How To DIY Install Your Central Vacuum System

Installing a new central vacuum system

 *Only use certified 2" central vacuum PVC (SCH-20), DO NOT USE plumbing PVC! It is also easier and time-saving to use 5-foot sections instead of 8, 10, or 12-foot, as you will create far less waste, save money, and time.
**If possible, use bell-end PVC pipe to create a tighter fit, help eliminate joint leaks & future repairs, as well as eliminate the need for couplers. It's also known as "friction-fit" and "tongue-in-groove" PVC.

Installing a new central vacuum systemThe project you will be undertaking is basically a straightforward job which does not require special skills or tools and can be done within hours. Installation is simple, but remember; take your time and consider everything before cutting into a wall or floor, and be sure to check for hidden electrical wires or plumbing/heating equipment.

System Planning & Layout

The Power Unit is designed to be wall-mounted away from the living area of the home and connected to the living area by means of permanently installed in-wall tubing, fittings, and inlets. Use the following examples as an aid in planning the installation of either new or existing construction. You should be able to adapt the examples shown to your specific home layout.Required tools for installation

Ranch Style Central Vacuum Installation DiagramThe Ranch Style House
Here the power unit is mounted in the garage. The intake and exhaust tubing, the only exposed tubing in the installation run up the garage wall and into the attic. The trunk line runs horizontally through the attic from the power unit to the furthest inlet location. Branch lines spread throughout the attic, connecting the trunk line to the inlet tubing. Each inlet tube is threaded vertically through the inside wall. Located in hallways, and in large rooms, the inlets are placed to provide maximum access to all cleaning areas.

Two-Story House Central Vacuum Installation DiagramThe Two-Story House
A double-trunk line system is commonly used in two-story houses. The intake tubing runs up the basement wall and connects to the main trunk line, which runs along the unfinished basement ceiling. Two first-floor inlets are connected to the basement trunk line by vertical inlet lines run through interior walls. In the center of the house, a vertical branch line runs from basement trunk line, through stacked closets, up into the attic. A second trunk line runs across the attic and two branch lines connect to inlet lines which are dropped down from upstairs interior walls.

Split-Level House Central Vacuum Installation DiagramThe Split-Level House
Like the two-story house, the split-level installation commonly calls for a two-level trunk line. Here, the power unit is located in the garage. The intake tubing runs exposed up the garage wall and into the ground level section's attic. Two branch lines connect this part of the trunk line to inlet lines which are dropped inside interior walls. A vertical branch line runs to the upstairs attic, where the trunk line branches into a T-shape. This trunk line connects to two upstairs inlet lines and to one inlet which drops through an upstairs wall and down into the third-level utility room to services this entire level.

Learn how to install a central vacuum system yourself! DIY and save money!

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Central Vac Installation DiagramCentral Vac Installation Diagram

How to Install & Vent your Central Vacuum Power Unit

Central Vac Installation DiagramPower Unit Location
In selecting the Power Unit Location, the following points should be carefully considered. Install the Power Unit as far away from the living area as possible, so that normal activities can be carried out without any disturbing noise that might emanate from the Power Unit while vacuum cleaning is in progress. An ideal location for the Power Unit would be the garage, where the unit's Inlet Valve will serve well when you wish to vacuum your car and the exchange of the filter will be easily facilitated. Other suitable locations can also be found in a basement, basement crawl space, furnace room, under a weatherproof sundeck, laundry room, carport or any ventilated storage area.

The Power Unit is an electrical appliance and its location should be near an electrical power outlet. If there is no existing outlet available, a separate grounded circuit should be installed. Be sure to never overload the circuit! Check the unit's specifications for proper power supply requirements.

Installing the Power Unit
Central Vac Installation DiagramThe power unit is screwed to the wall with the bottom screws of the mounting bracket about 48" up from the floor to allow convenient removal of the dirt canister. For proper motor cooling, there must be at least 8" between Installation, the unit, and the ceiling. If mounting on plaster or panel walls, be sure mounting bolts enter studs. If mounting on a concrete wall, drill the wall with a masonry bit and insert the plastic or lead anchors. As an alternative mounting on concrete walls, 2" x 4" studs or plywood may be suspended from overhead. With the power unit mounted, strip the low voltage wire and crimp into two "slip-on" terminals provided. Connect the main tube line to the intake valve on the unit. Do not cement this connection in case you wish to remove at a future date. For top-loading units follow directions provided with the unit.

 Remember: Central vacuums must have room to breath...DO NOT ENCLOSE THE UNIT!

Exhausting The Power Unit
Join tubing to the power unit's exhaust line and run the exhaust to the outside. The exhaust should not be vented into a wall, a ceiling, or a concealed space of the house. The best way to exhaust the power unit is directly through an exterior wall. You can also run the exhaust tubing through the attic to a roof vent.

How To Determine Wall Inlet Locations

Central Vac Installation Diagram

Consider First - What will go here?
Where will the furniture be? Where will the telephone table be? Is a lamp going here? Will this be the place of your favorite armchair?

