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A central vacuum cleaner is a system of in-house conducts, connected to a fixed vacuum cleaner. Attached to the conducts, usually via an air outlet, a portable and long inlet hose is used for doing the actual vacuuming.

Three advantages of such a system:

  1. The exhaust air is evacuated from the house, resulting in zero impact on inside air quality: a boon for the asthmatic and the allergic people;
  2. Instead of carrying a vacuum cleaner up and down the stairs, vacuum outlets are usually located on every floor, so typically only the hose needs to be transported, resulting in less weight to carry;
  3. Less noise (depends on where the fixed vacuum cleaner is located).

Three disadvantages of such a system:

  1. Retrofitting a central vacuum cleaner system into a dwelling is rather laborious, best is to design the system together with the house;
  2. The system is more expensive than a stand-alone vacuum cleaner;
  3. As air is evacuated from the house, vacuuming in the heating of cooling season results in thermal energy loss.

Doing the housekeeping with a central vacuum cleaner enriches ones' experience. But being beyond the pocket of many people, this Instructable introduces a Poor Man's Central Vacuum Cleaner that provides the best of the benefits: it completely evacuates exhaust air and dust from the house. Moreover, it successfully addresses two disadvantages: it is perfectly retrofittable and dirt-cheap to make (reason for calling it a Poor Man's approach).

The suggestion in this Instructable is to capture the exhaust air from a conventional portable vacuum cleaner into a hose and to evacuate it from the house by fixing the hose (temporarily of course, only when vacuuming) outside a door or window. In order to reduce power and energy loss the evacuation hose should have a large diameter and shouldn't be too long.

The portable vacuum cleaner shown here has its exhaust on top and its round shape allows to connect the hose easily: here a bucket was used as a converter piece.

In case you'd like to know more about central vacuum cleaners make sure to visit this longread at Wikipedia, which addresses among others many more advantages.

This Instructable was first published on 13 March 2016 under a Creative Commons Attribution licence by Openproducts at Instructables.com. Retweets are welcomed, as well as visits to the Openproducts webshop at Etsy's.

The next Step shows your shopping list.

Step 1: Poor Man's Shopping List

Building this Poor Man's Central Vacuum Cleaner involves the following:

  • A portable vacuum cleaner, preferably with a round shaped air exhaust on top;
  • For the exhaust: a flexible hose with a wide diameter;
  • A connector to attach the exhaust hose to the machine. Here a bucket was used with a flange attached;
  • For the inlet: a long flexible hose. It should be long enough to reach all corners of the house with the exhaust hose hanging out of the window;
  • A tie down strap to fix the connector to the portable vacuum cleaner and perhaps a weather strip for air-tight fixation.
  • Optional: a clamp to fix the exhaust hose to an object to avoid it from fluttering.

The next Step discusses safety of operation.

Step 2: Safety

Generally speaking, the vacuum cleaner needs to work harder: the inlet hose is longer than it was designed to be, and also the exhaust hose gives additional resistance. This involves a risk: the vacuum cleaner motor cooling might be less than anticipated by the designers. In the worst case this might ruin your vacuum cleaner and result in a fire.

Another issue is the electrical switch. The bucket, fixed with a tie down strap, covers the on/off switch. It is recommended to use an additional kill switch. The picture above shows openproducts' Hacked Kill Switch, but any external switch will do.

Make sure that you operate your central set safely.

The next Step highlights the modification of the Vacuum Cleaner.

Step 3: The Making

Making is really easy and straightforward, be it that each type of portable vacuum cleaner brings perhaps new design challenges.

Next Step is about the Instructables Robot image.

Step 4: The Logo

Instead of an introduction photograph for this Instructable, the Instructables Robot was pictured, dressed up as a Poor Man's Central Vacuum Cleaner. Robot's original design comes from Jeff Fassnacht (https://www.instructables.com/about, sourced 2012).

The above image was created using Inkscape (version 0.91), a cross-platform and open source vector graphics editor. One of the great features of the software is its keyboard shortcuts and the off-line manuals included in the software. Read through the first three tutorials to get familiar: Help > Tutorials > Basic + Shapes + Advanced.

Next is the last Step, addressing the licence of this Instructable.

Step 5: Licence

This Instructable is being made available through a Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY) licence. Republishing this Instructable is allowed, provided it is being attributed properly (cite the name openproducts, link to www.openproducts.org, www.instructables.com/member/openproducts, or the original Instructable). For other arrangements send a Private Message through the instructables member page (www.instructables.com/member/openproducts).

Feel free to contribute in kind by retweeting from the Openproducts Twitter account (see messages from March 2016) or purchase products from the Openproducts webshop at Etsy's.

<p>I installed a central vac in my house. I almost never used it since a normal vac is much easier to handle than this boa constrictor which takes away endless space. And emptying the dust bin is simply a job for my mobile vac afterwards. And it's awfully loud!</p>

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Bio: Openproducts' focus is on design of new products and on innovative approaches towards improving existing products. Also, quick fixes and on-the-fly repairs are documented here ... More »
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