This guide contains an overview of how to install a central vacuum system. You can install the system yourself if you have some remodeling or construction experience. A typical installation takes about one weekend. If you are ever in doubt about a part of your installation, please contact a professional. Remember: Your central vacuum is only as good as it’s installation.
Installing a central vacuum system is a straightforward do-it-yourself project that doesn’t require special tools or skills. The procedure is quite simple if you take your time and follow the instructions carefully. Always fully consider the implications before you cut into a wall. Make sure you have chosen the right location and are not cutting into any hidden electrical wires or plumbing.
Installation in a new construction home is simple. The installer will usually make two trips to the house. The first visit will be during the planning stage to “rough in” the system. The “rough in” includes running the special vacuum PVC pipe and planning the location of the inlets. The second visit takes place after the walls are finished. The installer adds the finishing touches by placing the inlets and hanging the power unit.
Installing a central vacuum in an existing home is also easy. Accessing the interior walls of the home can be done through an attic, basement, or crawl space. No heavy construction or remodeling is necessary.
Planning is the key to the successful installation of a central vacuum system. A balance between the best locations for the inlet valves and the practicality of installing in these locations must be obtained. With a little ingenuity most locations can be reached.
- Gather tools and materials
- Determine power unit location
- Determine # of inlets & locations
- Plan tubing system
- Install the power unit
- Install inlet valves and tubing
- Test the system
• ½” right angle electric drill
• 2 ½” hole saw
• 1/8” drill bit hack saw
• Hacksaw / small handsaw or PVC cutter
• Pocket or utility knife
• Measuring tape
• Philips & slot screw driver
• Electric tape & connectors
• Wire coat hanger
• Deburring tool
• Safety gloves & glasses
• Wire cutters
• Miter box
• Drywall saw or jigsaw
Purchased from local DIY store
– schedule 40/ 2” water pipe
– 2” Coupling
– 2” WYE
– 2” Sanitary Tee
– 2” 45 elbow
– 2” 90 sweep elbow
– PVC glue and primer
• Planning is the key to successful installation
• Plan at least 1 hour before
• Tools Required – Make sure you have everything you need before you start
Measure & Cut Pipe
• Measure – From base of pipe-stop (inside of fitting)
• Cut – As straight and square as possible
– Use miter box
– Remove all rough edges
• Dry Fit – Once all pieces are cut they should be assembled dry to check for correct fitting before gluing.
Measuring: When sizing a length of tube, measurements should be taken from the base of the pipe-stop on the inside of the fitting. As each section of tubing is cut, it should be dry fitted before the next measurement is taken.
Cutting: The tubing should be cut as straight and square as possible. A miter box should be used if available. All rough edges must be removed with a utility knife or coarse sand paper.
Dry Fitting: Once all the pieces are cut they should be dry fitted to check for correct fit. The markings on the fittings can be utilized to assure proper alignment.
• Joints must be grease free
• Only apply thin coat on outside of pipe
• NEVER apply to inside the fittings
PVC solvent cement actually welds the fitting to the tubing. A chemical reaction permanently joins the molecules from each surface to produce an airtight seal. Before cementing, both the tubing and the fitting must be free of PVC burrs, dirt and grime. The components should be wiped with a clean cloth if necessary. Cement should be applied to the tubing only as cement applied to the fitting will be pushed ahead and create a rough bead on the inside of the fitting. This bead will reduce airflow and could cause a clog. The tubing should be inserted all the way into the fitting and twisted a quarter turn to evenly distribute the cement. All excess cement should be removed with a rag. The glue should be allowed several hours to set before the vacuum system is used.
Planning the tubing layout
You should check your entire home, noting wall and basement construction details, such as joist direction, location of heating ducts, plumbing, etc. This will help you determine the best path for the tubing system and the best location for the power unit. Tubing can be run overhead, in the basement, and up into partition walls to inlet valves. It can also be run inside a wall to a crawl space or attic, and from this point over to partition walls and down to the inlet valves. And remember, you can never have a power unit that is too powerful or too many inlets.