Consider Second - How Many Inlets?
To many vacuum, inlets do not make sense! Most of them would never be used anyway as the hose is long enough.

The inlets should be accessible and convenient to use. You should choose central locations on interior walls which will allow you to clean several rooms from one inlet. Some of the ideal locations are in hallways, at the bottom of stairs, and near doorways.

Try this method for determining your inlet locations. Cut a 30-foot piece of string and tie one end to a heavy object or have a helper hold it at the planned location. Next, tie the other end of the string to a 3-foot long stick (or to the system's cleaning wand itself). Beginning at the location farthest from the power unit, use the stick and string as a substitute for the vacuum hose and wand. Make sure you reach all parts of the floor and ceiling and allow for the hose looping around large furniture. The inlet location itself should not be blocked by furniture or placed on a wall where it will be blocked behind an open door. Move toward the power unit location, use this method to outline all your cleaning zones and to determine the exact location of all your wall inlets. Allow for some overlap in cleaning zones. Take some time and experiment with different locations until you find the number of inlets you need and the most convenient locations for your hose.

 Always calculate later obstacles (such as furniture, appliances, additional wall, etc.) and ALWAYS OVERLAP (as shown below). You should be able to reach your complete 100% dwelling or house comfortably with the flexible hose including the highest corner at ceiling height, have easy access to stairways, you should not be using a portable vacuum to do this, it would be mad!Central Vac Installation Diagram

Don't Forget The Cars!
Central Vac Installation DiagramIf it is structurally possible, install a vacuum inlet valve, near the main entry door(s) so that you can also reach outside during the summer months.
Don't have a garage, but have a carport or a parking bay near the house? You do not have to do without your central vacuum system! Install an exterior central vacuum inlet valve on your exterior wall!

How to Install Central Vacuum Tubing (SCH-20 PVC Pipe)

For Underground Tubing
Central Vac Installation DiagramIf the tubing is to be buried underground, dig a trench 12 to 18 inches deep along the side of the house. Fully assemble and test the tubing and low voltage wire before filling in the trench. It is recommended that the low voltage wire installed outside be encased in the conduit which is available at most hardware stores. If the tubing is to run under the eaves, the tubing must be supported by pipe straps at least every 6 feet. On vertical sections, carefully snap-tie the low voltage wire behind the tubing.

Central Vac Installation DiagramBeginning The Trunk Line
Locate the exact path of your pipe network. Network the pipe as short as possible, as short and direct as possible. Reasonably short, but not just to save money.

Start with the inlet line that is farthest from the power unit. Place 90-degree elbow onto a section of tubing and align it with the inlet tubing at the height it will run across the attic joists. Mark the inlet tubing where the elbow will join, allowing 5/8" for the tubing that inserts into the fitting's collar.

Now, cut the inlet tubing at the marked line. Make sure the cut is straight and even. Attach the elbow and check its fit. Then insert the first section of tubing into the other end of the elbow.

Connecting A Branch Line
Central Vac Installation DiagramA branch line connects the inlet line to trunk line. Attach a 90-degree elbow and run Connecting a branch line tubing from the inlet line to the trunk line. To align and measure the branch line, attach a 90 degree Tee fitting to the trunk line. Make sure the Tee connects with the air flow going toward the power unit. Align, measure, and mark the branch line for inserting it into the Tee fitting. Then, cut the branch line to length and insert it into the Tee. Check to make sure the cut is straight and even. Connect the next section of the tubing to the out-take side of the Tee fitting. Continue the trunk line until you come to another branch line junction point.

Central Vac Installation DiagramCompleting The Trunk Line
Continue to run the trunk line toward the power unit, connecting all branch lines as you go along. Again, make sure you connect all fittings with the air flow toward the power unit. Bring the trunk line to the access hole you have drilled for the power unit's intake tube. Place a 90-degree elbow over the hole and cut the trunk line to fit into this final elbow. Allow 5/8" of tubing to fit into the elbow's collar. Connect the elbow to the trunk line so that it aligns with the intake access hole. You will make the intake tube connection itself after you have installed the power unit. When you are satisfied that all fittings and tubing are aligned for maximum airflow, make sure that all your cuts are square and that all joints are tight. Then, prepare the tubing and cement.

 Avoid The Following Installation Variations with a Sad Face! These unwise methods trap dirt, slow down the airflow, and accumulate debris fallen by gravity into vacuum valves installed lower than the main line.Central Vac Installation Diagram

Assembling a Basement Trunk Line
Basically, the tubing network is assembled the same way for a basement installation. Begin the trunk line at the farthest inlet line from the power unit. Measure and cut the inlet tubing to the length required to align the trunk line with the joists or ceiling. Cement the inlet tubing and connect at the 90-degree elbow. Make all branch line connections in the same way you would an attic installation. Make sure that all branch lines enter the trunk line at an angle that is at least level with the trunk line. Make sure all the fittings are oriented so the air flows toward the power unit. Complete the trunk line to the power unit location.

Central Vac Installation DiagramConnecting Low-Voltage Wire
One of the greatest benefits of central vacuum systems is that the power unit is turned on and off automatically. Every power unit has an on/off switch that is activated by completing a circuit at the inlet valves. The power unit is turned on by simply inserting the hose in the inlet valve.

