After many years, my vacuum cleaner was giving up the ghost. My vacuum was a hypoallergenic model that was very expensive when new. But was starting to fall apart and had seen better days. I had been thinking about installing a ducted vacuum, but the real kick came when I was doing some work for a friend and saw how useful their ducted model was. I worked out that the cost of a ducted vacuum was going to be about the same as either getting the original vacuum maintained or buying a Dyson. And both these options had the same issue – they left me with a heavy vacuum that needed to be stored and would not tend to be used. And regardless of how much filtering they do, they always circulate dirty air into the house.
Thankfully, The Crazy Engineer‘s house was almost perfect for a ducted vacuum, with a lot room under the floors for the ducting. This meant that I would not need to put the piping into the ceiling, significantly reducing complexity of the install. And the exhaust from the vacuum could be pointed outside where it would do no harm.
I ended up buying an vacuum from iCentral and installing it myself. iCentral is part of NESS Corporation, where I had a Cash Trade Account, allowing me to buy direct.
The first decision was how many outlets I would need inside the house to cover it. I settled on two in the main living area upstairs, one by the bedrooms and the other near the kitchen and at the top of the stairs. I decided on another one downstairs in the Rumpus Room, completing the main house. Finally I decided on two more outlets that have become really useful. One inside the garage itself, and another in the car port. These allow me to clean my car (or clean the garage floor) without needing to worry about keeping a second vacuum around.
The next decision I needed to make was sizing the motor itself. To make things simple, they suggest basing the motor on the number of outlets. I found this a bit simplistic and feel that it should also be on the length of pipework. I had two more outlets than the smallest installs, but on the other hand, I had a fairly short requirement for pipework. After considering all this I decided to go for the smallest, cheapest motor and upgrading later if needed, selling the existing motor on eBay.
The outlets were a bit of a pain to install. You can buy what is effectively a large router bit to fit on to the end of your drill to go through floor boards and cavities. This is probably a good investment. Else you will need to use drill bits of various types and they will not work as well. It is also recommended that you plan to do some gyprok/plasterboarding. If you plan for it and it does not happen you will be happy. The other way and things are not so good.
Down stairs in the rumpus room I did not have access from through the floor as that part of the floor was a concrete slab. What I ended up doing was removing a piece of plasterboard 20-30cm wide from the roof to the ceiling. I did this on the garage side so that my repairs to the plasterboard did not need to be as good. It is important to keep the pieces you remove as they can normally be replaced. I generally do not cut straight so that I can work out what part goes where!
The outlets are fairly simple, consisting of little more than a sealed cover and a couple of metal pins. When the vacuum hose is plugged in, the metal end causes a current to flow between the pins turning the vacuum on. Don’t worry, this is low voltage. Having said that, I used 240V rated cable for the connections so that I did not need ot worry about clearences with other cabling. It was just safer that way.
I tend to cut PVC pipe with a thin angle grinder blade. In order to get the cut straight, I wrap some electrical tape around the pipe and use it as the cutting line. When cutting PVC, be careful and use a face mask.
The Vacuum kit will come with some instructions on how to lay the pipes. Follow them. The main concept is that if there are two pipes joining up, this should happen so that air will flow horizontally or down. If it has to go up at a Y or T junction, it will work when that outlet is used, but when the other outlet is used, heavy debris will fall. There are ways to cope if you need to rise to a junction.
Also, special junctions should be used if the air will be coming from two different directions and meeting head on.
Since I was venting to the outside, I decided to install a muffler on the exhaust from the vacuum. This is the diagonal tubing above. The horizontal and vertical tubing in this case is for waste water.
One complaint of many people with a ducted vacuum is that there is no powered head available since it uses air power. Well, you can buy powered heads that plug into the power. This is not quite as convenient as just plugging in air, but is not too much of a hassle. But we at The Crazy Engineer have another solution. Our old vacuum had a powered head which still worked well, although it came with an unusual adapter to plug into the vacuum that we were disposing of. The vacuum pipework fitted, so all we needed to do was to cut off the old plug and put a generic one on. We only did this after checking that the voltage of the motor was compatible with the power outlets in the home. They were and so this worked really well.
We love the ducted vacuum, and are really pleased with the results. If you are building a new house or pulling plasterboard off already, you would be crazy not to install a ducted vacuum.