The amount of airflow that reaches the hose is dependent on the efficiency of the layout of the tubing system.
Planning the vacuum tubing layout
• Straight & short as possible
• Only use tight 90° at inlet valves
• Trunk line – Line that connects furthest inlet to power unit
• Branch line – Connects remaining inlet valves to trunk line.
The trunk line connects the furthest inlet valve to the power unit. All other inlets are serviced by branch lines that connect to the trunk line. If the basement is unfinished, the trunk line can be run beneath the joists in the basement ceiling. The upper floors can be serviced by closets ducts, or in partition walls. The trunk line could run straight up to the attic and service the floors beneath by branch lines dropping through closet ceilings or partition walls. The location of the trunk line depends on the construction of the house and the location of the power unit.
The branch lines join the remaining inlet valves to the trunk line. As with the trunk line, they should be kept as straight as possible. Use 45 degree fittings to avoid sharp corners. Airflow direction should be considered when connecting the branch lines to the trunk line.
Because the dirt will fall to a lower level and may not be carried to the power unit. To catch anything that could potentially clog the system. The inlet should have the tightest curve in the system (tight 90).
A branch line located directly below an over-head trunk line will accumulate dirt due to the effects of gravity. The result will be a pile of dirt at the base of the inlet valve every time it is opened.
Where to run the pipe
Run pipe through natural voids
• Under the floor
• Inside stud walls or partitions
• Between ground floor ceiling and 1st floor
• Roof space / attic
• Service ducts
• Crawl spaces
Upper floors can be accessed
• Utility rooms
– 90° Sweep tees installed in direction of power unit
– 90° Sweep tees should never be installed with the sweep pointing down
– 90° short tees only installed on inlet valves
– Cut and glue fitting carefully
– Follow manufacturers specification for longest run
• Avoid gravity drops
– A branch line located directly below an overhead trunk line will accumulate dirt.
– NEVER drop a branch line directly out of the bottom of a trunk line.
– ALWAYS run branch line out the side or top of a trunk line
Tubing can be ran through
• Clothes chutes
• Under stairways
• Cold air return ducts
• Partition walls
Multi-story homes usually require one or more inlets on each level. Instead of trying to line up inlet valves from one level to the next, run a separate line of tubing upstairs inlet valve to a branch line or main trunk line. This double trunk line technique is commonly used is two story homes.
Because there are finished walls above and below the second floor sole plate, installing inlet valves upstairs can take a little more ingenuity. There are several options. It is sometimes preferable to run a trunk line directly in the attic or crawl space. Place an inlet outside a closet wall and then run the tubing through the wall and through the inside of the closet and down. Yet another solution is to install the upstairs inlet valve directly into the floor.
There are several methods of gaining access to the second floor or the attic including installing the tubing in a closet, inside a cold air return duct, in a partition wall, underneath the stairs, or in clothes chutes.
On the floor below apply glue to an adequate length of tubing and aim it upwards through the hole in the sole plate and into the short 90 degree fitting on the back of the mounting plate. Join this branch line to the trunk line using a sweep tee. Note the airflow direction of the tee. When strapping your wire to the pipe, leave several inches loose at the valve. This facilitates servicing the valve by having slack in the wire. If the inlet valve is to be serviced from the attic, shorter pieces of tubing joined by couplings may be required due to overhead space restrictions. Precut these pieces and work quickly to prevent the cement on the end of the tubing from drying before it reaches the fitting at the valve below.
Split Canister Units
• Offers greater flexibility
– Place dirt canister and motor in separate locations
• Motor in attic
• Dirt canister in closet on ground floor
Standard Inlet Valves
Correctly positioned inlet valves will ensure trouble-free vacuuming over the many years of service that will be received from a central vacuum system. The hose must be able to reach every corner of the house and go around furniture to get there. Drapes, closets and ceiling corners all must be reached. Central locations such as hallways, beside doors and adjacent to the bottom of staircases are ideal. Do not place inlets behind doors or furniture. A thirty-foot string or the hose itself can be used to help plan the layout. If working with 1/4” scale blueprints a seven-inch string can be used to represent the hose. If an electrical beater brush is to be used, the inlet valve should be located within 6 feet of an electrical outlet. Air-turbine driven beater brush heads do not require electricity and thus allow more flexibility when choosing inlet valve locations.
