Vacuuming an apartment is a completely different chore when compared to vacuuming an entire house, leaving many people to forget how much of a hassle it can be to not only carry one around (upstairs or downstairs) but to find an available electrical outlet that’ll provide enough range to adequately clean the area.
A central vacuum system (central vac) is a great way to avoid lugging around a heavy vacuum cleaner and dealing with troublesome power cords. Central vacuum systems are equipped with a canister-style collection unit and central motor that attaches to a series of tubes throughout the home. The system has several inlets, typically one or two per floor of the home, where a central vacuum hose can be connected for instant access to electricity and suction.
Continue reading for more information to help you find the best central vacuum system to keep your home clean.
- BEST OVERALL: OVO Large and Powerful Central Vacuum System
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Ultra Clean SC200 Steel Canadian Made Central Vacuum
- MOST POWERFUL: Nutone PurePower Central Vacuum System
- BEST WITH HOSE: OVO PAK70CD-40 Heavy Duty Powerful Central Vacuum
- BEST FILTRATION: Prolux CV12000 Black Central Vacuum Power Unit
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Central Vacuum System
Before selecting a central vacuum system, take the time to decide what features are the most important to you—which could include the air watts, filtration system, noise level, ease of use, and whether or not the unit comes with additional attachments to make vacuuming the home easier. Keep reading for detailed information on these product factors and more.
Air Watts and Power
The power of a central vacuum system is typically measured in air watts. To determine the air watts of a central vac, multiply the airflow in cubic feet per minute (CFM) by the water lift in inches, and divide the total by 8.5. Here’s the equation:
(airflow x water lift)/8.5 = air watts
Water lift refers to the central vacuum system’s ability to suck liquids through the system, while the airflow measures the system’s ability to pull air into the system. The amperage of the vacuum cleaner can also influence the overall power of the system. The higher the amperage rating, the more powerful the vacuum. Just keep in mind that the farther the inlet receptacle is from the central vacuum motor, the less power the vacuum will have—so large homes may experience reduced air watts on the top floor when compared to the power output on the main floor of the home.
Collection and Filtration System
When it comes to collection and filtration, central vacuum systems have a range of different options including bagged, bagless, vertical, cyclonic, and inverted.
- Bagged systems have disposable vacuum bags to collect the dust, dirt, hair, and other debris from the home. When the bag gets full, it needs to be replaced; otherwise, the power and air watts of the vacuum become severely reduced and the motor can burn out.
- Bagless systems collect the same dirt and debris as a bagged system, but instead of relying on a disposable bag, the vacuum pulls the debris into a collection chamber. The collection chamber still needs to be emptied regularly to avoid the same problems that can occur with a full vacuum bag.
- Vertical central vacuum systems typically use vacuum bags. The airflow and debris are sucked down into an upright collection system, trapping dust, dirt, hair, and more in a bag for disposal.
- Cyclonic central vacuum systems make use of centrifugal force to help separate dirt clumps, hair, and other debris as it enters the collection tank. These systems are typically bagless, sucking the dirt into the canister for disposal.
- Inverted central vacuum systems resemble vertical systems, except that the air is pulled up and across the vacuum filter instead of down into it. This difference uses gravity to help keep the filter clean as dust, dirt, and other particles drop down off of the filter into the collection tank below when the system is turned off.
One of the more appealing features of a central vacuum system is that it doesn’t produce a lot of noise. This is primarily because the motor and the collection tank are typically located in a basement, garage, or closet, where the sound is muffled. However, if the vacuum is being used and anyone in the home is close to the central collection tank, the ongoing drone of the motor could get irritating.
Look for a central vacuum system with noise-blocking filters and thick collection tanks to help dampen and reduce the amount of sound produced by the vacuum if the intended location of the collection tank is close to a home office or a basement bedroom.
Like most vacuums, central vacuum systems can come with a wide range of accessories that help to get into tight corners, reach overhead, suck up liquids, clean upholstery, and more. These accessories can include crevice nozzles, elbow wands, wet nozzles, brush nozzles, hose extensions, and powered vacuum heads.
- Crevice nozzles are long, thin attachments that help suck up debris in tight corners and crevices around the home.
- Elbow wands connect to the hole to help shorter individuals vacuum spiderwebs from ceiling corners and reach the tops of floor-to-ceiling curtains.
- Wet nozzles have a squeegee edge to help collect and suck up liquids. The squeegee pulls the water in, and the nozzle sucks it into the vacuum system.
- Brush nozzles are also referred to as upholstery tools because they’re intended to clean upholstery, like curtains and some furniture. However, this tool is also very helpful for vacuuming car interiors.
- Hose extensions can be flexible or rigid, and the entire purpose of these accessories is to give the user a little extra length to the end of the hose.
- Powered vacuum heads allow users to vacuum the carpets as if they were using a standard vacuum instead of a central vacuum system. These accessories consist of a powered vacuum head that connects to an upright, hollow suction tube. Just attach the central vacuum hose to the tube in order to power this device and start vacuuming the floors with ease.
