Central vacuum system: advantages & disadvantages

Central vacuum system: advantages & disadvantages



When it comes to keeping our homes, offices and other spaces clean, we need a lot of tools to help us get the job done, like dustpans, scrub brushes or brooms. The mobile vacuum cleaner is one of the most popular cleaning equipment. This article is about the central vacuum system, a modern alternative to mobile vacuum cleaners gaining popularity due to its convenience. 

Central vacuum systems are different from mobile vacuum cleaners because you can mount them in your basement, garage or utility room. They use a power unit and several inlet valves to function, and you can connect to these from your preferred room. In other words, you only need to plug a hose into the central vacuum system valve that’s fitted in your room to start cleaning. Because of this, central vacuum systems are more powerful than portable vacuum cleaners

Portable vacuum cleaners are noisy and heavy, and you need to empty them often. Central vacuum systems are making them a thing of the past. But are central vacuum systems worth the investment? 

In this article, we’ll look at the advantages and disadvantages of central vacuum systems. We’ll look at how they work, how much they cost, and other details that can help you determine if this cleaning system is right for you.

Advantages of central vacuum systems

Here are the top reasons why central vacuum systems may be a good fit for your household:

  • Reduced noise. We all know the noise level associated with traditional canister or upright vacuum cleaners. Whenever you switch one on, all conversation must be put on hold until you’re finished. Central vacuum systems are less noisy and help keep your household calm and peaceful. The central power unit, which generates noise, is usually stored in a place like a basement, utility room or garage. The only noise you’ll hear while cleaning comes from the vacuum header connected by a hose to the central system, which means it's much quieter than traditional vacuum cleaners.
  • Air quality. Indoor spaces with poor airflow can subject you to worsening asthma symptoms and other respiratory infections. They can also trigger certain allergies that you didn't know affected you. Traditional portable vacuum cleaners can pull up dirt, but they are not always effective at making the environment cleaner when it comes to airflow, since they cause dust to rise and pollute the air. Central vacuum systems, on the other hand, extract debris, like dust particles, pet hair and other allergens, and store them outside your main living area.
  • Powerful. Central vacuum systems are more powerful compared to portable vacuum cleaners. They feature larger and stronger motors capable of generating a lot of suction that can pull up dirt from materials, like carpets. Their powerful motors make central vacuum systems suitable for deep-cleaning activities.
  • Durable. As opposed to traditional vacuum cleaners, central vacuum systems are made to last an extended period of about 15 to20 years. These systems are less likely to experience the common filter issues with portable canister vacuum cleaners. Though the initial cost may be high, central vacuum systems are a good investment in the long run. American Vacuum, a leading producer of central vacuum systems, guarantees more than 10 years of operation.
  • Versatility. With central vacuum systems, you can get into tight spots, such as on top of beams or in crevices and corners, to pull up dirt and other materials, like grains, insects and wet spills.
  • Low maintenance. When shopping for household equipment, choosing products with a low maintenance cost is recommended, especially if you’re on a budget. Central vacuum systems can last longer, which means they’ll need fewer repairs and maintenance than traditional vacuum cleaners.


Disadvantages of central vacuum systems

Though central vacuum systems have numerous benefits, they still have some disadvantages, which include:

