We know it can be tiring dragging a heavy vacuum cleaner around your home. And it’s time-consuming having to plug-unplug it several times to clean your whole house.
A central vacuum system is an investment worth making. You’ll help to protect your loved ones as they provide better air quality inside your house. Plus they’re quiet and easy to use. But they’re also powerful and don’t require much maintenance once installed.
Here we’ll tell you all about the benefits of these vacuum cleaners. You’ll see what you need to consider before buying. And we’ve given you a guide on the best central vacuum systems available so you can choose the one that’s right for you and your home.
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- Our Top Picks
- Are Central Vacuum Systems Worth It?
- How Does A Central Vacuum System Work?
- How To Choose The Best Central Vacuum System
- The Best Central Vacuum Systems of 2021
- Central Vacuum Systems Comparison Chart
- How To Maintain Your Central Vacuum
- How Long Does A Central Vacuum System Last?
- Opt For A Spotless Home
Are Central Vacuum Systems Worth It?
Yes. They are worth the investment due to their many benefits which we’ll take you through below.
Improved Air Quality
The Environmental Protection Agency states that regular cleaning can reduce dust mites, pollen, and other allergens. And whereas normal vacuuming can increase the airborne levels of these particles – “using central vacuum systems…may be of help” (1).
The Davis School of Medicine, University of California, did a study comparing the impact of a portable vs central vacuum on the quality of life in patients who suffered from allergens associated with house dust. The results showed that the symptoms of these individuals improved by up to 61% when they used a central vacuum system (2).
Powerful Suction & Durable
Think about your traditional vacuum cleaners. These need to be carried around the house so can’t have as big a motor. Otherwise, they’d be too heavy. Central vacuums have a fixed unit and fixed tubing and so can have a better quality of motor, wiring, etc. They’re made to a higher standard with better materials.
A vacuum cleaner’s suction power is measured with air watts. These are calculated by looking at the CFM (cubic feet per minute that are covered) and water-lift at the end of the vacuum’s hose/tool/brush.
Compare this portable vacuum which is advertised as being really powerful – Dyson V15 – and has 230 air watts. But this OVO Central Vacuum System has 630 air watts, making it nearly 3 times more powerful.
A powerful suction means that you’ll pick up more dust, debris, and pet hair. This is especially true for households with lots of carpets. Tiny fibers and allergens can get ingrained in carpeted floors and most of the time a standard vacuum won’t suck these up.
Plus, a central vacuum system is durable as they’re built to last a long time. And because of this you usually get a longer warranty.
A decibel output of 57 to 62 is considered low. And anything making this level of noise can be used at any time of day and shouldn’t disturb other people in your home or your neighbors.
On average, a normal conversation has a sound level of about 60 dB (3). And this OVO Central Vacuum System is very similar as the noise it produces is around 65 dB. But a typical portable vacuum cleaner produces a sound output of approximately 84 to 89 dB (4).
Easy & Safe to Use
The main unit is housed in your basement or garage. So when vacuuming, you just need to put the hose into one of the wall inlets which are spaced throughout your house. And that’s all there is to it! Plus, cleaning your stairs is less challenging because you don’t have a big hot appliance to balance on the steps.
Central vacuums are safe because you won’t injure yourself carrying a heavy cleaner around your house. There are no electric cords for you to trip over or catch on your furniture. And there’s no bulky vacuum head that might bang into and damage table legs or couch feet.
Large Dirt Collection
See, for example, this NuTone PurePower Central Vacuum System. The bags used in this model have a large capacity of 6 gallons. The manufacturer says that you only need to empty this on average every 6 months.
Difficult Debris Collection
How well the central vacuum system collects this type of debris might depend on whether it’s bagged or not. Filter bags might get clogged or damaged collecting these substances. But bagless models can remove the biggest range of materials.
More Value to Your Home
The average cost of a system is around $1,200 to $3,000 for a house of no more than 3,000 square feet. This cost is not excessive and can be recovered easily when you go on to sell your house.
And because central vacuums last a long time, you’ll save money by not having to replace a standard vacuum cleaner every few years. So overall, they are a good investment.
You may need to replace the filter or the brushes on the motor, or lubricate the motor. But again, this is not something that you’ll be doing regularly. A central vacuum cleaner may become clogged. But this is rare.
How Does A Central Vacuum System Work?
A central vacuum system is a semi-permanent type of vacuum cleaner. The main body, which includes the motor and collection canister, is installed in a basement, garage, or utility space.