Unfortunately, one of the primary obstacles for most people when it comes to a central vacuum system is the installation. As mentioned, the central vac tubing needs to run inside the walls of the home, from the central vacuum motor and collection tank to every floor of the home, so you may need a professional central vacuum installer to complete the installation.
If you choose to install the system yourself, it’s important to note that central vac tubing is not the same as a drainpipe, despite the comparable appearance. The system should also have at least one valve inlet on every floor, with most floor plans requiring one inlet for every 750 square feet. These inlets include a low-voltage coupler that triggers the on/off switch at the motor.
Our Top Picks
The top choices below were selected based on the overall quality and efficacy of each product. Significant attention was given to the important product factors mentioned above to help you find the best central vacuum system for your home.
Clean up any area of the home with the installation of this OVO central vacuum system that uses a hybridized filtration and collection system, allowing it to collect dirt and debris with or without a vacuum bag. Using a bag just makes emptying the vacuum a bit easier, but it comes at the literal cost of having to purchase replacement bags. The collection tank has a capacity of 6.6 gallons, and it’s built with an integrated muffler and noise-blocking foam around the motor for near-silent operation.
The vertical central vacuum system operates at a power output of 630 air watts and 15 amps, making it suitable for up to eight inlets or about 7,500 square feet. It includes a 30-foot vacuum hose, a floor brush for vacuuming shallow carpets and hard surfaces, a crevice nozzle, a hose rack, a hose storage bag, and more.
The Ultra Clean central vacuum system is an inexpensive option with premium features, such as the acoustic square muffler that extends out from the side of the vacuum canister, muffling the sound produced by the motor. It runs at 13.8 amps with an output of 550 air watts, which is enough power to adequately service a home that’s 7,500 square feet or smaller.
The hybrid collection system allows the user to collect dirt, hair, dust, and other debris in the metal collection bin or attach a disposable vacuum bag and keep the collection bin neat and clean. However, it should be noted that this central vacuum system only includes the main filtration and collection unit. It does not come with a vacuum hose or any accessories to actually vacuum the home.
This powerful central vacuum system from Nutone is ideal for large homes ranging from 2,500 to 10,000 square feet due to the impressive power output of 700 air watts. Incoming vacuum tubes connect to the top of the upright vacuum, pulling dust, hair, and other debris down through the HEPA filter to help ensure that animal dander and other allergens remain trapped.
This system has a large 6-gallon debris pail that can be used with or without disposable vacuum bags. It’s designed for power, but the central vacuum system is also made to operate quietly, making about as much noise as a background conversation or the droning of an air conditioner. While it doesn’t come with a vacuum hose or any accessories, this powerful vacuum is a great first step to installing a full central vacuum system throughout the home.
This impressive central vacuum system and accessory pack bundle is a great choice for anyone who’s installing a new central vacuum system instead of just replacing a worn-out old system. It comes with a 40-foot vacuum hose, a crevice nozzle, a brush nozzle, a hose hanger, an accessory bag, and a dusting brush, as well as two telescoping handles that attach to a powered vacuum head and a floor brush.
The filtration and collection chamber of this central vacuum system measures 9.25 gallons in volume, and the system is equipped with an integrated muffler and noise-dampening insulation around the motor for quiet operation. It has a powerful 700 air watts of output, making it suitable for homes up to 9,000 square feet in size.
Install the Prolux central vacuum system to help improve the quality of the air in the home. The bagless system is equipped with a micron and HEPA filter to ensure that small particles and irritating allergens are caught in the filter as they pass through into the 5-gallon debris collection bin. Both filters can be hand-washed, dried, and reused, so users don’t need to worry about replacing them.
This vacuum system includes an exterior muffler to help reduce the noise created by the powerful motor, which can produce a suction power of up to 600 air watts. The manufacturer states that this vacuum is suitable for homes up to 12,000 square feet in size. However, comparable products are only intended for up to 7,500 square feet, so the system may not actually be appropriate for larger homes.
FAQs About Central Vacuum Systems
Central vacuum systems make an excellent addition to the home if you don’t want to have to carry a vacuum around the house or deal with power cords, but you may still have a few questions about how to clean the central vac or how long it will last. Continue reading for the answers to the most commonly asked questions about the best central vacuum system.
Q. How do I clean my central vacuum cleaner?
A central vacuum cleaner is essentially a single collection and filtration tank and a series of tubing that runs throughout the home. To clean the tubes, use a central vacuum cleaning cloth, which is a specially designed product that needs to be sucked into the vacuum hose and tubing and retrieved at the central canister. Repeat this process at every inlet receptacle.
Empty the central canister and replace the vacuum filter if necessary. Some filters are reusable, so they just need to be cleaned in a bucket of soapy water, rinsed, and allowed to dry before being reinserted into the vacuum.
Q. How long will my central vacuum cleaner last?
A central vacuum tends to last about 20 years, while the life of a hose and any additional accessories varies depending on the specific product and individual usage.
Q. How many air watts should I look for in a good central vacuum cleaner?
A quality central vacuum system should be able to produce between 500 and 800 air watts. This is enough suction for homes that range from 2,000 to 6,000 square feet.