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Vacuums are common appliances in modern homes, but only a percentage of the population has a central vacuum. Known also as a built-in vacuum cleaner or even a duct vacuum cleaner, a central vacuum is a permanent fixture that is built into or attached to a wall of the home. A large collection container stores all the dust and debris that gets vacuumed up around the house, and there are several outlets in each room where a hose can be installed for temporary use. Believe it or not, the central vacuum cleaner has been around since the 19th century, and the portable vacuum that most people are familiar with came much later.
Differences Between a Portable and Central Vacuum
The primary difference between a portable vacuum and a central vacuum is what needs to be carried around. A portable vacuum has to be carried from room to room, and sometimes to multiple spots within one room, in order to suck up dust, dirt and debris. This can be heavy and potentially challenging for elderly or disabled users. In addition, a portable vacuum cleaner requires a functioning electrical outlet to work properly. If the outlets in a room are already in use, the existing devices need to be unplugged in order for the portable vacuum cleaner to work. A central vacuum cleaner, on the other hand, only requires a small hose to be carried around, if at all. In some rooms, the hose may be a permanent feature, but in others it will need to be attached to a hole at the base of the wall for proper suction. Finally, many central vacuums have stronger suction than their portable counterparts, and the collection units are typically larger.
Benefits of Installing a Central Vacuum
Some of the many benefits of installing a central vacuum cleaner include the fact that they can boost a home's resale value, improve the air quality in a home, provide superior cleaning and feature collection units that have to be emptied infrequently. Cost is the major concern for homeowners because a central vacuum cleaner starts at $1,000 and can go up in price depending on numerous factors. However, many portable vacuum cleaners can come close to that price, especially at the higher end of the market. Plus, those portable vacuum cleaners will eventually need to be replaced, but a central vacuum has a much longer average lifespan. While portable vacuum cleaners may release some of what they vacuum up back into the air, central vacuum cleaners are far less likely to do so. This is a major benefit for those with respiratory problems, allergies or asthma.
Installing a Central Vacuum
The majority of homeowners who invest in a central vacuum opt to hire a professional for the installation. The first step in the process is installing the main unit, which is typically placed in the garage, utility room or laundry room. Some units need to vent outside, so they will have to be placed against an exterior wall. Then, PVC pipes are run from room to room depending on where the vacuum outlets are located. This involves cutting into drywall, which is why it may go beyond the typical DIY job. Although sawing to make the hole isn't challenging, limiting the damage is tough. Small plastic outlets are installed in each room where hoses can be attached. There is the option of permanently attached hoses in each room, which will need to be hidden and boxed in so that they aren't a major feature of the room. Otherwise, the hoses can be stored in any location convenient for the homeowner.
Styles and Brands Available
There are two major styles of central vacuum cleaning systems available to buy. The first, a more traditional version, has detachable hoses that can carried from room to room and are easily plugged into the pipe outlets at the base of a wall. These are cheaper option, they are the quickest to install and they create the smallest footprint on the wall, which ensures that the system isn't obvious when entertaining guests. The second style, a hidden hose system, has a retractable hose that can be pulled from the outlet and used right away. It eliminates the need for carrying hoses around from room to room, but it also costs more and may not be suitable for large homes. There are several major brands that manufacture central vacuum cleaners, and some of the most popular include the following:
Factors That Affect the Cost of a Central Vacuum
The factors that will play the largest role in the cost of a central vacuum are the total number of desired outlets, the extra accessories needed, the brand of central vacuum and whether the system is installed during construction or in an already built home. The more outlets, the more the system will cost. Plus, adding a central vacuum to an existing home requires more work than adding it before the drywall is installed. Finally, extras like a power hose, an extra-long hose, additional attachments, cabinets to store hoses and extra-large collection units will all add to the expense.