To facilitate this, low voltage wire must follow the tubing system. The wire must be 18/2 Low-Voltage Wire, which passes all electrical codes in your area. At the junction of a branch line and the trunk line, the wires must be spliced together as demonstrated in the pictures below. Each inlet valve must be able to activate the machine independently of the other valves.
Ideally, you will run the wiring and make all the wiring connections after you have completed the tubing system. Of course, the inlet wiring must be run at the time the inlet tubing is threaded through the walls.

Two of the most common methods of wire splicing are "T-Splicing" or "Looping". T-Splicing means the low voltage wire is spliced at the Tees and "Looping" consists of looping the low-voltage wire from the inlet valve to inlet valve and joining the wires at the inlet valves. The latter is generally preferred as this method facilitates easier repair, even when the walls are boarded in, to any unraveling of connections or breaks possibly caused when the wire was stripped.

Central Vac Installation DiagramRun the low voltage wiring along the trunk line; at approximately 12" - 18" intervals, use electrical tape to secure the wire to the tubing. Then, run wiring along the branch lines from the inlet lines to the trunk line. Also, secure this wiring with electrical tape.

At the joint of the inlet line and branch line, make a two-wire connection. Use wire nuts to make the connections and organization are key insulate each connection with electrical tape.

At the junction of every branch line and the trunk line, cut the trunk line wire and connect it to the branch line wire. Connect this wiring in groups of threes - one branch wire, one in-coming trunk line wire, and one out-going trunk line wire. Insulate all wire connections with electrical tape.

Complete all wiring connections up to the power unit's intake access hole. You will make this connection when you mount and connect the power unit. If, for some reason, you want to connect the wire as you go along, make the same two-wire and three-wire connections where required.

Secure Wire To Tubing
The low-voltage power wiring is run along with the tubing. To make sure the wire is secure and will not hang-up in the wall, use electrical tape to attach the wire to the tubing.

Central Vac Installation DiagramUsing Flexible Tubing
Flexible tubing may be used to circumvent an obstacle or to make a difficult turn. Attach this tubing to the PVC tubing, cementing only the outside of the PVC tubing as you would for a hard-fitting connection. Whenever you use the flexible tubing, you must secure both ends of it with support strapping.

How To Join PVC Pipe Together

Central Vac Installation DiagramInsert the tube into the fitting, aligning the two parts as they will be installed. Mark the tube and the fitting so that you can quickly realign the joint.

Apply cement only to the outside of the tube. Dab the cement generously in an inch-wide band. Insert the tube into the fitting with the alignment marks a quarter turn apart, and then quickly push and turn the fitting to align the marks and spread the cement. Allow one minute for the joint to dry. You may also use electrical tape or duct tape to further seal the joint.

How to Cut & Glue together PVC Tubes & Fittings

Measure First
When sizing tubing, measurements should be taken from the base of the pipe located on the inside of the fitting hub. As each section of tubing is cut, it should be dry fitted before the next measurement is taken. Remember, measure twice and cut once!

Cutting The Tubing
The tubing should be cut as straight and square as possible. Rough edges must be removed with a utility knife or sandpaper.

Dry Fit Test
Once all the pieces have been cut, they should be dry fitted to check for correct fit and measure. The markings on each fitting made during measuring can be used for alignment.

Glue It Together
PVC cement actually welds the fittings to the tubing. A chemical reaction permanently joins the molecules from each surface to produce an airtight seal. Before cementing, both tubing and fitting must be absolutely free of PVC burrs, dirt, and grime. Components should be wiped with a clean cloth when necessary. Cement should be applied liberally, but to the TUBING ONLY. Cement applied to the fitting will be pushed ahead and create a rough bead on the inside of the fitting. Beads reduce air flow and could cause clogs. The tubing should be inserted all the way into the fitting and twisted a quarter of a turn to distribute glue evenly. Excess cement should be wiped away with a rag. Glue should be allowed several hours to set before the vacuum system is used for the first time.

How To Test Your Central Vacuum Plumbing for Leaks

If the installation is done professionally, and all these procedures duly followed, it should not be necessary to run a vacuum leakage test, however, it is best to be safe than sorry!

Use a piece of wire to short-circuit the low voltage connectors at the power units side. When all the pipes are capped, and all the vacuum valves are closed, there should be no air coming out after 10-15 seconds. If there is still lots of air coming out, there is a leakage.

 The power unit may overheat if there is no air-flow to the unit for more than 30 seconds.

How To do a Final System Check on your new Central Vacuum Installation

Be sure all inlets are closed and debris bag is in place if the unit is bagged. Check the switch on power unit for manual on/off operation. Check each wall inlet to be sure contacts activate the power unit when the hose is inserted. A short piece of wire can be used to short contacts in the wall inlet together to activate power unit. Check each wall inlet and tubing connection for air leaks. Check power unit for leaks around inlet tube and dirt receptacle.

Congratulations! You just finished your central vacuum installation!