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  • New Project: Central Vacuum System

    SWMBO has decided that she now wants a central vac system in our home. Not a big deal as I’ve put these in our two previous homes. One a two story and both post-construction projects. Both systems were Nutone powered and the two story job was very under powered even though it was the most powerful Nutone head unit available. Fast forward 25 years and the industry is touting units that can handle homes up to 12,000 SF. One thing I’ve learned is that the length of the piping runs are a key factor in suction performance. Our home is 1,900 SF, so one of these big boys should be fine for our application. The question becomes which brand is a good one, so does anyone have recent experience with central vac systems?
    Jim Frye
    The Nut in the Cellar.

  • #2
    I can’t imagine how much fun it would be to install the necessary piping in an already completed house. How many walls will have to be cut into, electrical wiring runs you will have to work around, how much furniture you will have to move...... then when it is all installed you will have to repaint the entire house. I believe I would start shopping for a regular vacuum cleaner.

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    • #3
      It is a bit of a fiddle, but not too distructive. One of the things I did when our home was under construction, was to photograph every wall after the electrical and plumbing was roughed in, just prior to having the drywall hung. Therefore, I can check things visually, as well as with a scanner before I cut. Vac. wall outlets only require a hole slightly smaller than the cover plate. You run the 2” schedule 20 tubing up (or down) to the opening and connect it to the faceplate. Low and high voltage wiring is taped to the outside of the tubing, so fishing wire is no problem. The obvious question is how to bore holes in the sole plate in the proper location. An electrician taught me a technique to locate the center of the wall. It involves using 3’ long drill rod made from 1/8” music wire ground to a “D” shaped point on one end. You guide the rod between the baseboard and the drywall. Once the drill has penetrated the flooring and gone about 6”, you go find it and measure back the the thickness of the drywall and half the width of a 2x4 to bore the 2 1/2” hole. The tubing all goes together with PVC cement. About the only painting required is where the drill rod rubbed the wall.
      Jim Frye
      The Nut in the Cellar.

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      • #4
        I just forgot that not everyone lives in a single floor house.... without a basement. My house on a slab wouldn’t be a candidate for central vac. The piping, it ain’t going in the attic! Good luck!

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        • #5
          Since I do the floor cleaning in our house I have had the choice of machines over the years. I liked the Dyson first corded model but admit that sucker was heavy, it now lives in the basement. The next was a smaller Dyson, still corded that worked well.

          Then, Shark came out with a very easy to use cordless that had a two battery charger. I have not used the Dyson in a couple of years. I am not sure a central vac would improve on this. We are one floor with only carpet in one room. As soon as LOML cleans out her office I can put hardwood down in that room.

          My $.02 worth.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by capncarl View Post
            I just forgot that not everyone lives in a single floor house.... without a basement. My house on a slab wouldn’t be a candidate for central vac. The piping, it ain’t going in the attic! Good luck!
            The two story home I did had piping in the attic. I ran piping up from the basement to the second floor attic and dropped two runs down the hallway walls to reach all of the rooms on the second floor. The piping handled the harsh temps in the attic just fine. I did have to open a bit of wall in the back of the foyer closet to bore through the second floor wall sole plate.

            Jim Frye
            The Nut in the Cellar.

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            • #7
              Well, after many, many hours of reviews and specifications comparisons, I have the short list down to two machines. The Vacuflo DB7000 and the Prolux CV12000. Both have impressive Air Watt ratings, 2044 and 2029 respectively and both have good warranties. One uses filter bags and the other is bagless with multiple washable micron and HEPA filters and both can be vented to the outside so the exhaust is not reintroduced into the home. By comparison, our current Dyson DC65 Animal has an Air Watt rating of 245. Air Watts is used as it combines various factors. Vacuflo is a brand that dates back to late ‘40s. My parents had one in their home in the late ‘50s. I have also discovered that the power nozzle, hose, accessory kit, and wall inlet merit comparing. It seems that in the late ‘90s, the industry standardized on system specifications, so hoses, wall ports, and head units are interchangeable. Yes, this complicates things, but it gives the user choices to assemble the best possible system. Still laying out where the inlet ports will go. There is some HVAC duct work that may impact things. No issues with wiring, nor plumbing though.
              Last edited by Jim Frye; 02-03-2020, 10:55 AM.
              Jim Frye
              The Nut in the Cellar.

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              • #8
                I worked on one yacht that had a central vac that might have been Nutone when it was new, but the power source was replaced with a Craftsman shop vacuum. I can't say if it worked as good as the original, but It worked OK. How about a cyclone and a super shop vac?
                It seems to me that if the exhaust goes outside, there's no need for super filtration.
                Last edited by d_meister; 02-03-2020, 11:50 AM.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by d_meister View Post
                  How about a cyclone and a super shop vac?
                  It seems to me that if the exhaust goes outside, there's no need for super filtration.
                  Yeah, the ShopVAC in my shop has a wee bit more CFM and a cyclone would trap the dirt well, but the sweeper will be mounted in the basement and the sound levels are a great deal lower than nearly all shopvacs. Also, the central vac units are controllable from the hose handle controls.
                  Last edited by Jim Frye; 02-03-2020, 09:52 PM.
                  Jim Frye
                  The Nut in the Cellar.

