Pros & Cons of Central Vacuums

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Central vacuum systems are the end-all in today's modern world. No more dragging out a vacuum cleaner and all the accessories every time you need to spruce up. What household wouldn't like that? Here are the ins and outs of central vacuum systems.

What is a Central Vacuum System?

A central vacuum system (central vac) enables the homeowner to plug the hose of the system into an outlet in the wall; the actual vacuum is powered from the outlet and is usually installed in the garage or basement. The suction comes from the power unit; you plug in the hose and flick a switch to turn on the vacuum. The outlets are installed throughout the house so all you need to do is move the hose--no more stretching a power cord to its limit. The dirt and debris is sucked through the filtration system and empties into a fairly large container, which doesn't have to be emptied after every vacuuming session. There are two basic types of central vacs--a vacuum system or a "cyclone" system that uses gravity and centrifugal force.

Why Consider a Central Vacuum System?

If you have less than 1000 square feet, a central vac is not worth the money. If you have all hardwood floors, probably not. If you have a dog or cat that sheds, definitely get a central vac. A regular vacuum cleaner requires you to drag out the entire vacuum cleaner every time you need to tidy up. There is usually a canister to either empty or a bag to toss after every job, which can become old very fast. A central vac only requires you to pull out a hose, plug it into an outlet in the wall and use when and where you need it. Simply put the hose back when you're done.

The Pros

The number one reason to add central vac to your home is that it immediately increases the value of your home. It may cost in excess of $1000 to install, but you will get that back, even if your system is several years old. Central vac systems typically vacuum with three to five times the power of a conventional vacuum cleaner. You may need to vacuum less often because of the power of a central vac system, and a central vac cleans deeper. There are no cords Professional installers show you where you to place the outlets for the best efficiency. You simply move the hose from place to place as you vacuum without dragging the vacuum cleaner and cord around. Central vac systems mean healthier air for your lungs. The dirt and debris is carried away to the main unit which is located in the basement or garage instead of into the air. For people suffering from allergies or asthma, this is a huge factor.

The Cons

Central vac systems are expensive and generally require professional installation. The pipes must be installed out of sight, usually in walls and under floors. This can be an expensive addition to the price of the vacuum system. Central vac systems are generally not cost efficient for small areas. Installation of central vac systems doesn't make sense for renters unless the landlord will pay for 100 percent of the cost--after all, the installation of central vac adds to the value of the landowner's property. Finally, be aware that the hose for a central vac system is quite long, so storage could be an issue.

Weighing In

Choosing between a conventional vacuum cleaner or a central vacuum system is both a financial and personal decision. There can be no ignoring the cost of the central vac system, as it is usually at least $1,000--before installation costs. For some, financial matters take a back seat to personal matters; if you have asthma or allergies, the cost may be easily justified. If you have hardwood floors and no pets, a central vacuum system may not, however, make sense.

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