Launch Slideshow

Beam. The top-of-line Serenity IQS series comes with a 10-year warranty, a self-cleaning Gore-Tex fabric HEPA filter, optional outside venting, and an anti-microbial bucket to stop microbe growth between emptying. An LCD display provides real-time system maintenance alerts. The motor delivers 600 to 640 air watts of power depending on the system size, which can be calibrated for an overall cleaning area from 7,000 to 12,000 square feet. A sound-reduction package includes an anti-vibration mounting system, canister sound insulation, and an optional muffler that reduces overall power unit noise to as low as 65 decibels. 800.369.2326. www.beamvac.com.

Product Review: Bite The Dust

Product Review: Bite The Dust

  • Beam. The top-of-line Serenity IQS series comes with a 10-year warranty, a self-cleaning Gore-Tex fabric HEPA filter, optional outside venting, and an anti-microbial bucket to stop microbe growth between emptying. An LCD display provides real-time system maintenance alerts. The motor delivers 600 to 640 air watts of power depending on the system size, which can be calibrated for an overall cleaning area from 7,000 to 12,000 square feet. A sound-reduction package includes an anti-vibration mounting system, canister sound insulation, and an optional muffler that reduces overall power unit noise to as low as 65 decibels. 800.369.2326. www.beamvac.com.

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    Beam. The top-of-line Serenity IQS series comes with a 10-year warranty, a self-cleaning Gore-Tex fabric HEPA filter, optional outside venting, and an anti-microbial bucket to stop microbe growth between emptying. An LCD display provides real-time system maintenance alerts. The motor delivers 600 to 640 air watts of power depending on the system size, which can be calibrated for an overall cleaning area from 7,000 to 12,000 square feet. A sound-reduction package includes an anti-vibration mounting system, canister sound insulation, and an optional muffler that reduces overall power unit noise to as low as 65 decibels. 800.369.2326. www.beamvac.com.

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    Beam. The top-of-line Serenity IQS series comes with a 10-year warranty, a self-cleaning Gore-Tex fabric HEPA filter, optional outside venting, and an anti-microbial bucket to stop microbe growth between emptying. An LCD display provides real-time system maintenance alerts. The motor delivers 600 to 640 air watts of power depending on the system size, which can be calibrated for an overall cleaning area from 7,000 to 12,000 square feet. A sound-reduction package includes an anti-vibration mounting system, canister sound insulation, and an optional muffler that reduces overall power unit noise to as low as 65 decibels. 800.369.2326. www.beamvac.com.

  • H-P Products. The Element central vacuum systems dual-filtration design incorporates a first-stage cyclonic action to separate most dust and dirt from the air column, followed by a permanent, two-stage filter that never needs replacement to segregate fine dust particles. The manufacturer says the unit does not require outside venting, but provides an optional vent kit. Models range from 520 to 575 air watts of power with 64.7 to 66.7 decibels of noise. A translucent 6-gallon bucket requires emptying three to four times per year. 800.822.8356. www.elementvac.com.

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    H-P Products. The Element central vacuum systems dual-filtration design incorporates a first-stage cyclonic action to separate most dust and dirt from the air column, followed by a permanent, two-stage filter that never needs replacement to segregate fine dust particles. The manufacturer says the unit does not require outside venting, but provides an optional vent kit. Models range from 520 to 575 air watts of power with 64.7 to 66.7 decibels of noise. A translucent 6-gallon bucket requires emptying three to four times per year. 800.822.8356. www.elementvac.com.

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    H-P Products. The Element central vacuum system’s dual-filtration design incorporates a first-stage cyclonic action to separate most dust and dirt from the air column, followed by a permanent, two-stage filter that never needs replacement to segregate fine dust particles. The manufacturer says the unit does not require outside venting, but provides an optional vent kit. Models range from 520 to 575 air watts of power with 64.7 to 66.7 decibels of noise. A translucent 6-gallon bucket requires emptying three to four times per year. 800.822.8356. www.elementvac.com.

  • Hayden. The companys side-opening valve (left) is also available in an electric SuperValve version (right). Like most inlet valves, these valves have two metal contact points in the valve that provide a low-voltage connection, allowing the user to turn the remote vacuum motor on and off with the vacuum tool handle. Inlet valves such as the SuperValve are also available with line voltage to power electric brushes. 888.461.5307. www.haydenvac.com.

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    Hayden. The companys side-opening valve (left) is also available in an electric SuperValve version (right). Like most inlet valves, these valves have two metal contact points in the valve that provide a low-voltage connection, allowing the user to turn the remote vacuum motor on and off with the vacuum tool handle. Inlet valves such as the SuperValve are also available with line voltage to power electric brushes. 888.461.5307. www.haydenvac.com.

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    Hayden. The company’s side-opening valve (left) is also available in an electric SuperValve version (right). Like most inlet valves, these valves have two metal contact points in the valve that provide a low-voltage connection, allowing the user to turn the remote vacuum motor on and off with the vacuum tool handle. Inlet valves such as the SuperValve are also available with line voltage to power electric brushes. 888.461.5307. www.haydenvac.com.