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                  • #10
                    The central vacs I've dealt with turned the devoted power source for the vac unit on when the hose is plugged into the suction port, which was also the power source for the motorized sweeper head. Those hoses with wires moulded into them are rather expensive.The vacuum units simply plugged into a standard outlet that was switched by remote circuitry, like a garbage disposal. They may all be wireless, by now, for all I know.

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                    • #11
                      Today’s wall inlets have a pair of spring loaded low voltage contacts at 90 degrees and the hose end makes contact when the hose is plugged in, which turns the head unit on with a built relay. Way back, you would had to turn the head unit on with a wall switch. Some hoses have an insulated split ring at the contact area with a switch on the handle to turn the head unit on/off. Other hoses are described as current carrying hoses. These hoses will provide 120 VAC to an attached powered floor nozzle. These hoses are defined as either pigtail or direct contact hoses. The pigtail type has a 6 - 8 foot cord to plug into a nearby 120 VAC wall outlet to power the floor nozzle. The direct connect hose will plug into a direct connect wall inlet, make contact with both the low voltage and the 120 VAC contacts in the inlet to power the floor nozzle. This type of hose lets the user control all of the system at the hand hold. The current carrying hoses are quite durable and are advertised as crushproof. They also sell “socks” to cover the hose to minimize marking from the vinyl hose.
                      Last edited by Jim Frye; 02-04-2020, 02:56 PM.
                      Jim Frye
                      The Nut in the Cellar.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        I’m finding a bit difficulty in locating a couple of the wall inlets. It seems that our builder put multiple floor joists under every wall that runs in the same direction. as the joists. Makes for a really solid floor, but it makes locating the inlets a bit of a challenge. That means you can’t locate the inlets on those walls. My initial piping layout also put two of the inlets right above the main HVAC runs. It looks like the old One+ right angle drill may get used. Fortunately, with the 30’ long hose, you can have flexibility where you put the inlets. Yeah, I know, this all should have been done during rough in, but you take shoulda, coulda, woulda and $5 and get a cup of coffee.
                        Jim Frye
                        The Nut in the Cellar.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Just a small update on this project. I spent part of my birthday installing the 120 VAC circuit for the power unit. It will run on a 20 amp. 12 ga. line. I mounted the duplex outlet high on the wall next to where the power unit will be hung. This outlet will also feed the 120 VAC wiring for the direct connect contacts in each wall inlet. The power unit draws 11.6 amps. max. and has a soft start motor. The power nozzle draws 2.5 amps. max. I also installed a 4” square junction box up in the joist space to terminate the direct connect wires coming from the wall inlets and connect them to a plug line to the wall outlet. The low voltage wires for switching the power unit on can be wire nutted at each junction in the piping, so they don’t need special protection. The system wires will be zip tied to the piping. Now I just have to wait for UPS and FedEx to do their jobs and deliver the components. Piping will come from a local sweeper shop.
                          Jim Frye
                          The Nut in the Cellar.

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                          • #14
                            Happy Valentines Day! I spent a good part of the day installing SWMBO's central vacuum system. I hung the power unit on the basement wall next to the new electrical outlet. All of the ordered parts have been delivered and I purchased a bunch of piping and fittings from a nearby vacuum cleaner dealer. If this goes like my usual plumbing projects, I'll be going back for more when I realize my planning design was off. I also got the first of the four wall inlets installed today. I started with what I thought would be the most difficult one. It's located in the kitchen which is entirely over the crawl space. The crawl space is 4' high, so it's not too bad crawling around there, even for my 73 year old knees. I got a nasty surprise when I opened up the wall for the inlet box. I surgically cut the opening in the drywall for the box and found my self staring at four pieces of drywall scrap filling the stud space. The drywall crew had carefully cut four 3" wide pieces about 36" long, screwed them together and left the stack loose in the stud space. After careful contemplation over a few fingers of Woodford Reserve, grabbed my trusty Ryobi 18 volt rotozip and carved out the entire sole plate under the stud space until I could remove the stack of drywall. Real funny drywallers. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised as I found wood scraps in the stud spaces at our previous house. The attached pictures show how I do a post construction pipe install. No marked up wall to repaint (as he pats himself on the back).

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                            Last edited by Jim Frye; 02-14-2020, 08:56 PM.
                            Jim Frye
                            The Nut in the Cellar.

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                            • #15
                              Did another wall inlet today. No drywall block in the stud space, so the installation went by the book. My reading has given me new insight on piping design. When I did the first two central vacuum installations (1978 & 1987), sweep 90 degree elbows weren’t around. Tight 90s and 45s were the norm. Since that time, common knowledge now is that fewer and gentler bends have less impact on reducing air flow and suction at the wall inlets. I’ve made some changes to the piping design and have a whole bag full of unused tight 90s and 45s, and I have to go back to the vacuum store and get a bunch of sweep 90s. That’s how my plumbing job always go: multiple trips to the store to get what I messed up on the plan.
                              Last edited by Jim Frye; 02-15-2020, 10:51 PM.
                              Jim Frye
                              The Nut in the Cellar.

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