It’s designed with 3 parts:
- Power unit – a large motor
- Filtration system – bag/HEPA filters/cyclonic system (see more on this below)
- Dust collection system – dirt pail, pipes, wall inlets, and hose/cleaning attachments.
Tubing, normally PVC pipes, are installed inside the walls of your home. Inlets are positioned inside walls throughout the house. You then insert a power hose or other vacuum tool into one of these inlets.
As you vacuum with the vacuum hose, dust is removed from your floors and furniture. It is pulled by the motor and sent through the piping network to the collection canister. Most hoses have a power switch on the handle so you can easily turn the central vac on and off.
This video gives you a good idea of how the system is set up and operates. It uses an industrial building, but the idea is the same for a home. Just on a smaller scale.
How To Choose The Best Central Vacuum System
Let’s have a look at the key features you should bear in mind when choosing a central vacuum cleaner.
But the power can be impacted by how far away the inlet is from the motor unit. The further away it is, the less suction power the vacuum cleaner will have. So if you’ve got a large home and the unit is in the basement, you’ll get less power on the top floor than on the bottom floor.
Most central vacuum cleaners have large collection capacities. So compared to a traditional vacuum, you won’t need to empty them as much. But the capacity can vary by brand.
These systems have no bags or filters that need replacing. Air spins in the collection canister and causes cyclonic separation. This is where 98% of debris and larger dirt particles fall into the canister. And the smaller dust particles are vented directly outdoors.
You need to think carefully about location if opting for this type of system. Dust-laden air could make its way back indoors if the unit is too close to windows/doors. And the filters also need cleaning every once in a while.
Inverted bag, foam, or cartridge filters are housed in the dirt canister. Some filtered systems also take collection bags. These help to eliminate any debris that is not deposited in the canister by the filters.
This may not be the right choice for you if you suffer from allergies. Emptying the canister can be unpleasant and aggravate symptoms as mold and other allergens will become airborne.
Dirt that is removed from your house is deposited into collection bags inside the canister. With this type of system, you don’t need an outdoor vent. But you might still want one as this can help to reduce noise and odors.
Bagged systems are a better pick if you have allergies or breathing difficulties. The dust is stored securely in the disposable bag and doesn’t escape. So when emptying your canister, you’ll not be as exposed to allergens.
- Standard Inlet
- Hide-A-Hose Inlet (6).
A professional installer is probably a good idea. Because the central vac piping needs to run inside the walls of your house. And although it looks similar, the tubing is not the same as drain pipes!
You can also choose to have sweep inlets or basic inlets. And if you do decide to do the work yourself, note that most central vacuum cleaners need at least one inlet per floor of your home. Plus most floor plans require one inlet per 750 square feet.
- Crevice nozzles: long and thin, help you to suck up dirt from tight, awkward corners.
- Elbow wands: connect directly to the inlet, help shorter people to reach spiderwebs on the ceiling and the top of tall curtains.
- Wet nozzles: squeegee edge pulls liquid in and the nozzle sucks it into the system.
- Brush attachments: upholstery tools such as upholstery nozzle for cleaning curtains and furniture, also good for the car.
- Powered vacuum heads: connects to an upright tube that is attached to the vacuum hose, lets you vacuum as if you were using a standard vacuum.
- Hose extensions: flexible or rigid, give you more length to reach all parts of your house, and can be retractable.
Look for central vacuum systems that have a sound output of about 55 dB or below to avoid a lot of noise being created. Or find one that has the option for a quiet operation when you need it.
Because of their durability, most of these systems come with generous warranties — between 5 to 10 years. But do examine exactly what they cover. Lots of brands protect against material or construction defects. But most will not cover you if you use your system incorrectly. Or general wear and tear.
The Best Central Vacuum Systems of 2021
Central vacuum systems are a big investment. So to help you decide which is best for your home, we’ve done the hard work for you.
We’ve spent hours researching customer feedback, product descriptions, and technical specs to produce this guide on the best central vacuum systems available on the market.
1. HP Dirt Devil Central Vacuum System
This powerful central vacuum system is competitively priced. And it includes several accessories including a hose that is crush-proof and can extend to 35 inches.
The hose has a swivel handle so you’ll be able to use your vacuum in awkward spaces. And you even get a handy mesh bag to store the tools in when you’re not using them.
