How Central Vacuum Systems Work

How Central Vacuums Clean Up

Automatic dustpan
Photo courtesy H-P Products, Inc.

The best thing about central vacuum systems is that they don't require you to carry a heavy unit from room to room or up and down the stairs. Central vacuum systems are designed to remove all the dirt and debris from your house and send it through tubing located in the walls to a receptacle in an out-of-the-way location like a garage or basement. With central vacuums, you only carry a lightweight hose and power brush unit around the house. The power unit is permanent and out of the way.

With a central vacuum system, you place inlets around your home at convenient locations. Instead of plugging a portable vacuum into pre-determined electrical outlets and hoping the cord reaches around your home, you can move the central vacuum hose from inlet to inlet. Where you put the inlets is up to you. You can even install an automatic dustpan that lets you quickly sweep debris into a wall vent using a regular broom.


If you decide to have a central vacuum system installed in your house, there are several things that will happen.

First, you situate a central power unit in an out-of-the-way area such as the basement, garage or utility room. Then, you install wall inlet valves in various locations throughout the house. The valves are connected to the power unit through tubing. The tubing can be run through the attic, basement or cold air returns in the house.

In other words, the tubing that carries the dirt you vacuum is behind your walls. You don't have to see the dirt until you have to empty the receptacle.

Dirt Devil power unit
Photo courtesy H-P Products, Inc.

Once you have chosen the location for the power unit/receptacle, you need to decide where you want your wall inlets. These inlets are where you will plug in the "power brush" or unit that you will be using to clean your home. How many inlets you want in your home is based on your own needs. For example, inlets can be based on the number of square feet. There is usually one inlet for every 600 square feet of a home. If you have more than one story in your home, you will need at least one inlet per story. If you decide on professional installation, the installer can help you determine the best inlet placement.

After installation, the system is used by plugging the lightweight hose and power brush unit into a wall inlet. The power button is located on the handle on most systems, so it is totally controlled by you. In other words, you don't have to go to the power unit and turn the system on. You simply put the hose unit in the inlet and begin vacuuming. The system then carries the dirt, dust and debris out of the room, through the in-wall tubing, to the main power unit, where it is deposited in a canister or bag. Central vacuum bags and canisters only need to be emptied an average of once every three months.