Introduction to Central Vacuum Systems: The Basics Explained

Are you tired of lugging around that heavy portable vacuum cleaner, struggling to clean every corner of your home? What if there was a more convenient and efficient solution? Enter the world of central vacuum systems—a built-in cleaning solution that provides powerful suction and convenience at your fingertips. This blog post will introduce central vacuum systems, explore their benefits, and discuss how they can revolutionize your cleaning routine. If you’d like more detailed information, contact Vacuflo Edmonton.

Short Summary

  • Central vacuum systems are efficient and convenient in-home cleaning solutions composed of a motor, canister housing and filtration unit.

  • Central vacuums include cyclonic, filtered, and bagless/unfiltered systems. Installation requires careful planning and the help of a professional.

  • Regular maintenance & troubleshooting is essential to ensure optimal performance for your central vacuum system.

Understanding Central Vacuum Systems

Imagine a cleaning solution that is always at your disposal, built into your home and ready to eliminate dirt and debris quickly. That’s precisely what a central vacuum system offers. These systems consist of a power unit, piping system, inlet valves, and accessories, all designed to provide a more efficient and convenient cleaning solution than traditional portable vacuum cleaners.

The heart of a central vacuum system is the power unit, which houses the motor and filtration system. This unit is typically located in a utility room or basement, where it generates powerful suction to remove even the smallest dust particles from your living space.

Now that we understand the basics of a central vacuum system, let’s explore its components and how they work.

Central Vacuum System Components

A central vacuum system has several key components that work harmoniously to provide powerful suction for your cleaning needs. The vacuum motor is the core component, providing the necessary suction power to remove dirt and debris from your home.

The canister housing and filtration unit collect and store the debris, while the exhaust unit vents the system to maintain optimal performance. With these components in place, you’re ready to experience the convenience and efficiency of a central vacuum system.

How Central Vacuum Systems Work

The motor is at the heart of any central vacuum system, which generates the suction power needed for the entire system. The motor’s capacity is determined by factors such as its size, the location of the power unit, and the area to be cleaned, ranging from 10 hp to 100 hp. Central vacuum systems use three types of motors: flow-through, tangential, and peripheral bypass. Each type has its purpose and method of operation.

As you clean your home with your central vacuum system, powerful suction pulls dirt and debris through the vacuum hose and into the piping system. The debris then travels to the back wall inlet central unit, where it is either separated using centrifugal force (in cyclonic systems), captured by a filter (in filtered systems) or allowed to drop into a canister without a filter or bag (in unfiltered/bagless systems).

Now that we understand how central vacuum systems work let’s explore the available types.

A central vacuum system with a hard floor cleaning tool
A central vacuum system with a power unit, vacuum hose and cleaning tool

Types of Central Vacuum Systems

Central vacuum systems are available in three distinct models. These are cyclonic, filtered, unfiltered, or bagless systems. Each type has unique features and benefits, and the best choice for your home will depend on your specific needs and preferences.

In the following sections, we’ll discuss each type in detail, helping you decide which central vacuum system is right for you.

Cyclonic Systems

Cyclonic central vacuum systems do not utilize a filter, making them virtually maintenance-free. Instead, these systems use centrifugal force to separate dirt and debris from the air, depositing the collected matter into a canister that should be emptied when full or when air suction begins to decline.

Cyclonic systems offer the benefit of not requiring bags and maintaining suction for longer. However, they typically necessitate outdoor venting, which could be a drawback for some homeowners. Despite this disadvantage, cyclonic systems are an excellent choice for those seeking a low-maintenance central vacuum solution.

Filtered Systems

Filtered central vacuum systems use a filter to capture dust and debris, depositing it in a collection bin. These systems provide powerful cleaning capabilities and are measured in pressure (pounds per square inch or psi) and airflow (cubic feet per minute or cfm).

The performance of a filtered system is largely determined by the airflow and pressure, making it essential to select a system with the appropriate specifications for your home.

Unfiltered/Bagless Systems

Unfiltered or bagless central vacuum systems do not use bags or filters to collect dirt and debris. Some bagless systems have an inverted filter that self-cleans and prevents dirt and debris from getting to the motor. This ensures the motor has maximum life and does not get clogged with external particles. These systems offer extremely low maintenance yet high performance, making them an attractive option for many homeowners.

Wet/dry central vacuum systems are bagless systems that can collect dry dust, dirt, debris, and liquid spills. These systems are connected directly to a drain that efficiently flushes the collected matter into the sewage system. Wet/dry central vacuum systems provide a versatile cleaning solution for households with various cleaning challenges.

Installation Process for Central Vacuum Systems

Installing a central vacuum system involves three main steps: planning the layout, installing the central vacuum power unit itself, and setting up the piping system and inlet valves. Proper installation is crucial for optimal performance and user satisfaction.

In the following sections, we’ll provide an overview of each step, guiding you through installing a central vacuum system in your home.

Planning the Layout

When planning the layout for your central vacuum system, it’s essential to consider factors such as the size of the area to be serviced and the quantity of dirt or debris present. Additionally, it’s crucial to avoid running the PVC piping next to a chimney or any area where condensation is likely and use wide sweeping turns rather than 90-degree bends.

Due to the complexity of two-story designs, it’s often advisable to enlist the services of a professional to ensure a successful installation.

Installing the Central Power Unit

The central power unit should be installed in a garage, basement, utility room, or laundry room. It’s essential to ensure that the unit is within easy reach for emptying and filter access and located within 6 feet of an appropriate outlet with sufficient current.

Once the central power unit is installed, it must be tested to confirm its proper functioning.