Plus this central vac comes with 3 replaceable HEPA filter bags. So you won’t have to worry about buying any new ones for a long time. And the HEPA filtration will capture 99.97% of all dirt particles.
This central vacuum unit is easy to install yourself. It has an all-metal compact design so is built to last. And there’s a 5-year warranty included if you have any problems.
Finally, if you have an RV, this central vacuum system is a great option due to its size. It doesn’t take up much space. And the manufacturer says that it can even add to your RV’s resale value. So it’s a worthwhile investment for the future.
- Compact size so ideal for campers/trailers/RVs
- Users commented on its strong suction power
- Very easy to install
- Durable due to its metal construction
- Some customers found the hose a little heavy
- Small dirt collection capacity
|Airflow||Air Watts: 501 AW, Flow Rate: 100 CFM|
|Accessories Included||7 to 35 inch expandable hose, one-piece adjustable wand, 10 inch rug/floor tool, upholstery tool, dusting brush, crevice tools, mesh tool bag, replaceable filter bags|
2. Electrolux QC600 Quiet Central Vacuum System
Noise blocking foam in the motor ensures that the sound level of this central vac system at-unit is 72.3 dB.
However, the noise level that you’ll hear around the rest of your house is even quieter than this. That’s because there’s also a muffler connection in the exhaust pipe which reduces the noise output even more.
Electrolux has designed this vacuum system so that you can decide whether it’s bagged or bagless (see above for which option might be best for you). If you go for the latter, the dust bin can hold an impressive 4 gallons of debris.
And you don’t need to worry about this vacuum unit falling off the wall! It comes with an anti-vibration system so when it’s mounted it won’t move around or damage anything that might be stored nearby.
Lastly, this central vacuuming system can clean living spaces up to 8,000 square feet in size. So it’s suitable for condos and smaller townhouses, but also medium-sized homes.
- Quiet in your home
- Option for bagged or bagless
- 10-year warranty for parts and labor
- Self-cleaning HEPA filter
- More expensive than other models
- Some users said that they struggled to find replacement bags
|Filtration System||Bagged or Bagless|
|Airflow||Air Watts: 600 AW, Flow Rate: 125 CFM|
|Accessories Included||Paper bag, adaptor|
3. NuTone PurePower Central Vacuum System
Once set up, cleaning is easy as all you’ll need to carry around your house is the lightweight hose.
The power unit for this vacuum system is slim and compact. It will clean areas covering up to 4,000 square feet. So it’s particularly suited to smaller homes.
But this doesn’t mean you have to compromise on power. This central vacuum system has 550 air watts so its suction power will give you a more thorough clean than traditional upright vacuums.
This central vac comes with a 6-foot power cord. And a multi-direction vacuum connection. So it should be easy to install even if your space is small or of an awkward design.
Plus, the thru flow motor and sound-absorbing material in the design make this a quiet central vacuum. If the unit is stored in a basement or garage, you’ll barely be able to hear it when vacuuming your house.
- UL listed so you know it hits high standards for the industry
- Wall-mount bracket included for secure fitting
- Large bag capacity of 6 gallons
- Flip-open handles on the debris pin for easy emptying
- Not suitable for larger homes
- Pricey for the relatively small area that it covers
|Airflow||Air Watts: 550 AW, Flow Rate: N/A|
4. OVO Heavy Duty Powerful Central Vacuum System
The powerful motor has 700 AW and can cover 140.2 cubic feet per minute. And the power unit has a Soft-Start technology. This extends the lifespan of the motor by 20% so you know this vacuum cleaner is designed to last.
This central vacuum system can cover 9,000 square feet and has an impressive 9+ gallons capacity. So it’s ideal for large houses.
It has a cyclonic filtration system and a permanent washable filter. Combined, these will purify the air inside your home. And OVO says that they can help to alleviate symptoms for those with allergy and respiratory problems.
And if you opt to use the filter bags, they are triple-layered, protecting you from dust particles when you empty the bin.
Plus we think you’ll like the Soft-Stop technology. This causes a 3-second delay in the unit shutting down. So you won’t get any dust or debris coming back down the hose and onto your floors!