  • Expensive. Central vacuum systems are more expensive than portable vacuum cleaners. A standard central vacuum system starts at $500 on Amazon, while traditional hand-held vacuum cleaners often go for between $35 and $150. On the positive side, central vacuum systems are more durable and reliable than portable cleaners. You’ll be making a long-term investment by purchasing one.
  • High installation costs. Installing a central vacuum system is not one of those do-it-yourself projects. There are many steps involved when it comes to central vacuum installation. For starters, you first have to determine a secluded room where you’ll place the power unit responsible for creating suction. You then have to fit hoses and inlet valves into the walls of your house. When you complete this activity, additional electrical work still needs to be done. All these installation activities consume time and money. It’s recommended you hire professionals to install the central vacuum system to avoid damages to your home or machine. Depending on your location, the size of your property, the dealer, system brand and filtration type, the average installation cost for a central vacuum system runs between $800 and $3,500.
  • Powerful suction. You may wonder why power is both an advantage and a disadvantage of central vacuum systems. Central vacuum systems are incredibly powerful, which means if you use them incorrectly, you can end up pulling up unwanted objects and household items that could damage the machine. Imagine sucking in your TV remote! Apart from the risk of blocking the suction hoses, you’d probably need to dig through the dirt in the central storage location to find what you lost.
  • Costly repairs. Though central vacuum systems last for a long period, they are still machines subject to normal wear and tear. When your vacuum system breaks down, you may need to pay between $100 and $500 to repair it. Note that this amount may vary across states and dealers.


How central vacuum systems work

Central vacuum systems are incredibly effective at cleaning your home. Let’s talk through the steps to set yours up and start putting it to use.  

First, you’ll have to determine where to place the central power unit. This component generates the suction to pull up dirt and debris from your home, office or other indoor spaces. It's recommended to place the power unit in a secluded location to reduce noise pollution and save space. Areas such as basements, utility rooms and garages are a perfect fit.

Once the central power unit is installed, you must place wall inlet valves in different locations in your home. You also need to add tubes or pipes inside your walls to connect the inlet valves to the central power unit. The tubes will transport the dirt collected from your whole house to a central storage location. You can place any number of inlet valves around the house to suit your needs. Note that one inlet can serve about 600 square feet of space. Make sure you don’t place too many inlets in a single room, as that will incur unnecessary installation costs.

To start cleaning, insert a lightweight central vacuum hose with a power brush unit into the inlet valve. Next, press the power button, commonly located on the handle of the power brush unit, to start using the vacuum system. 

A power button on the brush unit is a convenient feature because it means you won’t have to go to your garage, utility room or other spaces where the power unit is stored to start it.

See the list below for a central vacuum system’s main components:

  • Power unit. This heavy component contains motors and a filtering system. The motor generates suction power, while the filtering system prevents debris and dirt from reaching and damaging the motor. The power unit also features a storage bag. The system directs all the dirt from the house to this central storage area. As a result, dirt can be disposed of easily.
  • Piping system. You have to pass a series of pipes inside your walls. The pipes run from the power unit to the inlet valves. Pipes used in a central vacuum system have a diameter of about 55 millimeters and feature a smooth interior, allowing dirt to move easily to the storage location.
  • Voltage system. Central vacuum systems have a wire inserted in walls alongside PVC pipes. The wire switches the vacuum system on or off from any room in your home with an inlet valve.
  • Hose system. A hose allows you to connect to the central vacuum system and start cleaning. Though you can connect a hose of any length to the vacuum inlet valve, it will typically be between 30 and 35 feet long. A long hose allows you to reach a wide space.

Can you install a central vacuum in an existing home?

Though it's always recommended to install a central vacuum system when building a new home, it’s still possible to install one in an existing home. 

With the help of the right professionals, any existing home, regardless of its size, shape and age, can accommodate a central vacuum system.

A huge misconception most homeowners have is that installing a central vacuum system requires demolishing some of their walls to pave the way for new equipment. This is false; many people have installed central vacuum systems in their homes without suffering such consequences.

Experts can help you identify the perfect area to install the power unit and where to add the PVC pipes to your wall without affecting the house's structural integrity.

Does a central vacuum have to be vented outside?

A central vacuum system can be vented outside, but it’s not necessary.

Venting the exhaust from your bagless central vacuum system outside helps improve indoor air quality because it eliminates most of the collected dust.

However, if you cannot vent the central vacuum outside, consider purchasing units with filters or bags to store the dirt and dust.

How often do you empty a central vacuum?

Depending on your usage and home size, you should empty central vacuum systems after three to six months. Consider emptying the storage unit once it's 75% full. This prevents dust from accumulating on the system’s filters and motors, and thus facilitates consistent performance.