  • M.D. Manufacturing. The SilentMaster vertical bag-type central vacuum boasts a patented noise-reduction system with total output under 62 decibels. The filtration system offers a proprietary, three-ply, disposable media that does not require venting, although optional venting is available. It has a large 12-gallon debris bucket. The line includes four motor sizes, from 458 to 905 air watts, for homes up to 20,000 square feet. It comes with a six-year warranty. 800.997.2278. www.builtinvacuum.com/silent_master.

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    M.D. Manufacturing. The SilentMaster vertical bag-type central vacuum boasts a patented noise-reduction system with total output under 62 decibels. The filtration system offers a proprietary, three-ply, disposable media that does not require venting, although optional venting is available. It has a large 12-gallon debris bucket. The line includes four motor sizes, from 458 to 905 air watts, for homes up to 20,000 square feet. It comes with a six-year warranty. 800.997.2278. www.builtinvacuum.com/silent_master.

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    M.D. Manufacturing. The SilentMaster vertical bag-type central vacuum boasts a patented noise-reduction system with total output under 62 decibels. The filtration system offers a proprietary, three-ply, disposable media that does not require venting, although optional venting is available. It has a large 12-gallon debris bucket. The line includes four motor sizes, from 458 to 905 air watts, for homes up to 20,000 square feet. It comes with a six-year warranty. 800.997.2278. www.builtinvacuum.com/silent_master.

  • Broan-NuTone. Designed for homes 2,400 square feet and smaller, the 400-air-watt NuTone CV400 system offers a small power-unit canister for space conservation, measuring 30 inches tall and 11 inches in diameter. It has a single-stage motor; a HEPA-rated, disposable bag that requires changing twice a year and sequesters particles down to 0.1 micron; outside venting; and a built-in muffler for quieter operation. Other available vacuum systems include one of the industrys most powerful units, the VX1000, which delivers 1,040 air watts. It has a built-in sound suppression system and an anti-microbial, HEPA-rated dual-filtration system, meeting the Carpet and Rug Institutes Indoor Air Quality testing program standards. It is available with optional outside venting. 888.336.3948. www.nutone.com.

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    Broan-NuTone. Designed for homes 2,400 square feet and smaller, the 400-air-watt NuTone CV400 system offers a small power-unit canister for space conservation, measuring 30 inches tall and 11 inches in diameter. It has a single-stage motor; a HEPA-rated, disposable bag that requires changing twice a year and sequesters particles down to 0.1 micron; outside venting; and a built-in muffler for quieter operation. Other available vacuum systems include one of the industrys most powerful units, the VX1000, which delivers 1,040 air watts. It has a built-in sound suppression system and an anti-microbial, HEPA-rated dual-filtration system, meeting the Carpet and Rug Institutes Indoor Air Quality testing program standards. It is available with optional outside venting. 888.336.3948. www.nutone.com.

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    Broan-NuTone. Designed for homes 2,400 square feet and smaller, the 400-air-watt NuTone CV400 system offers a small power-unit canister for space conservation, measuring 30 inches tall and 11 inches in diameter. It has a single-stage motor; a HEPA-rated, disposable bag that requires changing twice a year and sequesters particles down to 0.1 micron; outside venting; and a built-in muffler for quieter operation. Other available vacuum systems include one of the industry’s most powerful units, the VX1000, which delivers 1,040 air watts. It has a built-in sound suppression system and an anti-microbial, HEPA-rated dual-filtration system, meeting the Carpet and Rug Institute’s Indoor Air Quality testing program standards. It is available with optional outside venting. 888.336.3948. www.nutone.com.

  • Central Vacuum Installation 1. Low-voltage wires connect to inlet valve, allowing users to trigger motor using the switch on the tool handle. 2. Main PVC tube. 3. Incoming air and vacuumed debris. 4. A power unit with a cyclonic filtration system is pictured. Some units use a disposable bag.  5. Debris canister.  6. Distance from floor to power unit, per manufacturer minimum, typically about 28 inches. 7. Distance to wall typically 12 inches to allow motor to cool. 8. Motor powered by conventional 15-amp, 120-volt electrical outlet. 9. Optional muffler mounted at the exhaust port quiets the motor (not the hand-held tool). 10. Optional outside-exhaust line. Most green certifications, including NGBS and LEED for Homes, require outside venting for IAQ credits. 11. Vent hood, similar to a dryer vent hood.

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    Central Vacuum Installation 1. Low-voltage wires connect to inlet valve, allowing users to trigger motor using the switch on the tool handle. 2. Main PVC tube. 3. Incoming air and vacuumed debris. 4. A power unit with a cyclonic filtration system is pictured. Some units use a disposable bag. 5. Debris canister. 6. Distance from floor to power unit, per manufacturer minimum, typically about 28 inches. 7. Distance to wall typically 12 inches to allow motor to cool. 8. Motor powered by conventional 15-amp, 120-volt electrical outlet. 9. Optional muffler mounted at the exhaust port quiets the motor (not the hand-held tool). 10. Optional outside-exhaust line. Most green certifications, including NGBS and LEED for Homes, require outside venting for IAQ credits. 11. Vent hood, similar to a dryer vent hood.

