Central Vacuum Troubleshooting Guide

As a homeowner, you could troubleshoot and repair your central vacuum system or you could have a qualified dealer do it for you. Dealers know the ins and outs of vacuum systems and are your best bet because they may notice some things that you may otherwise miss. However, if you are ready to do you own inquiry, here is your checklist!

A.Short Or Electrical Failure In The Vacuum Hose Or Head

To resolve this problem, take the following steps:

  1. Check that the inlet valve in the wall has 110 volts. This can be either the regular electrical wall socket or the two-hole connection socket.
  2. A short may be as a result of irregular power supply. Inspect the cord connections in the brush and hose. As the vacuum head spins, cautiously check each connection point including the cords getting through the handle.
  3. Inspect the reset button on the power brush; this could be the neck tilt button on some vacuums. Listen for a pop sound just prior to the neck returning to an upright position.
  4. Pass 120 volts to the vacuum head cord to test how well the vacuum head works. If your wall inlets have two power holes, pass the hose to check if the cord of the vacuum head can plug directly into the holes. Ensure that the power brush neck is not upright. If the power brush is functioning as it should, then the hose is problematic. The most probable issue is malfunctioning diodes fuse that is fixed to the electric plug. In this case, the necessary repair parts include the electrical pin plug and cord.
  5. Unscrew the vacuum head apart and connect the motor directly to the power. If the motor does not run consistently for 10 minutes, you would need to install a new vacuum head. Alternatively, you could purchase a complete attachment kit that includes a head, hose, and accessories.

B.Clogging That is Not Inside the Pipes

To solve a problem caused by a possible clog, do the following:

  1. Turn over the power brush to inspect it for a potential clog. By removing the wand tube, you will be able to inspect the inside of the vacuum.
  2. Check the wand tube as well.
  3. To determine if there is a clog in the hose, plug it into a wall inlet valve and detach the hose from any wand or accessories. If there is no suction moving through the handle, use a long stiff object to remove the clog inside the hose. Starting from the wall inlet, insert a garden hose or a butter knife through the hose to unclog it. Be sure to keep the garden hose off.

    Alternatively, you could unclog by connecting the hose to the main unit intake or using a tin foil, inserting the handle into the wall valve to facilitate the connection. This will reverse the airflow and unclog the hose. 

C.Clogging of Central Vacuum Pipes

It is important to note that installing your central vacuum properly prevents clogging problems.

If the installation is done correctly, any obtrusive objects will get stuck just at the turn of the wall valve, which is designed to capture such obstructions.

A poor installation will allow the object to pass through and to accumulate debris, which will eventually cause clogging.

The build-up debris clogging the passageway will usually wear off but in rare circumstances, the clog may stubbornly refuse to break away. In that case, follow these steps:

  1. Determine the location of the clog: Have a look the furthest inlet away from vacuum to see whether its suction mechanism is working properly. The clog can typically be found nestling between the power unit and the inlet. Another way to locate the clog is to insert a numbered Styrofoam ball through the inlets to see the ball that reaches the power unit.
  2. Insert the hose into the wall inlet and block the other end of the hose using your hand to build up the internal pressure. Remove your hand from the hose to allow air in. Do this severally with the various inlets including those that work properly. This process creates motion within the pipe and can help to resolve the clog.
  3. Look for a possible clog in the space behind the wall inlet and the connection at the collection tank by disconnecting it.
  4. Another way to resolve a clog is to insert a free flow maintenance sheet through the blocked inlet valve. This will cause pressure build up and push the clog out.
  5. Using a portable vacuum plugged into the wall valve, attempt to remove the clog backward via the inlet valve and pipe. Allow pressure build-up to occur before releasing. Repeat this severally. Ensure that the air flows backward by removing the debris receptacle to expose the filtration system.

    In place of a portable vacuum, you may use the central vacuum tank. Detach the tank from the wall, place next to the wall inlet, plug it into the power supply, connect the hose to the tank intake, insert hose handle into the wall inlet and use your hands to seal.
  6. Remove the clog by inserting a flexible plumber’s snake or a fish-tape through the blocked pipe and try to reach the clog.
  7. If there were constructions done recently in your home, there is a possibility that a nail was driven through a pipe and this could be causing the clog.
  8. If the above methods do not eliminate the clog, locate the blockage by:
    a)Inserting a paper towel through the pipe and listening for any vibration.
    b)Remove the inlet, insert a ping-pong ball into the pipe and turn on the central vacuum system to create louder vibrations. If the clog is located here, cut the pipe to expose and remove the blocking object. Put back the pipe together using a coupling.
  9. Upon removing the clog, double check by inserting a free flow maintenance sheet in each inlet. Use numbered sheets to identify the clogged valve if you find that the sheets don’t show up in all inlets.
  10. Underground pipes can be clogged with moisture and debris. To avoid this, central vacuum pipes should be run inside irrigation pipes measuring at least three inches thick. To remove the blockage, pass up to 10 pounds of rice through the system severally. If this does not work, uproot and replace the old pipes. 

