Lately I’ve been trying to finish all the little projects I’ve started around the house. Recently, I finished the central vacuum project. We’ve been using it for a couple years now, and a central vacuum is great! There’s only the hose and want to carry around so it’s super light; the motor unit is in the basement so there’s hardly any noise; and it exhausts outside so there’s no filter or any fine particles blown around the house.
Rule #1: Work with gravity – not against it!
It might seem like a good idea to start in the basement, where you can make a mess without worrying about cleaning-up right away, but it’s much easier to line-up your holes when letting a five-foot drill extension hang downwards than when trying to hold it upright above your head!
Tools and materials
You’re going to need some tools of course, here’s what’s essential:
- Drill, good and powerful, with a 1/2-inch chuck if possible
- 4-foot drill extension, especially if there are fire-breaks in your walls
- 2 1/2-inch hole saw, a solid one – not one of those multi-size ones
- Drill bits, for what ever material you’re going to hang the motor unit on
- Hack saw
- Mitre box
- Quick clamp
- Screw driver(s), depending on what kind of screws you’re using
- Tape measure
- Drywall saw
- Wire cutters
- Wire strippers
- Spirit level
- Flash light
- Permanent marker
Every installation is different, but every kit is the same, so make sure you also have the following material:
- Straight tubes
- A variety of tube fittings (we’ll figure out exactly which ones later, but wider curves are better than narrow bends)
- Plastic pipe straps
- Metal strapping
- Sweep inlet (optional)
- 18-2 wire, enough to go from the furthest outlet to the unit
- Marrettes, in case you need to splice any of the 18-2 wire together
- Screws and plugs, according to the material where the unit will be installed
The less bends and splits the better. If you’re house has two levels try to keep it vertical; if it’s a bungalow keep the outlets in a straight line.
Figure out where your outlets are going to go. This depends a lot on how long the hose is that you have. Make sure you can comfortably reach all around your house, under the beds, around furniture, and up to the tops of bookcases and armoires (with the duster attachment).
If your walls aren’t aligned and you would have to make an odd bend in the tubes see if you can up or through a closet instead, where no one will see your “short-cut” and you’ll avoid unnecessary work.
The main unit needs to be solidly mounted but remain accessible so you can empty the canister regularly. Make sure there is enough clearance above and below the unit.
It should also be near an outside wall so you can exhaust to the outside (if you decide to, but doing so means the small particles that pass through the filter end up outside). There’s a muffler too you can put along the exhaust to keep the noise level down.
There also needs to be a power outlet nearby to plug the unit into.
Dry fit all your connections before gluing them together – you’ve only got one chance and if you get it wrong you’re headed back to the hardware store for more pieces! Note that the tubes should have a dashed line down the side and the fittings should have eight notches around the edge. Line up the dashed line with one of the notches and mark them both with the marker.
When cutting the tube use the mitre box and hack saw to make nice, straight cuts. Then de-burr the edge so it’s nice and clean.
Once everything is fitted you can start gluing. Make sure you can still move the pieces around enough to glue the next piece on, not so the system is so rigid. It may be better to work towards the middle rather than towards one end. Don’t forget to pull the 18-2 control wire along with the pipe and attach it to the outlets as you go.
And once it’s all glued together, or even as you’re gluing if necessary, don’t forget to put in some straps to hold the tubes in place. Either the pipe straps when the tubes are up against a solid surface or with a length of metal strapping when the tubes are hanging (make sure you wrap around the tube for a solid hold rather than just passing underneath the tube).
If you’re installing a sweep inlet be aware they’re not easy to do. Not only because they’re typically in awkward places but because the fitting snaps onto the back without glue you have to make sure you don’t dislodge it when you connect to the rest of the tubes.
Along the way you might want to use some duct tape on a few key joints in case you need to make any changes later. Or if you can’t finish the whole job in one go but still need to use the system.
Now that the system is installed you can kick back, crack open a cold one, and compare your work to my installation.
Cross-posted on Schultzter’s Blog