Central vacuum systems are popular among homeowners. Most people avoid central vacuums due to costly installation, although it doesn’t always have to be as expensive.
The trick is in knowing how to install a central vacuum system so that you can avoid unnecessary expenses. In most cases, you can save some money by carefully planning the installation. A good plan allows you to prepare and get professional help only at specific points.
Although trying to install a central vacuum sounds a bit overwhelming, it doesn’t have to be as challenging. In the article below, you’ll discover how to install a central vacuum system easily and quickly.
We included a detailed explanation of how to plan the system as well as how to install it without any hassle. The guide and FAQ session below can help you figure out which system would work the best for you and how to install it.
What Is a Central Vacuum System & How Does It Work
A central vacuum system is a built-in vacuum that works with several components. It’s an always-ready vacuum that helps save on space and is most commonly used in large homes.
It’s usually installed in a storage room, utility room, or garage. It can be quite large, but all its wires and tubing are located in interior walls, hidden away so that they don’t take up any additional space.
What you get is a series of vacuum inlets throughout your house, allowing you to vacuum each room and hall easily. You also get some tools, although that tends to vary depending on the particular central vacuum you choose.
The central vacuum and interior ducting work together to remove the dust and dirt. All the collected dirt goes into the dust bin that’s inside the central vacuum.
You activate it by inserting a vacuum hose into an inlet valve. This allows you to from one room to another easily and quickly without dragging a heavy vacuum around.
Is a Central Vacuum System Worth It?
A central vacuum system is a costly investment, but it’s definitely a worthy one. There are many benefits to owning a central vacuum, which is why people often opt to get one.
One of the most significant things to mention is reduced noise. Central vacuums are typically rather quiet when compared to standard vacuums. You won’t have to deal with making excessive noise as much as you used to, which is particularly important for pet owners.
Plus, these are easy to use since you don’t have to drag a heavy and bulky vacuum around the house. This is convenient for large houses with stairs.
A central vacuum system doesn’t have long cords that would get in your way. It doesn’t have parts that would wear out or filters that need maintenance. They’re particularly suitable for allergy-prone people and pet owners.
Preparing for DIY Central Vacuum Installation
Trying to install a central vacuum power unit isn’t always as simple, but you can make the installation process much easier with some careful planning.
Before you go out to buy a central vacuum system, you should first think of the space you have. You should plan the piping and figure out when and where you need a professional to help.
Check the guide below as we help you prepare for the DIY central vacuum installation.
Create a Plan & Prepare the Tools
The first thing you want to do is plan the installation. Figure out where you want the central vacuum power unit and the canister, as well as where all the inlet valves will be.
Think about the tubing system and where you want to install it. The best way to do this is to understand the building and its basement construction.
The central unit should be in your garage or the basement. Make sure that it’s nowhere near your heating, boiler, dryer, and water heater. The room should also have good ventilation.
Plan the inlet valves to be in hallways and near doorways. If you have stairs, you might want a wall inlet near the staircase as well. Use a 30′ cord to measure and figure out what you can reach with an inlet valve at a certain location.
Once you have a detailed plan, you should gather the tools you need for the installation. Make sure that all the required tools are within reach.
Choose the Adequate Space
One of the most important things to think about is where you want to install the system. Location is quite critical as it can make the system easier or more difficult to use depending on where you place it.
As we mentioned, you should place the vacuum in your basement, utility room, storage room, or garage. However, you must keep it far from rising temperatures. The room should be well-vented as these power units require good ventilation for proper operation.
Choose the Adequate Producer
The producer is the most important component of the cleaning system. As such, it should be durable, strong, and dependable.
These are typically built to exacting standards so that you can enjoy very little maintenance and ease of use. Centrifugal vacuums range from 3” and 4” to 6” and 8” based on the size of the wash. However, you might need some help with choosing among these sizes.