- Users said that the customer service was great
- LED light tells you the status of your vacuum cleaner
- Very powerful central vacuum according to customer feedback
- Option to buy different accessories depending on needs
- The bagless option is not recommended and some users found it didn’t work as well
- Some found that installation was a little tricky despite it being advertised as compatible with existing piping networks
|Filtration System||Bagged or Bagless|
|Airflow||Air Watts: 700 AW, Flow Rate: 140.2 CFM|
|Accessories Included||1 filtration bag|
5. Prolux Red Central Vacuum Power Unit
It has 3 levels of filtration and you don’t need to worry about replacing bags. There’s a clear window in the bagless dirt chamber. So you can see when it needs emptying without having to remove the canister from the unit.
And then there’s a Micron Pre filter and a HEPA filter to ensure that all those nasty allergen and dirt particles are removed. So you can be reassured that your indoor air quality is the best it can be for you and your family.
This central vac system can cover up to 12,000 square feet making it a good option if you’ve got a large home.
Plus Prolux has put a garage vacuum port on this vacuum cleaner. So you can clean your garage and cars easily too.
The Ametek 2 stage motor provides a strong suction power of 150 cubic feet per minute. But despite this power, you don’t need to worry about noise. There’s a muffler to ensure that the unit runs quietly.
- Washable Micron Pre and HEPA filters
- 25-year warranty on the body and 10-year warranty on the motor
- Steel body makes it very durable
- Can cover large areas
- Not as powerful as other models according to some customer feedback
- May require more maintenance as bagless
|Filtration System||Bagless & Filtered|
|Airflow||Air Watts: N/A, Flow Rate: 150 CFM|
Central Vacuum Systems Comparison Chart
|Product||Filtration System||Weight||Capacity||Air Watts||Flow Rate|
|HP Dirt Devil Central Vacuum System||Bagged||21 pounds||1 Gallon||501 AW||100 CFM|
|Electrolux QC600 Quiet Central Vacuum System||Bagged or Bagless||27.77 pounds||4 Gallons||600 AW||125 CFM|
|NuTone PurePower Central Vacuum System||Bagged||22 pounds||6 Gallons||550 AW||N/A|
|OVO Heavy Duty Central Vacuum System||Bagged or Bagless||27 pounds||9.25 Gallons||700 AW||140.2 CFM|
|Prolux Red Central Vacuum Power||Bagged or Bagless||22 pounds||5 Gallons||N/A||150 CFM|
How To Maintain Your Central Vacuum
Read on to discover how to maintain the different parts of your central vacuum system. Remember to turn the power unit off before you do any kind of maintenance.
If you have a bagged central vacuum system, the manufacturer might suggest how long it usually takes to fill up. And Prolux’s bagless model above has a window so you can see how full the canister is at any time.
NuTone’s recommendation for their 6-gallon dust pail is that the bag be changed or the canister be emptied around twice a year. This is under normal conditions and you’ll probably have noticed a reduction in suction power.
Filters should be replaced 2 to 4 times a year. But many models come with filters that are washable so these might last longer. Always replace a filter if you see signs of damage.
Filtered bags need to be changed when half to three-quarters full. If they get too full, the system can get clogged or you risk damaging the motor.
But they don’t need emptying as often as bagged systems. You can normally wait until it’s full or you’ve seen the suction reduce.
Some models don’t need any oil – Imperium’s central vacuum has a motor with bearings that are greased and sealed for life.
Brushes on Motor
But due to the damage that can be caused if they’re left to fully wear out, Imperium recommends that you have them inspected every 4 to 6 years.
How Long Does A Central Vacuum System Last?
Many manufacturers of central vacuum systems say that they can last for around 30 to 40 years.
The design of the motors means that they can handle being used a lot longer than your traditional vacuum cleaners. Typically they’ll last for 800 to 1,100 hours of usage.
A 10-year cycle is equivalent to approximately 500 hours of vacuuming. So, the motor on central vacuums can last around 20 years.
But this is based on the motor. And these can be replaced and at a low cost. So the system as a whole – with a new motor at some point – can last longer.
By comparison, a Consumer Reports survey found that standard portable vacuum cleaners last for a median of 8 years (7).
Opt For A Spotless Home
It takes a lot of time and effort to clean your entire house with a standard portable vacuum. Especially if you’ve got a large area to cover. But with central vacuums, it doesn’t need to be such a chore.
A central vacuum system gives you powerful and easy cleaning. And it’s quiet and can even add value to your home. But you don’t need to worry about having to empty the bag or canister that often. Plus a central vac is quiet and good for allergy sufferers.
Check what suction power, noise output, and capacity the unit has before buying. And think about what type of filtration system and attachments you want. Our guide on the best central vacuum systems will help you compare these features on different models.
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