September 29, 2014

Is a Central Vacuum System Right for You?

If you are considering installing a central vacuum system, you probably have visions of carefree vacuuming- is that an oxymoron? You will no longer lug your vacuum up and downstairs or try to maneuver through doorways, banging the walls as you go. Well before you spend the $1000 or more, read on to see if your vision can become a reality.

From DIYlife.com:

HOW DOES A BUILT-IN CENTRAL VACUUM SYSTEM WORK?
Unlike standard portable vacuums, central vacuum systems don’t require you to haul a heavy unit around the house to clean. With built-in central vacuum systems, you need only carry a lightweight hose and power brush. Dirt and debris is sucked up and sent through tubing located in the walls and sent to a power unit/receptacle, which typically installed in a garage, crawlspace or basement.

Inlet valves are located throughout the house, and PVC tubing is installed in the walls and under the floor connecting back to the central vacuum. The lightweight hose connects to the the inlet and can reach up to 35 feet. So instead of plugging a portable vacuum in and out of of pre-determined electrical outlets, you just need to move the hose from inlet to inlet when operating a central vacuum. Like standard vacuums, central vacuum hoses have a variety of attachments with added features, such as wet interceptors that pick up liquid.

BENEFITS OF A CENTRAL VACUUM SYSTEM
Central vacuums are not as pricey as you may think, relatively speaking. In recent years, several portable vacuums have hit the market complete with high-tech features that take all the (human) work out of vacuuming. These advancements have begun to equalize the cost between portable vacs and central vacs. With price becoming a smaller factor, here are some great benefits to central vacuum systems:

- Healthier Air
Central vacuum systems are the only virtually dust-free way to vacuum. Traditional vacuum cleaners collect dirt and dust in a cup, paper bag or reusable cloth bag. Even with HEPA filtration, fine particles are exhausted back into the air. With a central vacuum system, the dirt and dust are collected in a receptacle located away from the living area. Homeowners can exhaust their units outside, thus eliminating any dust or odors recirculating. This is a very important feature for people who suffer from allergies.

- Powerful Cleaning
Traditional vacuum cleaners are meant to be portable, and thus need to have extremely lightweight motors. Such is not the case for central vacuum systems, which can accommodate larger, more powerful motors: about three to five times more power than traditional vacuums. Not only are central vacuum motors larger, they have built-in cooling fans (for longer life), as well as greater airflow and suction.

- Versatility
With portable household vacuum cleaners, an upright machine is superior for cleaning carpets while a canister vacuum is superior for cleaning bare floors, cars, upholstery, etc. With a central vacuum system you get an all-round superior cleaning, there’s no need to switch models for different tasks. Inlets can be strategically placed anywhere in the house or garage, and a lightweight 35-foot hose can cover the distance between sockets. Because of the long hose, you can easily go right up your stairs without having to carry a heavy unit up and down. The long hose and inlets make it easy to get into every area, including the garage to clean car interiors easily. Wet interceptors allow you to pick up water with your central vacuum system too. Furthermore, you can install automatic vacpans that allow you to sweep dirt right into the system.

- Longer Lifespan
Central vacuums have considerably longer life than portable household vacuum cleaners. With average use most central vacuums will last 20 years. By contrast, a standard chain store vacuum will last about two years.

- Added Home Value
According to CentralVacuum.com, a central vacuum system can add around $2,000 to your home’s resale value.

DRAWBACKS OF A CENTRAL VACUUM SYSTEM

With all the benefits, there are some noteworthy disadvantages of central vacuums:

- Cost
If you do the installation yourself, a central vacuum system can cost as little as $500. Yet this is still a significant cost, and a portable household vacuum cleaner is certainly your best choice if budget is main concern. Also, there is an added energy consumption factor. If you ran the vacuum for an hour every day, you’d consume about 20 cents more electricity per day with a built-in central vacuum system.

- Installation Obstacles
It is extremely difficult to install central vacuum systems in apartment and condominium buildings. Houses without a basement, crawlspace or attic to house the vacuum center are better off with a standard vacuum. Other limiting features include poured concrete walls. These factors makes installation difficult and costly. In such cases opt for a standard vacuum and avoid the headache.

- Physical Limitations
Homeowners who have disabilities that make emptying the relatively large canister a challenge are better off with a standard household vacuum.

FIXING AND MAINTAINING YOUR BUILT-IN CENTRAL VACUUM SYSTEM

In most cases you can manage your own troubleshooting as well. From unclogging the tubing, to changing the motor brushes, central vacuum maintenance and repair is very DIY-friendly, with an abundance of resources and troubleshooting tips available.

With the average life of a central vacuum system being 20 years, they are bound to require repairs eventually. Attachments will need to be replaced every 5-8 years at a cost of about $150-$500 depending on what you need. Also the carbon brushes in the motor may need to be replaced after about 10 years at a cost of $15-$20.

While some motors last 20 years, others may go sooner. If they do you’re looking at a cost of about $200. When considering the options, be aware of an emerging trend in the central vacuum industry, a movement toward throw-away power units. These types of central vacuum units have either sealed motor pods or the manufacturer doesn’t offer replacement parts.

Cleaning a central vacuum in most cases is as simple as emptying the canister and occasionally reaching up and removing any dust that accumulated and got trapped above the container. Central vacuum bags and canisters need to be emptied on average once every three months.

INSTALLING A CENTRAL VACUUM
The average person can install and maintain their central vacuum system.