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    Illustration: Harry Whitver

    Central Vacuum Installation 1. Low-voltage wires connect to inlet valve, allowing users to trigger motor using the switch on the tool handle. 2. Main PVC tube. 3. Incoming air and vacuumed debris. 4. A power unit with a cyclonic filtration system is pictured. Some units use a disposable bag. 5. Debris canister. 6. Distance from floor to power unit, per manufacturer minimum, typically about 28 inches. 7. Distance to wall typically 12 inches to allow motor to cool. 8. Motor powered by conventional 15-amp, 120-volt electrical outlet. 9. Optional muffler mounted at the exhaust port quiets the motor (not the hand-held tool). 10. Optional outside-exhaust line. Most green certifications, including NGBS and LEED for Homes, require outside venting for IAQ credits. 11. Vent hood, similar to a dryer vent hood.

  • Central vacuum systems are driven by a central power unit that holds the motor and is mounted in an out-of-the-way location such as the garage or utility room. PVC tubing is plumbed through floor joists, attics, or walls to connect valves placed strategically throughout the house. Cleaning tools range from carpet brushes and crevice tools to more exotic attachments.

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    Central vacuum systems are driven by a central power unit that holds the motor and is mounted in an out-of-the-way location such as the garage or utility room. PVC tubing is plumbed through floor joists, attics, or walls to connect valves placed strategically throughout the house. Cleaning tools range from carpet brushes and crevice tools to more exotic attachments.

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    Courtesy Beam

    Central vacuum systems are driven by a central power unit that holds the motor and is mounted in an out-of-the-way location such as the garage or utility room. PVC tubing is plumbed through floor joists, attics, or walls to connect valves placed strategically throughout the house. Cleaning tools range from carpet brushes and crevice tools to more exotic attachments.

Noise level is another consideration. Although central vacuum systems’ remote motor location means you can carry on a conversation while vacuuming, quieter systems, as measured in ASTM-tested decibels, indicate better quality in the components used to manufacture the product. Noise reduction usually entails a combination of better motor components, more insulation, and sturdier housing. Mufflers, which mount at the exhaust port, can be purchased both from the manufacturers and after-market accessory suppliers.

Filtration systems come in three basic types: vertical, cyclonic, and inverted. The vertical bag system resembles a conventional upright, collecting dirt and dust particles within a paper bag for disposal. The cyclonic system uses centrifugal force to separate particles from air flow, depositing dirt and most of the dust into a dirt canister for disposal. It requires no added filter, but it must be vented outdoors, as the cyclonic system will not sequester the finest particles. The inverted filter system is similar to the vertical bag, except air is drawn up and across the filter (instead of down into it), allowing gravity to “self-clean” the bag as particles drop off the medium and into the collection bucket below when the system is turned off. The cleanest systems combine cyclonic filtration with a high-quality HEPA filter.

The basic “plumbing,” the tubes and fittings that deliver suction, are generic, much like water pipe that works with any brand. In fact, one manufacturer, Hayden, makes most of the thin-wall PVC pipe and fittings used with all major central vacuum systems. Although it resembles drain pipe, central vac tubing is thinner and of a different diameter, so the two are not interchangeable. Unlike heating ducts, the length of the installation, while consuming more resources, will not appreciably reduce performance. The vacuum remains as powerful at 30 feet from the motor as 3 feet, according to Campbell.

Valve inlets open the airway or seal the system when not in use. The inlets include a low-voltage coupler, which serves to trigger the on-off switch at the motor when you depress the start button on the handle. In new construction, you can also wire for line voltage at the valve to power the agitator brushes for vacuuming carpet. In a retrofit, install the inlet valves within 6 feet of a receptacle to plug in the accessory power cord.

When laying out the valve locations, double-check to ensure you can reach all cleaning surfaces with the standard 30-foot hose. For most floor plans, you’ll need one inlet per 750 square feet of floor area. It’s best to actually survey the cleaning area with hose and handle in hand before deciding on the final location of inlets. You’ll have to supplement the central vac with a conventional lug-around if the inlets aren’t accessible all over the house.

The final consideration for central vacuuming systems is choosing the tools, which include air-powered turbine brushes for hard-surface floors and electric-motor brushes for deep pile carpet. A quiver of hand tools are available to clean crevices, window treatments, ceiling fan blades, car interiors, patio slabs, and pets.

One manufacturer, H-P Products, tackled the most daunting aspect of central vacuuming—hose management—by providing a self-retracting hosepipe. Most manufacturers offer quick-clean amenities, such as Beam’s toekick fitting that sits under a kitchen cabinet for cleaning of spills.

This may all sound like consumer-experience-driven, razzle-dazzle product development, but remember that the most important aspect of any green building component requiring human interface is use. If your central vacuuming system works well and provides convenience, then the homeowner will use it—and breathe all the better.