The Benefits of Central Vacuum Systems

By Clarissa Youden, Total Home Environment Imagine vacuuming quickly, in almost complete silence, with far more suction power than before, but with no re-circulated dust and no clumsy vacuum cleaner to carry. With conventional portable vacuum cleaners, the power unit and dust container are part of the appliance, which makes them noisy and smelly to use, and heavy and awkward to manoeuvre around rooms and carry up and down stairs. Not to mention the wear and tear on your skirting boards, and indeed, on the vacuum itself, which normally has a life of perhaps only a few years. Such inconveniences do not exist with a central vacuum system. Because the power unit is kept away from the main living areas, cleaning the home is a quieter experience. You can hear the door bell or phone ring, and it also gives you the chance to vacuum at more unsociable hours, such as first thing in the morning or once the children have gone to bed. Cleaning the home is also somewhat paradoxically, a much cleaner activity. Portable vacuums re-circulate the air that passes through their exhaust filters and can actually increase the dust levels in the air by exhausting right where you are. Central vacuums on the other hand, carry dirt away, ensuring that no fine dust particles get back into your home, which is particularly good news for those with asthma and dust allergies. [caption id="attachment_949" align="aligncenter" width="300"] Vacuuming hard floors with a Beam Central Vacuum.[/caption] Central vacuums are typically two to five times more powerful than conventional vacuums, enabling you to clean faster and more effectively. They are also much safer - there are no electrical cables to trip over and all you have is a lightweight flexible hose following you around. This typically comes with a variety of attachments, from upholstery brushes to micro-attachment sets for cleaning delicate objects, such as glassware or computers. How central vacuums work At the heart of every built-in vacuum system is a power unit, which is normally situated away from the living areas, in a garage, basement, loft, utility room or understairs cupboard. [caption id="attachment_950" align="aligncenter" width="200"] Beam Central Vacuum unit mounted on the wall of a garage Ð a built-in inlet allows you to vacuum your car.[/caption] This unit is connected via a network of concealed ducting to a number of wall-mounted vacuum points (inlet valves) that are no more obtrusive than a conventional plug socket. These are located around the home, normally in common areas such as the hallway or landing. [caption id="attachment_951" align="aligncenter" width="166"] Hose being inserted into wall inlet.[/caption] The average four-bedroom house usually requires no more than four inlet valves - the only visible evidence of a system being in place. [caption id="attachment_952" align="aligncenter" width="300"] Diagram showing a typical ductwork route.[/caption] To begin cleaning all you have to do is plug a lightweight hose, normally 9m in length, into a vacuum point and the system starts up automatically. Dirt and dust is sucked away through the hose and ducting and is then deposited into a dust container (bucket) which is attached to the power unit. [caption id="attachment_953" align="aligncenter" width="200"] Beam Kitchen VacPan.[/caption] Another type of inlet, like an automatic dustpan, is available that fits into the plinth of kitchen units. You just sweep debris up to it, touch a switch with your foot and watch the dirt being whisked away. Installation and maintenance The pipework can be concealed in natural voids around the house such as at the back of fitted wardrobes, airing cupboards, baths, down existing soil-pipe boxing-in and underneath the plinth of your kitchen units. Low-voltage wiring, which controls the power unit, runs with the pipe and is connected to each wall socket. Typically, a system can be fitted in less than a day by any DIY enthusiast. Unlike portable vacuum cleaners that contain bags which need to be checked and changed fairly regularly, central vacuum systems have at least a 15 litre dirt capacity, so you only have to empty it out about twice a year. If you have a larger house, the capacity typically goes up to 25 litres. As far as the exhaust air quality is concerned, filters are used to keep this clean. Beam Central Vacuums for example, use an exclusive permanent, self-cleaning filter from the makers of GORE-TEX fabrics that will not let anything through to the motor or exhaust air that is more than 0.3 microns - skin cell size to you and me! Can blockages occur? Like any pipework, ducting can become blocked. However, the risk of this occurring can be virtually eliminated with careful design and installation. For example, a 90 degree sharp bend in the ducting immediately behind each vacuum point will ensure that if a long object does accidentally get sucked up, it will not pass around this bend and can be easily removed. The remaining ducting consists of sweep bends, so any object that does get sucked into the system, will not get trapped and will instead be carried straight to the dust canister. Costs and guarantees Generally prices for a central vacuum system start from under £600+VAT for a DIY system (VAT is reclaimable if it is a new-build home). Ultimately, costs will depend on the size of your property, the size of the unit, how many inlets are required and what type and length of hose is required. When considering a central vacuum system, you need to feel confident that the system will function properly over the long-term. Check what type of guarantee is on offer, and what is likely to happen should the system fail. Beam Central Vacuums for example, includes a 90-day money back guarantee, whereby the company will take back the power unit, hose and attachments and refund your money if you are not entirely satisfied with your purchase before 90 days. The warranty also includes a five year installation warranty on the workmanship of a Beam Approved Dealer, a three-year warranty on the power unit motor, a one-year warranty on the hose and attachments, and a lifetime guarantee against blockages if the system has been fitted correctly. Conclusion Central vacuum systems offer a more convenient, quiet and healthy way to keep your home dust free than the traditional portable vacuum cleaner. They are more effective - offering far more suction power, are easy to install, and simple to maintain. And with options such as the Beam Kitchen VacPan, there will be no more stooping in the kitchen with a dustpan and brush, or walking crumbs into the rest of the house, and no more small piles of dirt in the corner of the room, which stay there until the vacuum cleaner comes out on its weekly visit! Clarissa Youden is Head of Marketing for Total Home Environment, the UK importer of Beam Central Vacuums and distributor of VILLAVENT heat recovery ventilation systems.

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