What's so great about Central Vac?

mjtx2October 9, 2011

I've noticed everyone loves their Central Vac and I never read that someone regrets it. I've never tried one in anyone's house and I admit I don't get it. What makes this so different than just sticking a vacuum cleaner on each level of your house? Don't you have to drag tubes around? And what's hide-a-hose?

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I always wanted a central vacuum system, and now I have one. I wish I hadn't spent the money. The hose is heavy and awkward to carry up and down the stairs, and a major pain to store. The whole concept is not designed well, because it invites clogs. My small shop vac is much easier to deal with (I don't have any carpeting, though). I installed mine just before hide-a-hose came out. (That's where the hoses retract into the ducting in the wall, so you don't have to carry a heavy hose around) I am curious to see how well that works, because that is the only thing that might make me change my mind. It's a hefty upcharge, from what I understand.

    Bookmark   October 9, 2011 at 7:57AM
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We have one in our home and I do love it. Some buy a second hose, etc for each level. That said, DD2 has one in her home and she uses a canister vacuum instead.

I don't like the hide a hose, so didn't get that.

    Bookmark   October 9, 2011 at 9:41AM
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I'm not a fan of central vacs. My mother just loves hers, but when I used it, I hated dragging those heavy hoses around, and they're hell on the baseboard corners and furniture.

It was suggested we put the piping in for central vac in our build (for future owners and resale value). However, when we were trimming the budget fat, that was the very first thing to go.

    Bookmark   October 9, 2011 at 11:21AM
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Central vacs can use a much more powerful motor to drive the system, and the exhaust air is not blown back into the rooms through a filter so they reduce dust.

Even notice the dust on the furniture after vacuuming?

And why you vacuum before dusting.

It was blow right through the vacuum filter.

    Bookmark   October 9, 2011 at 12:18PM
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The motors last nearly forever unlike most normal vacs.

The lack of dust.

The changing out the bag every 6 months.

The quiet.

The powerful suction.

A hose sock takes care of the baseboards.

The lightweight.

Older centrals were not all that great. But HAH is the bomb. My wife didn't like our last house's CV system but she can't imagine living without a HAH (we have dark hard woods with pets and toddler). I honestly believe that anyone who talks smack about CVs hasn't lived with a properly designed and installed HAH system.

    Bookmark   October 9, 2011 at 1:44PM
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What is HAH?

I put in a top-of-the-line central vac and here are my observations:

The canister needs emptying every month (that must be one HUGE canister that can go 6 months!)

It is quieter than a regular vacuum.

Even my small shop vac picks up more dust than the central vac.

The hose sock is another expense, and doesn't stay pulled all the way up.


I always dust before vacuuming (this is an ages old argument that really has no right or better answer), and have never had a problem with dust blowing around and re-settling from the vacuum.

    Bookmark   October 9, 2011 at 2:23PM
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"never had a problem with dust blowing around and re-settling from the vacuum."

You have not looked then.

Even the purported HEPA filter bags do not handle the motor cooling air, and it stirs up dust.

On a bright sunny day you can see it in the air.

    Bookmark   October 9, 2011 at 2:41PM
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HAH is Hide A Hose.

My CV picked up an umbrella cover the other day. It was a large umbrella cover. It arrived unscathed but dusty in the chamber.

The canister is perhaps 15 times bigger than a normal upright. The emptying probably depends on the amount of carpet you have but I've never changed one monthly.

I've had our HAH for 2.5 years. I adjusted the sock once but it does need it again. All HAHs come with a sock so there is no extra expense but I won't make an economic argument for the HAH. Long run - possibly cheaper after you replace your upright a few times.

Catbuilder - you didn't put top of the line in if you don't have a HAH. If you have a shop vac that sucks more, than you don't have a top of the line CV or you have an install problem. Ours is so powerful that the vacpan is almost unusable because of the noise generated. Our motor unit was $600. We use it on our cars and it is as good as the best coin operated vacs. In other words - the suction hurts your hand. Change goes up easily. Pens go up easily. I have had issues with larger nails that can't go vertical when I was finishing the basement.

    Bookmark   October 10, 2011 at 6:59AM
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I am a huge fan of HAH. Some of my comments are repeats of the positives mentioned..

The difference between regular central vacs and hide-a-hose (HAH) are vast, as are the differences between canister vacuums and central vac/HAH.

Old school central vacs are cumbersome as are normal vacuums. With either central vacs or normal vacs, you have to lug around something large and bulky. You also have to store this item somewhere. This problem is even more annoying if you have stairs.

My HAH, on the other hand, is incredibly convenient. Everything is hidden within wall cavities. It uses space that is, otherwise, wasted. Smart! The engine and canister are mounted on a garage wall out of the way. There is just a small valve cover on a wall inside the home. I open it and there is my hidden hose.

I have to pull the hose out of the wall, but it isn't a big deal to do that. The hose itself is lightweight enough to move around easily, and I have the longest model (60'...it was the longest, at least?) I only have to pull out what I need (which is more convenient than older central vacs where you have the whole thing out.)

When I am done, the suction retracts the hose into the wall... very quickly. It does the work for you (it's fun to watch as well. ;))

It is so lightweight and convenient to use, I use my HAH more than I would a normal central vac or canister vacuum. So, I think my house stays cleaner because of the convenience. :)

As mentioned, the engine is incredibly strong for a central vac/HAH. My HAH engine is incredible. We also clean our cars with it, and it does a great job. Old school shop vacs were terrible for this, by comparison.

The size of the central vac canister is much larger than a normal vacuum. We have emptied the canister once in a year, and it was only about 1/2 full. (We have mostly hard surfaces, though. No carpet fibers are getting sucked up. Also, our dogs don't shed. They do bring in lots and lots of dirt and weeds, which I vacuum daily.)

