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What are Central Vacuums?

Ken Black
Ken Black

Since the invention of the electric vacuum cleaner, some of the most often-cited strategies for selling various units is listing the weight and promoting the maneuverability of the device. Central vacuums are likely the lightest and most maneuverable on the market. Because they have no motor that needs to be dragged around on the power brush, they can be used nearly anywhere in the home and have unprecedented convenience and safety.

Central vacuums carry dirt and dust collected by a hand unit to a central spot from where it can be easily disposed of. In some ways, they look like a traditional vacuum cleaners, but with a minimalist design. Central vacuums have a lower profile because the motor and dirt canister are not attached, which can have significant advantages when it comes to transporting the power brush around the home. They especially make cleaning up on stairs and tight spaces convenient.

Man with hands on his hips
Man with hands on his hips

While the ease of use of central vacuums is a primary selling point, there are many other benefits associated with them as well. The fact that the dirt, dust and other debris collected is transported to a remote location where it can be sealed and thrown away can help those who have allergies to dust. Also, there is no need to deal with messy vacuum bags. While there will come a point when the collection canister will need emptied, this can be done in a garage or basement, where the dust can be isolated.

Central vacuum systems work because the main motor drive works with a conduit line which is laid throughout the home, or at least major portions of the home. These central vacs have hookups located in various portions of the home. When the central vac is hooked up, the system automatically powers up. The main electrical component is on the centrally-located motor, not the handheld unit.

Central vacuums then collect dirt through a power brush, which functions very much the same as the power brush on a traditional vacuum. From there, it will enter the conduit system, much like water or air goes through pipes or ducts. The dirt will eventually end up in the collection canister.

In addition to power brushes, other features can be added to central vacuums to help the systems more effectively meet the cleaning needs of the household. For example, in areas where there are tile or hardwood floors, automatic dustpans can be installed. These devices are slits along the baseboard which can be turned on. Then, debris can be swept over to the dustpan and sucked up.

Discussion Comments


I don't understand. It says a "hand unit", do you mean like a handheld dust devil type of vacuum?

I've only heard the term before so I really have no clue as to the workings of a central vacuum, but I get the mental image of a dirt devil hand vacuum with a super long vacuum hose that is attached to the wall of the house, which leads to conduit that eventually dumps in a canister in the garage.

Is that right?

Seems like the hose would be just as tangle-some as a regular vacuum power cord. Just the fact that it uses a brush (like a reg. vacuum) means that SOME allergens/dust is still going to kick up into the air.

Each to his own, but it seems more like a gimmicky selling point to me.

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