cleaning on every surface including stairs, upholstery, blinds, shutters, and other areas around a home.

Central vacuum attachments can consist of: floor brushes, upholstery tools, crevice tools, pet brushes, automatic dustpans, and two types of beater bar carpet brushes; electric powerheads and turbo (air driven) powerheads. Most powerheads vary in cleaning widths from 12" to 16". The wider the cleaning path, the quicker a vacuuming job is finished. However, a wider powerhead typically does not maneuver around furniture as easily as a powerhead with a smaller cleaning path.

Choosing the Right Central Vacuum Tools & Attachments

Choosing the right attachments is just as important as choosing a central vacuum. The right tool can provide maximum cleaning effectiveness and add convenience. There are many choices when it comes to tools and attachments. So keep in mind surfaces and other areas that need to be cleaning around the home.

Is There Carpet in the Home?

The best tool for the best carpet clean is a powerhead with a revolving brush roller. An electric powerhead is ideal for carpeted areas in the home. There are also turbo (air-driven) powerheads that use the central vacuums suction power to turn the brush roller and does not require electricity. Turbo powerheads usually cost less but the effectiveness on carpets is limited but can be ideal for bare flooring.

What Type of Hose Do I Need?

The standard central vacuum hose usually comes in 30’ or 35’ lengths. There are two main options, electric and non-electric. Electric hoses tend to cost more but are necessary for use with electric powerheads. Non-electric hoses are used with turbo (air-driven powerhead). The most desired hose is crush-proof and are much lighter than the older wire reinforced hose which can kink and flatten with everyday use.

The Different Types of Cleaning Attachments

Floor Tools- These attachments are available in a variety of colors, can come with wheels, and many different types of bristles. Best for use on bare flooring.

Combination Floor Tools- Ideal for homes with multiple types of flooring. These tools can be used on carpets and bare flooring. Most come with a toggle switch to make it easy to transition to and from bare floors and carpets.

Wands - Telescopic wands are preferred for use with a powerhead or floor tool and allow the user to adjust to different lengths. These wands can be plastic or chrome and are used with attachments that can get into those hard to reach places.

Standard Attachments- The 3 standard central cleaning tools consist of the crevice tool, upholstery tool, and the dusting brush. These tools are very handy when it comes to cleaning any area of any home and easily attach to the wand for convenience.

Hose Socks- Protective socks are a must to protect furniture, walls, baseboards, and prevents the hose from kinking.

Final Thoughts: There are many reasons why people choose central vacuums over a traditional vacuum cleaner. Central vacuums not only produce more suction power but they also run quieter and do not require heavy lifting. Simply plug a lightweight hose into an inlet and go. The large variety of cleaning tools and attachments add to the cleaning effectiveness and convenience of a central vacuum system.

This Article was written by ThinkVacuums.com a 30+ year old vacuum company in South Florida. When it comes to Central Vacuums, Household Vacuums, and floor care Thinkvacuums.com has it all. Have any additional questions? Please call 1-800-322-2965 and a central vacuum expert will be happy to answer any questions.

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Brian Vastola

ThinkVacuums Customer Support
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