The Steaming Truth About Central Vacs

Posted by Steve on Tue, 08/26/2008 - 12:05pm

I resisted the urge to title this article something retarded like, "This really sucks" or "Hot Tornado Action!!". With all the well-written blogs out there we not-so-talented journalistic wannabes sometimes rely on cheap literary devices to troll for page hits. I respect you too much to do that. Besides, now anyone who Googles for "cheap literary device" will find me!

I've been asked what's my favorite power tool in the house. It's not my Delta table saw nor my router table. It's my central vacuum. In terms of pure usefulness, my central vac has done more work on the house and saved me more time here than even my cordless drills.

I remember when my gadget freak of an uncle installed one in his home when I was a little kid. I was always fascinated by it and pestered my folks to get one. But I think my dad envisioned his weekends being spent cleaning marbles and cat food out of the pipes. Shortly after I got this place I began researching central vac options and settled on the Vacuflo. It's proved to be rock-solid reliable for the eight years I've had it, and I've put it through more punishment than its designers probably ever intended.

Besides keeping my house clean, which believe me is no small feat with very active, long-haired animals and a permanent cloud of sawdust floating in the air, the Vacuflo also functions as the dust collector in my shop. On a typical shop day it consumes as much as ten gallons of sawdust and wood splinters from my table saw, router table, planer and sanders. After I told the local Vacuflo rep about my plan, he was so interested in learning if it would actually work that he sent me some spare hoses and couplings to jury rig connections to my tools.

It works. It doesn't have the CFM of a professional dust collection system but it also doesn't occupy several square feet of valuable shop floor space either nor does it scream like a banshee. It's also never clogged on me, as the wankers on rec.woodworking told me it surely would. Central vac ports are designed to catch things before they get wedged in a pipe inside the wall.

Installation was actually pretty simple, taking just two days to complete. Of course, it meant knocking some holes in the walls but since the walls were coming out anyway that was a small matter.

Basically, it's a lot like gluing together PVC plumbing. Unlike rigid PVC, central vac pipe has a little flex to it, which lets it bend around small obstructions. It's also a lot lighter. So long as you know which way gravity is pulling, it's just application of common sense: keep your runs as straight as possible, don't make the vac have to suck anything "up", keep your T-Y's pointing towards the power unit.

The job is less daunting when you realize that most floors will probably only need one outlet. A 30 foot vacuum hose covers a lot of area. If you remember Geometry 101 and the formula for determining the area of a circle, Pi*r*r, a 30 foot hose can cover 2800 square feet. Of course, with walls and obstructions it's not as simple as that. Nevertheless, my floors are 1000s/f and I only need one port on each floor and there's still enough play in the hose to vacuum my back deck, front stoop and porch.

Another major advantage of a central vac, or at least the cyclonic action power units like Vacuflo's, is that the real fine dust that people buy expensive HEPA portable vacs for isn't an issue. The powdery dust all gets blown outdoors. Anything bigger than a fine dust particle gets caught in the unit's large bucket, which probably won't need emptying for months (unless you live in my house).

In the interest of fair disclosure, that leads to a central vac's only negative. If you were to vacuum up a pound of dry flour, your back yard might wind up looking like the set from "The Polar Express". After ripping down some old plaster here, I used the vac to suck up 100+ years of fine, gray spooge that had settled on the window headers. When I looked out the window, I thought I had a basement fire. The billowing gray dust cloud freaked me out. But this is a very unusual situation. Most people wouldn't be as careless as me.

Well, one more negative. That outside exhaust port can be noisy, sounding a bit like a small jet engine. I helped my neighbor three houses away install the same vac in his house and I always know when his house cleaner is working.

You probably don't want to be doing any midnight spring cleaning.


Posted by Anonymous (not verified) on

Put an exhaust on that bro --- You can buy them aftermarket ---- Get the big black muffler ---- With the big black muffler the exhaust is about as noisey as a dryer vent :-) Cheers.

Posted by Steve on

It's  got a muffler on it, purchased as an option from the manufacturer.  It still sounds like a turbine jet.

Posted by OCScott3085 (not verified) on

I have a Vacuflo system installed in my home and was wondering what power nozzle you use with your system? When I use the turbocat, it doesn't seem to do as well on my rugs as my old Miele vacuum. However, when I use the electric hose and power nozzle the performance drastically improves. Are you satisfied with the performance of your Turbocat on the rugs? Maybe I got a dud?