Inlet Valve Locations
• Central locations are best
– Hallways, beside doors, bottom of staircase
– AVOID – behind furniture & doors
• Use 30ft. String or hose to help plan
– 1 ¼” scale blue prints use 7” string
• To use with pigtail hose, must be located w/in 5ft. of electrical outlet
Inlet valves can be installed in a number of places depending on the structure of your home.
An inlet located near the bottom of the stairway permits convenient cleaning of the stairs.
Remember, one inlet usually lets you cover 700 square feet.
Start with the area of the house furthest away from the power unit and tentatively select an inlet location that will provide maximum coverage.
Use a 30ft string to make sure all adjacent areas of the house can be cleaned from this location. Allow sufficient slack in the string to provide for areas such as closets, blinds, ceiling fans, ceiling corners to be cleaned.
Mark the location of the first inlet valve and proceed toward the power unit, locating additional inlet valves until all parts of the house can be comfortably reached with the hose.
Inlet Valves Through Closet
• Drill pilot hole horizontally through wall
– Look for obstructions
• Drill 2 ½” hole through both walls
• Feed low voltage wire through
• Use slip coupling at inlet then 90 after the interior closet wall
• Drill pilot hole through floor
• Cut hole in floor
If obstructions make it impossible to run vertical tube lines through partition walls the best and easiest alternative is to go through the insides of closets, particularly when a closet on the second floor is directly above a closet on the main floor. Look for other possibilities as well, such as return air areas or under stairs. Drill a horizontal pilot hole through the center of a suitable inlet valve location on the wall. Probe for hidden obstructions in the wall with a bent piece of coat hanger. With the pilot hole as a center drill a 2 1/2” hole through both sides of the wall. Using a keyhole saw cut a 2 1/2” x4 3/8” hole in the outside wall (the side that will have the valve). Feed the low voltage wire through from the inside of the closet, thread it through the top hole of a trimmed mounting plate and attach it to the lugs on the back of the valve. Instead of a 90-degree fitting that was used in a partition wall, glue a coupling on the spigot of the mounting plate. Attach this assembly to the wall as described above in the partition wall section. Then, from inside the closet, insert a short piece of tubing into the coupling. Dry fit a tight 90-degree fitting pointed in the direction of the trunk line below or above. Cut a 2 1/2” hole below or above the fitting and feed a length of tubing through to the trunk line. When you are satisfied with the fit, permanently glue the fittings in place.
