Friday, January 19, 2007

Mrs. Hall Would Have Loved This Gizmo

In my efforts to update the house's "systems", there is one that I nearly overlooked. I purposely held off from starting drywall work for a few weeks so that I could just stare at the open walls and make sure I didn't miss something while everything was opened up.

Then one day the new TOH magazine came and there was an article on central vacuum systems. Duh! Why hadn't I thought of this before. I actually had some experience working on these systems in my electrical days - but would like to forget working on the one at the foot doctors office.... ick! So I started poking online for prices and found them to be relatively inexpensive for the materials and the unit comparative in price to a high end upright vacuum. So this was a no brainer. After coming up with a tentative layout, I ordered the outlets and bought PVC pipe at Lowes.... but here's what I learned the hard way - the outlets don't adapt to SCH 40 piping. It's actually a thinner walled PVC made for vacuum systems. So back the piping went and I had to order all my fittings and pipe through the same vendor. Still it wasn't expensive.
These systems have it all over conventional vacuums. Much more powerful motor, system exhausts outside so great for allergies (biggie for me), no more carrying a bulky vacuum up and down 3 stories, and only need to change the canister about twice a year.

There are two types of attachments you can use: one that has a wire and plug strapped to the hose to use in a nearby outlet, and another that has the power connection built into the hose connection at the hose outlet. With the walls opened up, it was very easy to run a feed for power (along with the switch wire) to all the outlet point so I went with this option. The hose on the attachments is 30 feet long, so you don't need to add many outlets - just have to carefully plan your runs. For the first floor I installed one in the parlor which will do that room and the foyer plus main stairs and one in the kitchen which will cover that room plus the dining room and powder room. For the second floor I added one in the center hall which can reach all four rooms. Then one centrally located on the 3rd floor that will cover that floor. Also will add a utility outlet in the basement near the unit when it's installed. So that's only 5 outlets total to cover 4 floors. Actually using a 30 foot cord and experimenting with locations was a big help to layout the locations.

Another great option available is the dust pan outlet. All you do is sweep your dirt by this attachment, then open the lever and sweep in..... GONE! I will be adding one in both the kitchen and the master bath upstairs.

If you have done basic PVC piping and know basic electrical work, than this is a fairly straight forward project. The key is to keep it simple. Use the least amount of outlets possible to cover the house, make sure all of your "sweeps" are going towards the vacuum, and remember dirt doesn't want to move against gravity too well.

All of the piping is in the walls now and run down to a common header running along the center beam. Later on when I buy the vacuum unit i will locate it near my service panel, then tie in the pipe and wiring. But for less than a $200 investment the system is in the walls and ready when I am.
..... don't put away that rug beater quite yet !

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