What is a Whole House Vacuum System and How Do They Work?

Many of us are familiar with vacuum cleaners and how they are used around the house. But, did you know that aside from the portable designs, this extremely useful can also be installed into a building as a semi-permanent fixture?

These types of vacuums are called the whole house vacuum system – or the central vacuum system. 

It basically works like an ordinary vacuum, sucking in dirt and debris and removing them out of the house.


This time around, though, the particles are sent to remote utility space, instead of an attached trash container, through tubing installed within the walls.

Vacuum Cleaners Through the Years


Whole house vacuum systems may not sound popular but they are actually being recommended by many real estate agents and home remodelers because of the value they add to the homes during resale.

The installation of these types of vacuum systems started in the 19th century as a ducted machine with copper tubes that connect from a bellows chamber, usually located in the basement. During that time, however, the machine was too expensive and was not as effective as people expected it to be so it did not sell much in the United States.

Eventually, the invention transformed into portable vacuum cleaners and, in the early 1960s, polyvinyl chloride (PVC) was introduced and made these whole house vacuum systems much cheaper than they used to be.

Benefits of Whole House Vacuum Cleaners

  • Perfect for allergies - One of the main reasons why these semi-permanent types of vacuum cleaners are preferred over their portable vacuum cleaner counterparts is that they are the perfect systems for those with allergies and hypersensitivity to house dust.
  • Installation is easy - The set-up of these vacuum cleaners sends particles directly through the tubes within the walls thus eliminating contact with dust and debris inside the house. Compared to traditional vacuums, there is lesser possibility of the allergens to circulate and contaminate the air inside the house.
  • Maintenance on the unit is minimal - Once the system has been fitted there is not you need to do to keep it working. 
  • Most systems come with a 6 year warranty - This gives reassurance that for the next 6 years you have your vacumm system sorted for the house.
  • Cleaning is easy and quick - Compared to a usual vacuum cleaner this system is easier to use and much quick to clean your whole house. 
Whole House Vac

How to Operate Central Vacuum Systems

Using a central vacuum system is pretty much like operating a traditional vacuum cleaner.

Step 1: Take out the vacuum hose from its storage and add in the necessary cleaning accessory such as a brush, floor head or a nozzle, depending on the type of surface that needs to be cleaned.

Step 2: Get the other end of the house and insert it into the vacuum inlet that has been mounted into the wall and hidden behind a spring-loaded cover door. In traditional vacuums, this inlet is usually found at the bottom of the machine.

Step 3: Depending on the design of the system, simply opening the door to the inlet is enough to turn on the vacuum motor. In other systems, inserting the metallic hose-end fitting will connect the two electrical contacts thus telling the motor to turn on. In more advanced designs, an on/off switch may be found at the tool portion of the vacuum house which communicates to the motor through wires or wireless signaling.

Step 4: The actual cleaning process is just similar as to how you would clean a house using a traditional vacuum cleaner. Special techniques may have to be used in order to remove dirt such as carpet stains or pet hair.

Step 5: Once cleaning in a portion of the house is done, the hose is simply removed from the inlet which then causes the spring-loaded door to snap itself shut. This also automatically shuts off the vacuum motor.


Step 6: You can then move on to another part of the house that has another wall inlet to continue cleaning. Or, you could also utilize a longer hose that can reach every nook and cranny of the house. This will probably affect the suction power of the vacuum, however.

Step 7: Once all done, simply coil up the hose and store it in a rack, including all other cleaning accessories.

Step 8: To clean up the vacuum system, the dirt canister must be emptied or the filter bag replaced a few times each year. Some models may require more frequent filter changes.

Step 9: A central vacuum system’s electric motors also requires lubrication every few years, or even the replacement of its carbon brushes.

Step 10: In case of clogging, which is rare, homeowners can use simple tools to remove any obstruction. Hiring professional vacuum installers are recommended for more complicated issues.


There really isn’t much of a difference between central vacuum cleaners and traditional ones. The type of cleaner that you prefer will depend on your preferences and on how particular you are about having contact with pollutants and allergens.

Last Updated on February 25, 2021 by Gemma Tyler

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