How to Install a Central Vacuum System

If you can handle a drill and measure accurately, you can install a cleaning system in just one weekend.

Installing a central vacuum system isn't as difficult as you might think. This quick introduction to the process will help you decide if you could handle the installation yourself.

If you can handle a drill and measure accurately, you'll install the cleaning system in about a weekend for as little as $1,000 to $1,200.

What You Need:
  • Power drill
  • 2-1/2-inch hole saw
  • 2-inch hole saw
  • Tape measure
  • Phillips head and common screwdrivers
  • Hacksaw
  • Hammer
  • 30-foot-long rope
  • Wire

1. Test location for length. To decide locations of wall inlet valves, test options with a 30-foot length of rope. Make sure you can reach every part of each room, including around furniture and upper corners.

2. Check position of inlet. Inlet valves must fit between studs (or in the floor) near an electrical outlet (for powering the portable hose). Make sure no heating ducts, plumbing, or wiring is in the way.

3. Select power unit location. Next, decide whether to locate the power unit in the basement or an attached garage. Mount the unit on the wall next to an electrical outlet on its own circuit.

4. Plan the tubing installation from the power unit to the inlet valves. In this case, the tubing runs along the basement ceiling and up through the wall to an inlet valve in the living room and directly above that to an inlet valve in the second-floor office.

5. Install inlet valve. Drill a small pilot hole in the floor below the proposed site of the valve. Slip a length of coat hanger wire into the pilot hold so it's easy to spot. Cut a 2-inch hole for the inlet valve.

6. Drill hole for tubing. Working from under the floor -- in the basement, for instance -- measure over from the wire and locate the center of the wall framing. Drill a 3/4-inch hole; use a flashlight to look for obstruction. If it's all clear, drill a 2-1/2-inch-diameter hole for the tubing that carries dirt to the power unit. For a second-story location, work from the attic to drill a 2-1/2-inch hole through the center of the wall framing.

7. Thread wiring and tubing. Cut the tubing long enough to reach from the power unit to the inlet valves. Tape low-voltage wire to the tubing. Thread the wiring and tubing from the basement to the first-floor inlet valve. For the second-story inlet valve, thread the tubing up through a void in the house, such as along a chimney or plumbing run, and down through the drilled hole. Secure low-voltage wire to valve mounting plate as directed by manufacturer. Cement 90-degree dual elbow fitting to back of plate.

8. Install inlet, secure tubing. Following manufacturer's instructions (many include a videotape), install valve inlet in wall and secure tubing to inlet elbow.

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