You should think about how many people will use it simultaneously. It’s also important to think about how far is the end-user from the vacuum.
Plan the Piping Systems
Your piping system is a vital component, as it’s what brings the dirty air to the separator. However, you have to plan where you’ll install the tubing as it has to be done to deliver sufficient suction.
Tubing can be made from different materials, differing in the application as well as price. You can choose from zinc, steel, and ABS, which are the three most popular options.
Luckily, every option is quite expandable and modular, allowing you to modify and adjust the system if needed. Plus, you’ll also have to choose the color, shade, and size of the material to match your preferences and needs.
Can You Do It?
These vacuums are a bit complex to install on your own. Surely, the process is simpler for people with previous experience, but even then, it requires careful planning.
The best way to figure out if you can do it is by reviewing the plan you previously made. Keep in mind that you might need special tools that you maybe don’t have, which would require you to buy them for this purpose alone.
Try to be objective since hiring a professional can sometimes be a wiser decision, although it costs some money.
Central Vacuum System Installation Guide
If you do decide to take on the installation on your own, you should be careful about how you do it. As we said, plan everything and gather the tools before starting.
You should also try to learn how to install a central vacuum system before you get to installing one. For this reason, we prepared a little guide with some information that can be helpful. However, make sure that you’re cautious and follow the guide at your own risk.
Tube System Installation
The first thing you should do after planning and gathering your tools is measuring the tubing. Measure from the base of the pipe on the inside of the fitting hub.
Cut it straight and square before dry-fitting them to check if you cut them well. Make sure also to clean the piping with a clean and dry cloth to remove any residue and grime.
Apply PVC solvent cement to the piping in order to join in with the fitting. Insert it inside the fitting before twisting a bit so that the cement distributes evenly. Remove any access and let it dry for at least four hours before using the vac.
You should also affix low voltage wiring to the tubing at every four feet using a wire clamp. This is important so that the power unit can be switched on and off.
Power Unit Installation
You should screw the power unit to the wall using the bottom screws of the mounting bracket. Place it some 48” from the floor so that you can remove and empty the dirt canister with ease.
Make sure to allow at least 8” between the power unit and the ceiling so that there’s enough ventilation. Also, make sure mounting bolts enter studs if you’re installing on panel or plaster walls. If you’re dealing with concrete walls, you should drill with a masonry bit before inserting lead or plastic anchors.
Strip the low voltage wire once you mount the power unit and crimp it into the two terminals provided. Make sure also to connect the main tube to the intake valve but don’t cement the connection. You’ll maybe want to remove it later on, which would be impossible if you cement it.
One thing you should keep in mind is that some vacuums are different than others. This means that not every vac is installed the same way and with the same tools. To be sure, follow the directions you received with the vac as that’s usually the safest way to set up the system.
Inlet Valves Installation
This step will require some drilling, so make sure that you’re awake of electrical wires and plumbing. Figure out the desired location and drill a small pilot hole in the floor below where the valve will go.
Measure over from the hole from beneath the floor so that you can find the soleplate. Next, drill a hole of 2-1/4” in diameter through the center of the soleplate. Look inside the wall to make sure that there’s nothing in there that would get in your way.
Cut the nailing tab off the mounting bracket horizontally before cutting vertically. Proceed to glue a 90° short elbow to the bracket before passing the low-voltage wire through the guide hole.
Strip the wire and wire it to the inlet before inserting the elbow and mounting bracket through the hole you’ve cut. Once you place it inside, pull it so that it fits the hole properly. Push the valve onto a bent length of a coat hanger before pushing it onto the bracket.
Insert and tighten the valve screws to put everything together. Adjust it and glue the outside of the end of the tubing before pushing it through the hole into the 90° elbow.
A branch line is what connects the inlet to the trunk line. Attach a 90° elbow and run a branch line tubing from the inlet line to the trunk line. Attach a 90° tee fitting to the trunk line to align and measure the branch line properly.