Inlet Valves in Partition Wall
Existing – Partition Wall
• Determine location
• Drill pilot hole
• Drill hole
In a Partition Wall – You can use basic low voltage valve backing plates or electric valves (Canplas Electra Valve which has romex and backing plate). Determine the desired location of the inlet valve and locate the point directly below the center of the proposed location. Holding the drill vertical and as close to the wall as possible drill a small pilot hole through the floor and sub floor. Take a wire coat hanger and snip a long straight piece from it. Cut at an angle makes a good pilot hole drill bit. (Be careful not to snag carpeting.) Locate this pilot hole from beneath and measure over approximately 2 1/4 (1/2 for drywall + 1 3/4” to center of the sole plate, that is the base of the wall) adding extra for the thickness of any baseboards. Using a 2 1/2’ hole cutter, drill upwards through the flooring and the sole plate. Using a flashlight inspect the interior of the wall to make sure there are no obstructions. Alternatively a piece of tubing can be used to probe for obstructions. Having determined the location is suitable cut a 2 1/2’ X 4 3/8” hole in the wall at the desired inlet valve location. Remove the side portion of the mounting plate by cutting off the plastic with side cutters. Tape low voltage wire to the end of a sufficiently long piece of tubing and pass it up from beneath. If the trunk line is in the attic, tie a weight to the end of the low voltage wire and lower it through the opening. Remove the wire and pass it through the upper hole in the trimmed mounting plate. Bare an inch of both wire leads and wrap them around the lugs on the back of the valve in a clockwise direction. Tighten the lugs with a Philips screwdriver. Run your wire in the walls to the valves before you run the pipe. Apply cement to the spigot on the back of the mounting plate and attach a short 90 degree fitting oriented in the appropriate direction. Tilt the mounting plate forward and angle it into the hole in the wall. Center the mounting plate in the hole and pullout ward. Hold the mounting plate in place with a bent coat hanger. Open the valve lid and slide the valve spigot first over the end of the coat hanger. Keep tension on the coat hanger while inserting the valve into the mounting plate with a twisting motion. Do not use glue; the built-in mounting plate gasket will provide a positive seal. Align the screw holes in the valve with those in the mounting plate. Using the screws provided secure the valve in place. Use the extra short screw if the longer screw is going to interfere with the tubing behind. Do not over tighten.
Floor Mounted Inlet Valves
• Drill pilot hole & check for obstructions
• Drill hole in floor
• Fasten mounting plate to floor
While the normal installation on inlet valves is in partition walls, occasionally one must be in-stalled in the floor. In this case the location for the inlet valves should be about two inches from the wall and not in a high traffic area. As with wall installations use a pilot hole drill to make sure the location is clear of obstructions below. Cut a hole that is 2 1/2’ x 4 3/8’ in the floor. In the case of linoleum or uncovered floors the mounting plate will be installed from below. If the floor is carpeted cut a hole in the carpet with a utility knife and slip the untrimmed mounting plate under the carpet. Fasten the mounting plate to the floor with screws. A coupling and a short piece of tubing may be required as a spacer between the mounting plate and the 90 degree fitting below.
Houses with slab floor & flat roof
• Installed in exterior walls
• Outside of house
Underground or under eaves
Houses with flat roofs and slab floors require all inlet valves to be installed in exterior walls and branch lines to be run outside of the house. The tubing system can be run underground or under the eaves of the house. If the power unit is to be mounted outside it must be housed in a weatherproof cabinet that has adequate air vents. Locate and install the inlet valves in much the same way as for closet installations. Use a tight 90-degree fitting to keep the tubing close to the exterior wall. Seal the edges of the hole in the exterior wall with caulking. If the tubing system is to run under the eaves pipe straps must support the tubing at least every six feet. On vertical sections carefully wire tie the low volt-age wire behind the tubing. If the tubing is to be buried underground, dig a trench 12 to 18 inches deep along the side of the house. Fully assemble and test the tubing and low voltage wire before filling in the trench. It is recommended that the low voltage wire installed outside been cased in conduit, which is available at most hardware stores. running the 2-inch pipe and wire within a 3-inch PVC pipe; this relieves condensation buildup with leads to clogs and protects the wire.
Inlet Valves in New Construction
You can use basic low voltage valve backing plates or electric valves (Hayden Super Valve backing plates which have an attached J-Box for your electrician to run 110 volts to for the power brush which draws 2 amps. If you use the Super Valve you need to use a Direct-Connect Hose/kit). After the house has been wired and plumbed, but before the dry wall is installed is the best time to pipe in a central vacuum tubing system. Locate the inlet valve locations and nail the mounting plate to the nearest stud. Make sure the middle of the mounting plate is at the same height as the middle of adjacent electrical outlets. It is best to offset the tubing using a combination of a tight 90 degree fitting and a 45 degree elbow. This will avoid problems of mounting screws puncturing the tubing as well as allowing the hole to be drilled further away from the stud where nails could ruin the hole saw. Drill a 2 1/2” hole in the center of the top or sole plate depending on the location of the trunk line. Attach low voltage wire to the tubing and push the tubing through from the floor below and cement it to the forty-five degree fitting. Leave ten inches of low voltage wire at the mounting plate for valve installation when the house is completed. Once the house is completed the inlet valves must be installed. Bare a half inch of the low voltage wire leads and wrap them in a clock-wise direction around the lugs on the back of the valve. Tighten the lugs with a screw driver. Using a twisting motion insert the valve into the hole with the hinge at the top of the valve. Do not apply glue; the gasket in the mounting plate will provide a positive seal. If the valve will not reach the mounting plate ask your dealer for an inlet valve extension. Using the screws supplied, attach the inlet valve to the mounting plate. Use the extra short screw if the longer version is going to penetrate the tubing behind. Note: Do not over tighten. If a whistling develops during operation slightly loosen the screws.
