Is a Central Vacuum Worth It?

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We recently installed a new central vacuum after our other (very old) unit died a couple years ago. With five messy kids and a fluffy puppy, I vacuum. A lot. So I thought I’d share whether or not a central vacuum is actually worth it!

Before I get into it I want to point out that our central vac was already installed when we bought the house so there was no costly plumbing installation. That being said, if your house is a single story (with an unfinished basement or crawl space) it’s actually not that labour intensive to run the duct work. Especially if you’re an experienced DIYer who can do the job yourself.

Our original central vac stopped working about two years ago so during that time we just used a regular vacuum. We also have only one room with carpet, the rest is hardwood, but I do prefer to vacuum to get things cleaner.

Anyway, here’s everything you’ve ever wanted to know about whether a central vacuum is worth it or not.

Pros to Owning a Central Vacuum

Lightweight

This is probably my favourite feature of the central vac; the head is super lightweight. Unlike stick vacuums that have the canister built into the handle, or cannister vacuums that you have to pull behind you, the part of the central vacuum you work with is comprised of the hose and the wand. That’s it!

I recently slipped a disc in my back that made vacuuming an impossible chore with our old upright vacuum. Thanks to the central vac, I can now vacuum again pain free.

Great Suction

Like all vacuums, the power will depend on the brand and quality of vacuum that you buy. That being said, every single central vacuum I’ve used has had better suction quality than premium vacuum brands.

Low Maintenance

Once installed, a central vacuum can last a long time. It depends on how much you use it and the brand, but the one we replaced had been in the house since it was built in 1979! Most units will last 20 years or longer.

You also don’t have to do a lot of maintenance. Our new one has a filter that isn’t meant to be removed, so really the only chore you need to do is emptying the canister or changing the bag, depending on what model you get.

Lots of Accessories

You can pick and choose which accessories you get for your central vacuum and most are interchangeable. There’s power heads, hard floor mops, upholstery brushes, crevice tools, and so on. While these are available for most decent vacuums, you definitely get the biggest range of options with a central vac.

Central Vacuum Cons

High Upfront Cost

If you’re installing the complete system the cost can add it. Especially if you hire someone to do it! You’ll need to buy the vacuum unit, duct work, and plugs, plus run electrical to it all.

Even the vacuum units are expensive, though. Ours was on sale at Costco for $500 (regular $650). While it will definitely pay for itself in the long run it’s still a financial hit.

Restricted to Outlet Location

Unlike a regular vacuum, your central vac will only be accessible to the areas that have nearby outlets. That means no taking your vacuum outside to the car, up to the attic, or lending it to a friend. Our house is equipped with a generous amount of outlets, but if yours isn’t this can definitely be a nuisance.

Thankfully you can add more outlets to an existing system if you need to.

Difficult to Unclog

While a central vacuum typically won’t suck up anything that will get stuck in the pipes, it definitely happens; especially with kids. If something gets caught in the system it can be tricky, and sometimes expensive, to resolve the issue.

Central vacuum hose
Our new central vacuum’s hose. Since we got it from Costco it came with this cover.

So Is a Central Vacuum Worth It?

Yes – a central vacuum is absolutely worth it if you do a lot of vacuuming. At the same price as a Dyson I get better suction, low maintenance, and a unit that will last 2-4 times longer. And compared to cheaper vacuums it’s no contest – the central vac wins out for kid messes and pet hair.

Seriously, it’s amazing. This thing sucks up everything I put in front of it… Dirt, little bits of hard play dough, dog hair, socks (oops). You get the idea. The hose is actually longer than my vacuum cord too, so while it’s a bit of a stretch I can do the whole main floor without unhooking.

My house hasn’t been this clean in months!

That being said, a central vacuum isn’t for everyone. If you prefer the convenience of a cordless vacuum or, even better, a robo vac you’re going to find the central vacuum, and its hose, a huge pain. If you can afford it, having both the central vac and another convenience item for quick cleaning is a great compromise.

After replacing our vacuum I’m honestly surprised we went as long as we did without one!

Is It Hard to Replace an Old Central Vacuum?

No, not really – we had ours completely replaced in less than two hours, start to finish. That included separating the glued pipes from the old unit and reconfiguring the mounting brackets to accomodate a completely different vacuum style.

Old central vac to be replaced
Our old central vacuum from the 1970s

Here’s the steps we took to replace our ancient vacuum:

  1. Turn off the power. If you have an on/off switch, throw that first, but I recommend completely shutting off the breaker while you work to eliminate any risk.
  2. Disconnect the pipes from the vacuum unit. The old unit had a seperate canister and motor unit so this was a pain. On top of that, the previous owners had also glued this in place. To get the glue off, I melted it by hand with a hair dryer until it softened enough to be pulled off.
  3. Remove the old unit. You’ll have to unplug the power supply from it first before pulling it off. If you’re careful you should be able to do this without damaging the teeth so that it can easily plug into the new unit. Our old vacuum from the 1970s and new 2022 model used the exact same wiring. Note: Always make sure writing is the correct voltage!
  4. Clean anything out that’s stuck. In our case, we found a toy stuck between the old vacuum and the pipe. This was probably why we didn’t have great suction, but the motor was also going so we decided to continue with replacing the unit.
  5. Remove the old mount then measure and hang the new one. If you’re using the same brand these might be the same, but ours were completely different so we had to reconfigure.
  6. Hook up the pipes. If they don’t fit you may need to run some new central vac plumbing; thankfully it’s super easy to do yourself. Some vacuums need to vented outside, others don’t, so check your manual. Make sure you have a tight seal.
  7. Turn back on the power. Turn the vacuum on and test it out!
How our central vacuum was hooked up before we replaced it
Central vacuum hookup – this was glued on so we had to melt the adhesive with a hair dryer before we could remove it.

Tips and Tricks for DIY Central Vac Upgrades

  • A tight seal on the pipes is a must for it to work properly.
  • If the indicator light doesn’t come onto your vacuum unit your power isn’t hooked up right or on.
  • Vacuums can be heavy – we used a ladder to hold it while we hooked up the unit.
  • Try your best to mount the vacuum level to avoid any issues.
  • Make sure you mount the vacuum onto a stud.
  • The pipes used for a central vacuum are different than standard plumbing; if you’re not sure what to buy I suggest asking staff for help.

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