Setting Up the Piping System and Inlet Valves

Establishing piping and inlet valves for your central vacuum system involves installing PVC piping and high and/or low-voltage wiring. The tubing in a central vacuum system is designed to prevent blockages and has thinner walls to ensure compatibility with the hub of the fittings.

Inlet valves should be mounted at electric outlet height and cover 600 to 900 square feet of living space.

A central vacuum system with an electrified central vacuum inlet

Cleaning with a Central Vacuum System

A central vacuum system offers a versatile cleaning solution. It allows you to clean various surfaces in your home, including hard floors, carpets, and other surfaces. With various cleaning attachments available, you can easily tackle any cleaning challenge your home presents.

Let’s explore the different cleaning tasks that can be performed with a central vacuum system.

Hard Floor Cleaning

For optimal results when cleaning hard floors with a central vacuum system, it’s recommended to use a wide or soft-bristled brush attachment. These attachments are designed to effectively capture dirt and debris without damaging the floor, ensuring that your hard flooring surfaces remain clean and well-maintained.

Carpet Cleaning

Thanks to electric-powered vacuum brushes, cleaning carpets with an electric power brush and a central vacuum system is a breeze. These brushes provide superior cleaning capabilities compared to air-driven brushes, which rely on the air from the vacuum to turn a turbine that drives the brush.

Electric-powered brushes ensure your carpets are thoroughly cleaned and free from dirt and debris.

Cleaning Other Surfaces

A central vacuum system can clean many surfaces, such as floors, ceilings, stairwells, blinds, furniture, and more. With various attachments and specialty tools available, you can tackle nearly any surface in your home.

For example, dog vacuums, crevice brushes, and lint brushes are perfect for cleaning tight spaces, while specialty wands can help you reach hard-to-access areas. By utilizing the appropriate attachments, you can keep your entire home clean and well-maintained.

Innovations in Central Vacuum Systems

As technology advances, so do central vacuum systems. Innovations such as retractable vacuum hoses and electrified inlets make these systems even more convenient and efficient for homeowners.

In the following sections, we’ll explore these innovations and how they can enhance your central vacuum system experience.

Retractable Vacuum Hoses

Retractable vacuum hoses are a game-changer for central vacuum systems, enabling the hose to be retracted into the wall or tubing when central vacuum motors are not in use. This feature provides a more organized and efficient cleaning experience, makes it easier to access difficult-to-reach areas, and promotes safety in your home.

With a retractable vacuum hose, you can say goodbye to tangled hoses and hello to a hassle-free cleaning experience.

Electrified Central Vacuum Inlets

Electrified central vacuum inlets, also known as electric (direct connect) inlets, provide 120 volts to power your central vacuum system and its attachments. These inlets offer increased power compared to non-electrified inlets, resulting in more efficient cleaning and the ability to use power tools and other accessories that require electricity.

However, the primary disadvantage of electrified central vacuum inlets is the installation expense, as they require more wiring and have a higher initial cost. Electrified inlets can greatly add to any central vacuum system despite this drawback.

Person emptying a vacuum cleaner bag

Central Vacuum System Maintenance and Troubleshooting

To keep your central vacuum system running smoothly, regular maintenance and troubleshooting common problems are essential. In this section, we’ll explore some tips for maintaining your central vacuum system work and addressing common issues that may arise.

Regular maintenance should include checking the filter, dusting the brush, emptying the dustbin, and cleaning the hoses and attachments. It’s also essential to check for any blockages or leaks in the system.

Regular Maintenance Tips

Proper maintenance is critical to ensuring the longevity and performance of your central vacuum system. Regular maintenance includes cleaning or changing the filters, checking for clogs and dirt in the hoses and hose attachments often, and emptying the dust pouches or bags every 3 to 4 months.

Additionally, the bearings on the motor should be lubricated regularly to prevent issues. By following these maintenance tips, you can help avoid potential problems and optimize the performance of your central vacuum system.

Troubleshooting Common Problems

If you encounter issues with your central vacuum system, it’s essential to know how to troubleshoot common problems. For example, if your system isn’t activating, it could be due to a short in a wire or insufficient voltage causing the circuit breakers to trip.

If your system is experiencing decreased suction, it might be due to a blockage in the hose or pipe. By being aware of these common issues and knowing how to address them, you can ensure that your central vacuum system remains in optimal working condition.


In conclusion, central vacuum systems offer homeowners a powerful and convenient cleaning solution. With various types of systems available, innovative features like retractable hoses, vacuum hoses, and electrified inlets, and the ability to clean a wide range of surfaces, central vacuum systems are a valuable addition to any home. By understanding the components and workings of these systems, choosing the right system for your needs, and maintaining it properly, you can enjoy the benefits of a clean and well-maintained home for years to come.


Frequently Asked Questions

What are the different types of central vacuum systems?

Central vacuum systems come in three varieties—cyclonic, filtered, and unfiltered—all of which provide a convenient way to keep your home free from dust.

These systems are easy to install and maintain. They can clean carpets, hardwood floors, and other surfaces. They are also more powerful than traditional vacuums and ideal for larger homes.

Central vacuum systems are a problem.

What are the components of a central vacuum system?

A central vacuum system consists of five key components: the Power Unit, Piping System, Low-Voltage System, Hose, and Attachments.

Together, these essential parts effectively remove dirt, pet hair and dust from your home.

How do you use a central vac system?

Using a central vac system is as easy as plugging the hose into an inlet, attaching cleaning attachments and then vacuuming the area. Once the area is cleaned, you can move the electric hose onto another inlet and repeat the process.

Cleaning with a central vacuum has never been easier. Contact Vacuflo Edmonton today to learn more!