How much does it cost to have a central vacuum installed?

The cost of installing a central vacuum system varies according to your location and dealer, as well as the size, style and age of your home. The type and brand of the central vacuum system may also affect your budget.

Typically, you will need around $2,500 to install a central vacuum system in a 2,000-square-foot home. This cost breaks down as follows:

  • Central vacuum motors. The installation cost will differ depending on the motors on your central vacuum system. The two major vacuum motors are filtered and cyclonic. Filtered motors use paper and cloth filters to prevent dust from reaching the motor. They also contain a bag to store the dirt, meaning you must empty or replace it after six months. The replacement cost varies according to the size of the bag, but most cost between $10 and $50. Cyclonic motors, on the other hand, store dirt in a container, so you don’t have to change bags. Cyclonic motors can also vent outside.
  • Power brush or powerheads. A central vac system can use a brush powered by suction alone or one that uses electricity. If you use an electric-powered brush, you’ll accrue extra electricity-related charges. Plus, the brush may cost about $200 more.
  • Hose styles. Central vacuum systems use two types of hoses. There are retractable hoses you pull out of the wall outlet to use and then push back into the wall when you’re finished. The second type is a removable hose, which you’ll have to connect to the wall outlet manually. Retractable hoses are more expensive, costing $500 on average, but these hoses are also highly convenient. 
  • Labor. The labor costs for installing a central vacuum system may differ according to state and dealer, but they typically cost between $400 and $1,500.

Are central vacuums worth it?

Central vacuums are worth it, especially if you have a big house. With these systems, you can add outlets in different rooms and use high power to deep-clean a lot of space.

Central vacuums are also durable compared to portable vacuum cleaners. Stationary components such as the central vacuum power unit are stored in isolated areas, meaning they cannot be tampered with easily. A durable system means you’ll have significant savings in the long run.

Central vacuum systems are also worth it because they reduce indoor dust and debris. Improving air quality can help reduce allergens and limit issues with asthma or other respiratory conditions.

If you value a calm environment, it’s worth considering installing a central vac system. It generates less noise than portable vacuums because its motors store in enclosed spaces.

Does a central vacuum system increase home value?

Just like other built-in appliances, central vacuum systems can increase your home’s value.

Element Vac, a vacuum cleaner producer, claims that built-in vacuum systems can boost your resale value by at least $1,500. Homebuyers will appreciate purchasing a home with a quiet and convenient cleaning system.

How long do central vacuum systems typically last?

Depending on how you use and maintain them, central vacuum systems can last between 20 and 25 years or even longer.

Some brands offering quality vacuum systems and vacuum accessories include Electrolux, NuTone, Cana-Vac and Vacuflo.


Protect your central vacuum system from expensive repairs with Cinch

Central vacuum systems help keep our homes and other indoor spaces clean. These vacuum cleaners are powerful and durable, and they provide great value for money. 

With central vacuum cleaners, you no longer need to drag noisy portable machines everywhere you wish to clean. You can start your cleaning process by inserting a hose inside the suction valve on the wall.

If you have an existing home, consult professionals on installing central vacuum systems. Though the initial costs may be high, you’ll reap numerous benefits in the long run.

Though central vacuum systems are made to last a long time, they’re still machines and are subject to normal wear and tear. If maintained poorly, central vacuums may lose value and break down frequently. The average cost of repairing a central vacuum system can range from $100 to $800. Cinch Home Services can help you avoid breakdowns with regular maintenance.

Cinch’s home protection plans include a Built-in Systems plan that covers the cost of repairing or replacing major home systems subject to normal wear and tear, like central vacuum systems. 

Sign up for our budget-friendly Built-in Systems plan today to avoid the burden of hefty repair and replacement bills. Get started with an instant quote.


Should you purchase a central vacuum system? This article explains the advantages and disadvantages so you can make an informed decision.

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