Hide A Hose
A balance between the best locations for the inlet valves and the practicality of installing in those locations must be obtained. With a little ingenuity most locations can be reached. It is important to keep in mind that air flow is reduced with longer hoses. To compensate for the loss of air flow, a larger power unit is required. A 50’ (15.2 m)hose will usually cover between 1800-2300 sq ft (549-701 sq m). Placement of the inlets should, if possible, be located in a hallway or in other areas that do not have high visibility.
Determine Valve Height
In a down orientation (tubing is being run in the crawl space), align the bottom of the valve with the height of the electrical plug outlets (about 11 inches or 27.9 cm). Mounting the valve higher in a down orientation creates a more difficult angle for the hose to retract.
In an up orientation (hose exiting the valve towards the ceiling), most people find it more convenient with the valve mounted at the height of the light switch outlet.
Attach the frame to the stud. Be sure the frame is level.
Insert the pipe fitting.
The pipe fitting is designed to slide in the frame to adjust for variations in wall board thickness.
The maximum wall thickness the valve can work with is 1.5 inches (3.8 cm).
Install the pipe into the fitting. Glue the pipe into the fitting, making sure it seats all the way to the ridge of the pipe fitting.
Install the cover plate.
Retrofit Existing Construction
Use the mud cover as a template to cut the hole.
To allow the frame to ﬁt through the valve hole in the sheetrock, cut approximately 3/4” (1.9 cm) off the forks.
You will need to score and cut off both of the mounting tabs in order for the rough-in frame to fit in the hole.
Insert the Rough-in frame horizontally. Then turn it back upright behind the wall.
Push the bottom two pointed tabs into the sheet rock. The top pointed tab can be bent down as you pull the top of the frame into the hole. The tabs will help hold the frame in place while you install the valve. You may need to push a couple of small finish nails, horizontally into the sheet rock, through the holes located on the side of the frame.
Installation of pipe runs and trim can follow same instructions as for new construction.
Unlike a traditional install, do not join pipe runs until you have enough pipe length to hold the hose. For example, if using a 40’ (12.2 m) hose, install at least 44’ (13.4 m) of pipe before connecting to another pipe run.
In order to ensure enough pipe to store the hose, the pipe runs will sometimes need to begin running away from the power unit, then make a loop and head back to the power unit.
Any burr or excess glue glob can snag and damage the hose sock as it travels through the tubing. To prevent this, be sure to always glue the pipe and not the fittings. Make sure to remove all burrs from the pipe ends that were cut. Carefully inspect the pipe to make sure the inside is smooth and that the pipe is round and undamaged.
Only Hide-a-Hose special sweep 90’s, 45’s, and 22.5’s can be in the section of pipe that stores the hose.
A 90 to a 22.5 is often needed to get around an obstacle.
Try to space out 90’s as much as possible.
The more 90’s used, the more force is needed to pull the hose out of the wall. Try not to use more than four 90’s for each valve.
Avoid back to back 90’s, if at all possible.
It is important to design the pipe runs so the hose is stored on one plane.
When using the Rapid Flex hose, we recommend installation of a reducer in the pipe run, before the first standard fitting. This prevents the possibility of the hose getting stuck in a tight fitting, if it stretches when retracted.