I appreciate, as an allergy/asthma sufferer, that the sucked up dust is removed from the room entirely. Old school vacuums (even expensive ones) did kick up lots and lots of dust. Trust me..... I sneezed repeatedly from vacuuming previously. With central vac/HAH, I am never sneezing.

Hmmm... I think that is enough. :) I would be sad to buy a house without a HAH after having one. At the least, I would want to be sure it could be added. Prior to using mine, I wouldn't have thought twice about this or considered it a necessity in a home...

    Bookmark   October 10, 2011 at 1:22PM
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Our central vacuum is ten years old. The suction is as good today as it was when the system was brand new. The only money I've spent on it is for disposable bags. Our house is 2900 sq ft, all hardwood with low pile orientals -- and a Westie who sheds. (First one we've had that did!). DH changes the bag six to eight times a year. I have mild asthma. The air is so clean that the Aprilaire air cleaner filters on our forced air furnace only need replacing twice a year.

HAH wasn't around when we built, so that wasn't an option. (I'd love to stand around and watch any hose put itself away! Is there a garden hose that does that too? LOL)

    Bookmark   October 10, 2011 at 6:22PM
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After over 5 years of using my CV plus Hide A Hose I strongly agree with all the positive comments made in the prior posts. As far as I am concerned the only down side is the initial cost which is much more than for a regular vacuum cleaner. That said mine was worth every cent!

We add an sockless hose to our Hide A Hose for cleaning the cars, the porches and the pool deck (only when they are dry).
We have no carpets and no pets and empty our canister about twice per year though I suspect we could leave it a full year before emptying it.
Any future home WILL have a CV with HAH!

    Bookmark   October 10, 2011 at 6:27PM
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well i'd hate mine too if i was dragging around some hose! i have hide a hoses at a gazillion different locations throughout the house (big house). you pull it out and you vacuum. nothing to carry ...or complain about.

    Bookmark   October 10, 2011 at 7:32PM
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Gazillion? Isn't that the pricetag on the new stimulus programme?
After 23 years in new homes, I stuck myself in a 1964 teardown without even a central vac. :-(
What a pleasure emptying a cup of eew! and cleaning filters every week.

    Bookmark   October 10, 2011 at 8:37PM
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So, do you need a HAH for each level of the house? We'll have three levels. I guess 60 feet should do the entire first floor, but I'm not sure. And how much are we talking here for the entire system? $2000? $4000? More? Less?

    Bookmark   October 10, 2011 at 9:36PM
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I am trying to remember, but my entire system was no more than $2000...... that was plumbing in a new build, the hose & attachments and the motor.... I think the initial plumbing was around $500. The rest (which was installed after we moved in) was around $1200....... Your price would go up with the extra plumbing & hoses.

Our house is 2600 sq. ft. and we use just one 60 foot hose. It is located just off the kitchen, which is essentially in the center of our home. This is the area we need the HAH most, but it's nice that it can reach on our back patio, into our garage, front porch and every other inch of our interior. :)

You would need a HAH on each house level in most cases...... You should for convenience, at the very least. The hose will only go 60 ft.... so it might stretch up the stairs to do the landing, but not much further...

    Bookmark   October 10, 2011 at 9:54PM
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I like my HAH well enough, but I don't love it (I guess I just hate cleaning, no matter how "convenient"). I can't say I'd spend the money on it again or not. If I absolutely didn't have the extra funds to include it in another new build, it wouldn't disappoint me.

I really wish I hadn't used HAH on the top floor; those rooms have carpet, and I don't think it's that great on carpet (or my rugs). I was always having to clear "threads" or cat hair off the roller, etc. I'm glad I didn't get rid of my Dyson because it rules on carpet. I do like the HAH with microfiber head on the hardwood floors, though. We're about to finish our basement, and I can't decide what to do about it--HAH, regular CV hose, or nothing.

    Bookmark   October 10, 2011 at 11:31PM
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It makes it easier for the maid to clean. But then, why would one care - the pay is the same.

    Bookmark   October 10, 2011 at 11:51PM
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jrldh - Everyone knows that you kiss butt with a maid. Anything that makes their job easier, makes them do a better job (hopefully). Most people probably wouldn't put a HAH in for this....

There is a website that is easily searchable to give you the costs on the parts. It is about $350 for each outlet which included the socked hose at 50 ft. We have 2000 per floor and 1 outlet per floor. So labor is the issue and I have to say this is definitely one of the ripoffs out there in my opinion.

I would venture to say that in a 2000 per floor house, the HAH should take about 3 hours per outlet on top of a non-HAH system. So even at $30 an hour (this is a skill learned in a week), that should only be $200 upcharge.

I did mine myself so my total cost was around $1500 including the motor, all the attachments (for 3 floors (although I didn't do HAH in the basement) + garage kit). Certainly not a big cost difference to a quality upright on each floor and a good shop vac.

    Bookmark   October 11, 2011 at 6:35AM
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If you've looked at other gw threads on this topic on GW you will see plenty of people who don't like their central vac.
I moved into a house with it. I have removed it from the basement and bought a hoover. I bought a hoover for the loft as well. That means it is only used on the main floor, I had to buy a hose cover to protect the new paint job $30, as well as those plastic corner covers, and the bags have to shipped as they are NOT locally available. To use it in the garage to do the car is almost painfully loud.
I don't like lugging 30 feet of hose. The attachments ( like another beater bar type head costs far more than a hoover)
If it dies it will not get repaired.

If you get one be sure you can reach everywhere in every room with the amount of hose it comes with from whereever you are putting the duct. Having it get all but the last 2 feet of a room, or the last 3 steps of the stairs, is not going to cut it.

    Bookmark   October 15, 2011 at 9:19AM
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