What You Need to Know about Central Vacuums
A built-in central vac system can finally eliminate the need to lug a vacuum from room to room.
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Kickplate-style inlets, such as this one from M&S Systems, work better than a dustpan and are so much fun that your kids may even offer to help clean the house.
August 01, 2005 by Lisa Montgomery

Vacuums have come a long way in terms of suction power and versatility. For example, today’s powered vacs are much easier to push across a thick carpet than older models, and most units now come with a wide assortment of hand tools that make it a cinch to clean the dust from ceiling fans, draperies and other hard-to-reach spots. Plus, nothing can compare to the cleaning power, convenience and versatility of a built-in vacuum system.

What You’ll Need
A central vacuum system can be installed into any home, whether it’s 100 years old or new construction. These systems are comprised of a hose that’s usually about 30 feet in length; tools that attach to the hose, wall inlets into which the hose connects, a network of plastic tubing that transports the suctioned dirt and a receptacle that holds the dust and debris until you dump it out.

The installation is fairly simple. Some do-it-yourselfers may feel comfortable tackling the job themselves, but it’s often best to leave the installation to a professional who has the proper tools and the expertise to cut into the walls and floors without marring them.

Decisions to Make
There are a few decisions you can make before purchasing a vacuum to help ensure that your system fits your needs perfectly. First, think about how you might like to use the vacuum. Of course, you’ll need it for the floors. But there are many other applications you should consider as well. For example, you could use the system to clean the interior of your car, the inside of your kitchen cupboards and bedroom closets, the draperies and furniture and even artwork and architectural details. Identifying the areas you plan to clean will help your installer determine how many inlets he needs to set into the walls. Typically, four inlets will suffice for a 2,500- square-foot home. But to be sure, stretch a 30-foot length of string from the proposed inlet locations to see just how far your hose will reach. If your make-believe hose misses a few areas, you might want to add another inlet.

Electricity and Attachments
Of course, a central vacuum requires electricity to operate, and that means having the appropriate type of outlet near the receptacle that collects the debris. A popular spot for the receptacle is the garage, where it’s out of the way and where dirt can be easily dumped into a trash can. If there’s no available outlet in your garage, call an electrician to have one put in. If your home is larger than 5,000 square feet, your receptacle may need a 30-amp circuit if it runs on 110 volts or a 20-amp circuit if it runs on 240 volts.

Finally, consider having special kick-plate style inlets installed in your kitchen, bathroom and other areas with hard-surface flooring. These inlets are mounted within the baseboard and can siphon away any debris that you sweep near them. Just think: You can finally say good riddance to your nasty dustpan. And who knows? The vacuum kickplates are so easy and fun to use, your kids might actually want to help you clean the house.

The only other thing you’ll need to think about is where to store the hose and attachments. There are a wide variety of tools available, from those designed to clean the loose hair off your pets to those that suction dirt from window screens. There’s hardly anything a central vacuum can’t clean.

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Lisa Montgomery - Contributing Writer
Lisa Montgomery has been writing about home technology for 15 years, with a focus on the impact of electronics on a modern lifestyle.

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