Run Low Voltage Wire and Test
Run low voltage wire to each inlet, just as you would with a standard central vacuum install.
It is a good idea to test the system by retracting a hose before the walls are sheet rocked.
Since the doors are needed to seal the system, a hand ball can be placed over each valve opening that is not being tested to seal the system. In an up orientation, you will need to tape the hand ball in place.
Using a portable source of vacuum, check the system for sealed vacuum. Sealed vacuum at the valve should not vary more than three to five inches from the sealed vacuum at the power unit.
A lubricant has already been applied to the o-ring on the pipe fitting.
Using wire nuts, connect the two leads from the switch that is mounted on the outside of the valve to the low voltage wire.
The pointed tabs are only used in retrofitting existing homes. (See Retrofit section)
Insert the valve assembly into the rough-in frame.
Align the four holes in the valve assembly with the holes in the frame. Secure with the four screws included in the trim kit.
Vacuum Power Unit
Power Unit Location
• Remote area or central location
• Determine max pipe run
• Garage, basement, or utility room
• Dry area
• Away from living areas
• Accessible for emptying
• On exterior wall (for venting) exhaust should not be longer than 10ft
• NOT near heaters, hot water tanks
• Mount within 3ft. of electrical outlet
• Place on it’s own circuit – 15amp.
The power unit can be located in the garage, basement, utility room or any other area that is dry and remote enough that living areas will not be affected by the sound of the electric motor. The unit must be mounted within three feet of an electrical outlet. The power unit should be placed on it’s own dedicated 15 or 20 amp circuit. The unit should be mounted so that it is out of the way but still accessible for emptying. If the system is to be exhausted to the outdoors the power unit should be located on an exterior wall. Venting to areas such as patios and entrance ways should be avoided.** Vacuums must breath…do not enclose. If the unit is to be located in a closet or utility room it must be vented. Louvered doors fulfill this purpose. A muffler can, of course be used to minimize noise.
Install Power Unit
Attach to wall
• At height convenient to access dirt canister
• Bolt should enter studs
Attach low voltage wire
• Strip and crimp
• Either side
• DO NOT Cement
Attach the power unit to the wall at a height that will provide convenient access to empty the dirt canister. The mounting bracket comes with the necessary screws for mounting in plaster walls. If mounting on plaster, wall board or panels, be sure mounting bolts enter studs. If mounting on a block or concrete wall, drill the holes with masonry bit or insert plastic or lead anchors.
With the power unit mounted, strip the low voltage wire and crimp into the two “slip on” terminals provided. Attach the terminals and plug in unit. Connect the main tube line to either side of the power unit. Do not cement this connection. Use the clamp coupling provided in case you ever need to remove the power unit to service or replace. The clamp coupling screws to tighten the connection.
Low Voltage Wire
- Automatic On/Off
–when hose is inserted in the inlet valve the power unit turns on
–Wire is spliced at junction or branch and trunk line
–Attach wire to tubing every 4 feet
One of the greatest benefits of central vacuum systems is that the power unit is turned on and off automatically. Every power unit has an on/off switch that is activated by completing a circuit at the inlet valves. Simply inserting the hose in the inlet valve turns on the power unit. To facilitate this, low voltage wire must follow the tubing system. At the junction of a branch line and the trunk line the wires can be spliced together as demonstrated in the figure. There must be an uninterrupted route from each inlet valve to the power unit. The wire should be attached to the tubing with the wire ties at least every four feet.
• Vent exhaust low to ground to reduce outside noise
• Exhaust to the back of home
• Avoid patios, entrances, or windows
• Use muffler on exhaust line
• Should be no longer than 10ft.
We recommend that all central vacuums should be exhausted outside. If it is not possible, we suggest using a system with a HEPA bag.
Testing Vacuum System
• Insert vacuum hose into farthest inlet valve
– Should start
– Ensure switch works
– Check other inlets for leakage
• Loosen/Tighten mounting screws
• Remove hose and repeat for each inlet