I saw them when I was in America once and always thought it was a good idea, plus I love gadgets!
There are lots of benefits too! Not least the fact that old air and dust aren't recirculated around the house. (these units vent externally, or into a non living area)
Additionally they are almost silent in operation, the unit needs very infrequent maintenance, the dust collector is so large that it only needs emptying every few months and you don't have to carry a large heavy vacuum around the house with you. Cleaning the stairs is especially easy (and especially difficult with a normal vacuum cleaner)
Step 1: Design
The main things to consider are the pipe run itself (and trying to hide as much of it as possible) the location of the outlets to provide best coverage of the house and the vacuum unit itself.
Step 2: Installation
I already have some stuff in the corner of the loft, such as a fileserver and bathroom extractor fan so this seemed like an ideal location, it is also near the external wall I'd planned to run the pipework down and close to a source of power (these units need a standard 13amp socket or fused spur)
The first job was to build a small mounting frame for the vacuum unit that would support its weight. For this I biscuit jointed up some planed softwood to make a pretty simple mounting frame that was then screwed to both the loft floor and the roof timbers.
Step 3: Installation2
I then mounted the first socket, this is a utility socket in the loft, I decided to have one in the loft as I quite like the look of those vacuum storage bags for duvets and blankets, so having a vacuum point in the loft will be useful, also for dusting things off before bringing them from the loft back into the house.
Step 4: Installation3
Step 5: Installation4
You might notice that all bends are swept and made using 45degree bends rather than tight 90degree elbows, there is good reason for this, tight 90degree bends are only used immediately behind each socket, this means that any obstruction or blockage should only occur at the socket (where it can be easily cleared) but once inside the main pipework, the diameter of the pipework is slighly larger than the hose or the socket inlets and the bends are more gradual so in theory a blockage should never occur in the difficult to get to pipework.
My pipework runs around the loft a bit, and then through the foil insulation, down the roof timbers and through the soffet. From here it runs down an exterior wall alongside the soil pipe and makes two entries into the building. One is into the upstairs landing, the other goes under the kitchen units.
Step 6: Installation5
As for the kitchen, this pipework runs under the kitchen cabinets, where it branches off to a vacpan under one of the kitchen units and also to another socket on the ajoining wall in the downstairs hallway.
Fitting the vacpan is fairly straight forward, as is fitting the sockets, but as I was fitting into a partition wall (well actually a blocked off doorway) the job was even easier. I did opt to use washers as well as screws to mount the sockets to the wall as when pulled sideways it is possible to put quite a lot of force through these sockets and I don't want mine coming off the wall!! (There is also a nice strong wooden frame behind)
Step 7: Sockets
Once closed they are fairly unobtrusive and are about the same size as a single electrical socket
Step 8: In Use
My first surprise was how silent the unit it, granted mine is located in the loft (which is well insulated) but the system really is quiet - which is great if the person not doing the vacuuming is watching the TV!
The first issue that needed addressing when the installation was finished was 'where to store the hose and accesories?'
They all fit quite nicely into our settle in the dining room - so that was easy (once the 4 phone books, hats, scarves and fancy dress outfits that used to be in there had been 'filed' elsewhere)
Step 9: Vacpan
Step 10: In Use2
Getting started is a simple affair of opening the socket and inserting the hose so that the two brass pins are connected to the hose connector (these pins when bridged activate the vacuum unit)
Hoses without a switch just bridge these contacts when plugged in, meaning that the only way to stop the vac is to unplug the hose.
I did go a bit over the top and buy a turbocat brush head, they are expensive but it is a great bit of kit, the brush action is really quite amazing, and the device actually pulls you forward!!
The vacpan is an interesting idea, and is quite useful, quite simply it is a dustpan that never needs to be emptied! When the door at the front is kicked open, the vacuum is operated and anything swept into the pan gets sucked up into the vacuum unit - it really is quite useful for small stuff such as spilt rice, crumbs and breakfast cereals etc...
Step 11: Conclusion
The dust bucket shown below is 25 litres in size!! It's about half full (or is that half empty?) after a week of vacuuming
Well, I hope you've enjoyed what I've done, I love my central vac system.
Good luck if you decide to do something similar, you really don't realise how inferior a normal vac is, until you've tried one of these.
Gone are the days of scrubbing the floor backwards and forwards with the vacuum to pick up a stubborn bit of fluff, one pass with the turbo cat and it's gone!! (Seriously)
You might be interested in my other projects on http://www.yourmissus.com (there is a bit more info on this project there too)