However, there is some degree of difficulty: determining the layout requires planning. You can often get guidance from the store where you purchase your vacuum.

There are lots of resources available with general installation instructions. You’ll want to review the specific instructions for your unit, consult with a professional, and check to make sure that a non-professional installation won’t void your warranty.

The ease of doing-it-yourself depends on whether you have easy access to the area where you plan to store the system and that no major hurdles in the home require professional troubleshooting. Once you’ve reviewed the instructions, if you decide that you don’t have the necessary skills, time or interest to install it yourself, you can always hire a professional. Either way, the resources are plenty.

FINAL VERDICT: For homes that are less than 1000 square feet, a central vacuum system is simply not worth the money. But when your home and your budget can manage it, built-in vacuum systems are definitely a desirable choice.

Win a Hoover WindTunnel Vacuum

Hoover in conjunction with Woman’s Day Magazine is giving away ten Hoover WindTunnel vacuums, valued at around $130.

The hi-tech Hoover WindTunnel T-Series Rewind Bagless Upright vacuum features patented WindTunnel technology with air passages that trap dirt and channel it into the dirt cup, significantly minimizing blowback or scattering back onto the floor.

The model has an automatic 27-inch rewindable cord for quick and easy wrap-up with a convenient cord clip on the back of the unit. You can also adjust height to five different settings to ensure roll brushes are at the proper height. Other features include a lifetime HEPA filter that can be cleaned by rinsing under running water; easy belt change system and brushroll access that simplifies vacuum maintenance; convenient, reachable, fingertip controls; an 8-foot stretch hose for above-floor cleaning; a system check indicator that visually alerts the user when the filter needs to be cleaned or checked; and a no-scuff bumper.

Along with the vacuum, you’ll get several accessories, including the Turbo Tool that maximizes attachment power; a 12-inch extension wand that extends the reach of the hose; a crevice tool to help clean nooks and crannies; and an upholstery/dust brush.

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Another Choice in Robot Vacuums

If you’ve been planning on picking up one of those robotic vacuums next time they’re on sale, LG would like you to choose theirs. This new addtion to the robot vacuum family has a very powerful motor, with suction power that can reach up to 100W, which is by far the strongest suction performance among the few robotic vacuum models available in the market. The Roboking also comes with a long lasting lithium polymer battery, HEPA filter, and a remote for controlling the vacuum at a distance. This vacuum is programmed with four patterns for effective cleaning.

Vacuum Shoe

Here’s something that sounds good in theory, but doesn’t seem to work in practice- The people at Electrolux thought that putting a vacuum in a pair of shoes might appeal to the overworked multi-tasker. Well, it’s been over a year since this concept debuted and we’re waiting to see if our local discount store will be selling these stunning sneakers in our favorite colors.

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What makes a vacuum suck

Do you know how a vacuum is made? Pull up a chair and learn about it the way your 5 year old would.

Did you ever get tired of dragging your old canister vacuum around the house? Well maybe what you need is a central vacuum. A central vacuum is to your handheld what a central air conditioner is to your old window air conditioner. You install a big suction motor and dust canister in your garage. Then add a series of tubes/pipes through your walls into each room. Each room gets an outlet with a suction cap. When you are ready to clean, you bring the vacuum head and attached tube into a room, snap it into the vacuums wall jack and suck it up. Take a look at this video to get a handle on what it looks like:

Vacuum Cleaners

vacuum

hooverHere are a few thoughts about vacuum cleaners. I think the basic differences are between the uprights and the canister types. I’ll admit right here that I prefer the canisters. I grew up with the old Hoover Constellation that came out in the 1950′s. The world was getting excited about space travel and that excitement was showing up in people’s homes. The Constellation was advertised to “float on air.” I remember my mother getting her new upright in the ’70s and how heavy it was. So much has changed. If you are interested in vacuums and their history, you can visit www.137.com , which has a cyber museum with a variety of pictures and information.

Uprights seem to be most practical for wall-to-wall carpeting. There are many now that come with attachments, but I find them awkward to use. The wands are stiff and usually too short. Canister vacuums are more versatile. They are perfect for hardwood and other hard flooring as well as carpeted rooms. They are generally lightweight and easy to maneuver which is important in a two story house. Stairs are often carpeted and if you don’t want to buy two vacuums, you’ll be carrying that baby up and down more than you want to think about. Depending on the model, canisters have four or five attachments to use on an arm of adjustable lengths.

eurekaWhen I got married we were given a small Eureka canister called the “Mighty Mite”. It was satisfactory and gave us no trouble until the day, twelve years later, it completely gave out. I shopped around a bit and decided on the Miele White Star. We have had it for about five years now with no trouble at all. I like the variety of heads it comes with to accommodate any flooring or fabric. One of it’s best features is the infinitely adjustable suction that prevents curtains and other light fabric from being sucked up.

We don’t have allergy problems, but I still appreciate the fact that Miele offers a variety of filters for this model, although some come at additional cost. I discovered that the bags are not available at discount stores like Target, they must be purchased at vacuum stores that specialize in Miele products and are a bit pricey. I believe Miele is discontinuing this model soon, but they are sure to be coming out with a similar one. The newer one will likely have more standard features and be a bit more expensive. That just seems to be the way it goes.

I haven’t tried all the brands available out there, but it seems to me that a vacuum is a fairly straightforward machine and that leaves the consumer deciding on a brand or model for it’s ease of use. If anyone has an opinion they’d like to share about performance, service, or their experience with a particular vacuum, we’d love to hear about it.

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