Intro: Central Vacuum Retrofit
Photos and tips for installing a central vacuum system in an existing house.
After several months of research, I installed a central vacuum system in my house during many nights and weekends from December 2004 through January 2005. It was a big project, but well worth the effort. This instructable is intended to give an idea of the scope of the project.
Other instructables: Toastyboy contributed this excellent instructable on the same subject. https://www.instructables.com/id/DIY-Central-Vacuum/ Study and learn.
Step 1: Research
Why a central vac?
- Better cleaning; the exhaust air goes outdoors.
- Quiet: the noisiest part is not in your living space.
- Skills: Installing a central vac requires expert carpentry, plumbing, and electrical skills. You are part of an elite group.
- Retrofit: It is a major project to install in an existing house. Only the best can do it.
- They come with a LONG hose: it is a pain to drag through the house. Ensure that the person who will use the system most often is willing to use it.
- Cost: It is pricey.
- Permanence: It is part of the house. If you move, you lose it.
In the US, I found that central vacuum supplies are sold in two packages:
- The canister, long hose, power beater head, and an assortment of attachments (big brush, little brush, crevice device, etc), and
- The plastic piping, inlets, and fittings.
Recommend you shop around both online and at your local vacuum shop. My favorite canister, hose, etc, was only available online, and I got a fair deal on the plumbing supplies from my local shop.
Conceptually, the system is simple. Plastic piping in your walls carries debris from a long flexible hose to a big canister. The hard part of a retrofit is figuring out where to install the piping in your house. You must find relatively straight and unobstructed runs from the inlets to the canister. You must not cut structural timbers. You may have to move water pipes and existing electrical wires. And then you must match the length of your piping system and inlets against the capability of the power canister you choose. And you must pick a place for the power canister, far enough away to be quiet, close enough to maintain good suction, and reasonably accessible to empty the debris bucket. And you must do the electrical wiring safely, and to meet the local codes. Not simple. Recommend you read literature and design aids from all the manufacturers. You'll get the idea.
Step 2: Power Canister
Here are some photos of my power canister. I installed it in the crawlspace under the house.
Step 3: First Inlet Receptacle
First figure out where to run the trunk line plastic pipe and where you want the inlet receptacles. Be sure to place enough inlets so the flexible hose can reach everywhere in the house.
The photos tell the story...
Step 4: Next Inlet Receptacle
I opened the walls in a closet, installed the next inlet receptacle, and snaked the main pipe trunk line up to the second floor.
The surgery continues...
Step 5: Electric Connections
Oh, by the way, you must know how to do electric wiring safely, and according to your local codes. I am not explaining it here. If you don't know, then don't attempt the project.
Step 6: Inlet on 2nd Floor
Had enough yet?...
Step 7: Last Inlet Receptacle
Finally, up into the attic.
One little tip... I installed "tees to nowhere" as cleanouts at strategic places throughout the system. I capped them off with silicone caulk, rather than pipe cement. If ever something gets really clogged in the pipe in the future, this should ease the snaking operation.
Step 8: Exhaust to the Outdoors
I cut a hole in the house wall, installed a dryer vent, and piped it to the canister in the crawlspace. This was my idea. It is non-traditional. Copy it at your own risk.
Step 9: Finished
The maiden voyage.
The system has worked great for 3.5 years now. It is well used and abused, and it keeps on ticking.
Good luck planning and installing your own system.