D.Malfunctioned Inlet Valve

There are a number of reasons why the low voltage connection is not reaching the contact connecting to the hose. The type of inlet plays a significant role. Inlet valves are standard across all brands and can be easily replaced.

E.Low Voltage Junction Cut 

  1. Cuts in low voltage wires or junctions could be as a result of tripping over wires, rodents chewing on the wires or recent construction work.
  2. Digging done in the recent past or if the power unit is installed in a detached garage and the unit line is run underground can cause low voltage wires to cut.
  3. Join the broken wires once you identify them by pairing copper with copper and tin with tin.
  4. Check if the wires in the main unit are simply disconnected and need to be reconnected. If you cannot identify where exactly the wire is broken:
    a)Re-direct the wire from any functioning power unit or inlets to the malfunctioning inlet. Connect and pull through the new wire into the bad one.
    b)Install a remote control clicker and receiver to your central vacuum system for added convenience. 

F.Clogged Filter Screen Or Hose 

  1. If your vacuum system has bagless filtration, check if any filter in the vacuum unit needs replacing or cleaning.
  2. Plug hose into a wall inlet valve and disconnect from other accessories to check for blockages in the hose. If there is no suction in the handle, use a long, firm object, passed through the hose, to remove the clog. You could also pass a garden hose through the vacuum hose but be sure not to turn the water on. The clog could also be eliminated by connecting the hose to the power unit intake or inserting the handle into the wall inlet using a tin foil to trigger the connection. This reverses the air flow to remove the clog in the hose. 

G.Leaky Pipes

  1. Any recent construction in your home could have resulted in a punctured vacuum system pipe.
  2. Paneling or wallpaper work would have resulted in poor re-installation or removal of an inlet.
  3. Check that the inlet lid is not broken.
  4. Look around for forgotten or hidden inlets. 
  5. For inlets installed underneath the floor, check that the pipe is still intact.
  6. Turn on power unit and listen for any sound of a leak throughout the house.
  7. See that no underground pipe has broken.
  8. Check that plants are not blocking the inlet. 

H.Poor Suction Performance by the Power Unit

  1. Check for cracks and leaks in the power unit housing
  2. If your power unit has more than one motor, check that they are all working.
  3. Check that the power unit is receiving proper voltage.
  4. Are there any loose wires that need repairing?
  5. Check if the mini-breaker is working. Assess the cyclonic unit for:
    • Debris caught in the blades of the motor fan and intake screen.
    • Excessive backward pressure from the exhaust.
  6. Check the power unit bag for signs of accumulated fine dust that could be clogging the filters.
  7. Assess if the motor is in place; it could be loose. 

I.Power Unit Not Working Due to a Short

  1. In rare cases, a short in the power unit can be caused by a short in the relay.
  2. To identify a power unit short, disconnect auxiliary switches to isolate the low voltage wires. 

J.Low Voltage System Not Working Due to a Short 

  1. If someone has been in your attic or you had some work done on the crawl space it could have shorted the system.
  2. Check if rodents have destroyed the wire.
  3. Disconnect the wires to check the behavior of the short.
  4. As a last resort re-direct the wire from another wire or inlet that is in good working condition. 

K.Dead Vacuum Motor 

  1. If the power is getting to the relay but the vacuum is not working, the motor would likely need to be replaced.
  2. Another indication of a bad motor is when a protruding mini-breaker is pushed in the motor may work for a while and then shut off. Hitting the canister could get the motor working again but not for too long.
  3. If you don’t have such an old motor, try installing new carbon motor brushes.

L.Electricity is Not Flowing to the Power Unit 

  1. Have a look at the circuit breaker- see whether it is working correctly and whether it is the right size for the power unit.
  2. Plug the vacuum into a different outlet.
  3. Determine that the circuit is not overloaded.
  4. Continue to monitor the vacuum system to determine if it damaged the circuit.
  5. Get an electrician to assess the power unit. 

M.Power Is Not Flowing to the Motor and Transformer 

  1. 1.Check whether the cord is in good condition.
  2. Look for sparks coming out of the transformer.
  3. The problem could be as a result of a malfunctioned relay so have a look at points and arc across to resolve the issue.
  4. Test whether the circuit board, relay, motor, and transformer are working properly. 

N.Hose’s Low Voltage Is Not Working

 To troubleshoot this problem, do the following:

  1. Replace the switch if it feels too soft to the touch.
  2. Detach the hose from the wall and dismantle the handle to see whether debris or other objects have been caught in the contact spots.
  3. Check that the hose is completely inserted into the inlet.
  4. The hose may be faulty and may require replacing.
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