Align and mark the line for inserting it into the fitting. Now, cut the branch line and insert it into the tee. It should be even and straight in order to fit, allowing you to connect the next section of the tubing to the other side of the tee fitting.
Run the tank line to the power unit, making sure to connect all the branch lines along the way. Bring the line to the access hole you previously drilled for the vacuum’s intake tube.
Place a 90° elbow over that hole and cut the trunk line to fit. Connect the elbow to the trunk line, ensuring that it aligns with the access hole of the intake tube. The actual intake tube connection should be made after you install the power unit.
Check and make sure that you’ve connected all fittings with the airflow toward the vacuum. Once you adjusted everything, check if your cuts are square, and all the joints are tight.
Basement Trunk Line
A basement installation isn’t much different than other tubing networks you’ve done at this point. Start the line at the farthest inlet line from the vacuum unit.
Measure well and cut the tubing to the required length so that you can align the trunk line with the ceiling. You should cement the inlet tubing before connecting it to the 90° elbow. Make all line connections as you would in an attic installation.
One thing you should make sure is that all branch lines are at the same level as the trunk lines. Everything should be well-fitted and oriented to allow airflow toward the power unit.
To install PVC pipes, you should insert the tube into the fitting so that you can align the two parts. Mark both locations so that you can realign the joint later on.
Use some cement on the outside of the tube, dabbing it in an inch-wide band. Insert the tube into the fitting so that the marks you made are a quarter turn apart. Now, push and turn the fitting quickly until you align the marks, spreading the cement.
Make sure to let the connection dry. In most cases, a minute or two is enough for it to dry well so that you can proceed with the installation. You might also want to use some duct tape or electrical tape to seal the joint even better for some added security.
Professional installation doesn’t require any final tests, but you shouldn’t skip this if you’ve opted for DIY installation. It’s better to be safe than sorry, so take some time for this.
Use a wire to short-circuit the low voltage connectors at the side of the unit. No air will come out after 10 to 15 seconds if all the pipes are capped, and the valves are closed. You’ll know there’s leakage if there’s still lots of air coming out.
You should be careful with this since your vac might overheat if there’s no airflow for longer than 30 seconds. If you’re unsure, you can also invite a professional to run these tests for you.
What’s the central vacuum system installation cost if I decide to hire a professional?
A: On average, the cost for a home less than 3,000 square feet ranges between $1,200 and $3,000. However, the cost depends on many things such as number and type of inlet walls, the vac, the accessories, and the vacuum hose.
Luckily, most professionals offer free estimates, giving you an idea of how much the installation might cost you. Check with your local dealer if they can come to see and talk about the installation and prices.
Will the central vacuum system installation ruin my walls?
A: Installation in existing homes is rather simple, and the only hole required is concealed by the inlet valve. You don’t have to break any walls since the tubing can go behind the wall.
It all depends on whether you have a single-story or a two-story home since the installation process differs between the two. However, most professionals offer different solutions to avoid ruining any interior walls.
How does this system collect the dirt?
A: All the dirt that’s picked up goes through the tubing until it gets trapped into a filter that’s in the vac itself. You’ll have to clean the filters now and then in order to maintain its performance at peak.
Keep in mind that these vacuums can hold gallons of dirt and debris, which means you won’t have to empty them as frequently. It depends on how frequently you use the vac, but you probably won’t have to empty it more than a few times a year.
Hopefully, we were able to help you understand how to install a central vacuum system. As you noticed, the installation process itself isn’t as complicated. However, it helps if you have some experience with wire systems and tubing.
Setting the connections up is rather simple, but make sure to follow the installation guide and instructions you received with the particular vac you got.
The information we provided above is general, and it would certainly help to have more precise instructions from the manufacturer. Also, you might want to get a professional from your local area to see and estimate the cost. It’s always better to have someone experienced do this, so give it a shot as it might not be as expensive for your case.