How to Choose the Right Central Vacuum System

There is a wide array of central vacuum system brands and sizes, with some of them varying in their filtration and suction techniques. Our reviews will help you choose the right product based on the following main criteria:

The Power Unit

The power unit is the most important aspect of a central vac. In fact, the power unit, which houses the motor, has a great impact on the performance of the entire setup. All brands differ in their power unit in terms of motor functions, filtration a separation process as well as the size of the power unit itself.


While assessing the power unit, you want to look at the Amps of the system. This is the amount of electricity that the motor utilizes to power the unit. It is easy to assume that the higher the number of amps, the more efficient or powerful the central vacuum is. However, the number of Amps alone is not a true measure of efficiency.


The horsepower is the capacity of the motor. Different brands have different horsepower measurements and this may vary depending on the temperature variations and voltages. While horsepower is an important factor to consider when selecting a product, it does not offer you a truthful measure of the efficiency of the system.

HEPA Filtration

Another factor to consider when choosing a brand or product is the HEPA filtration capacity. Its filtration mechanism must come with a HEPA filter. Some of the best brands provide the option of directing the exhaust air outside of the house, also known as outside venting.

You will come across some brands that claim that their products are so efficient that the resultant exhaust air is adequately clean and so there is no need for outside ventilation. However, for a central vacuum system to pass the National Green Building Standards (NGBS) and Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards, it should offer an option for outside ventilation to ensure that your indoor air quality is not compromised at all.


The waterlift is the suction power of the vacuum’s motor. It is a measurement of the “sucking or pulling” power of the system -an indication of how efficient the unit is at pulling dirt and debris off surfaces. The water lift or suction power is important to the general performance of the unit, because it generates airflow that is necessary to pull the dirt through the tubing and into the canister.

Tip: Some manufacturers may exaggerate the water lift or suction measurement of their vacs, causing you to believe that the unit is highly efficient. However, waterlift alone is not an accurate measurement of the motor capacity; it is just a factor that determines the Air watts.

Cubic Feet of Air Moved per Minute(CFM) or Airflow

The Cubic Feet of Air Moved per Minute is also known as Airflow. Airflow is the amount of air that flows through the tubing and it is generated by the suction strength of the mortar. The volume of air flowing through the tubing will certainly impact on the performance of the entire product. But the airflow measurement itself should not be the only factor that you consider when choosing a suitable setup for your home.

Tip: The reason why airflow only is not an accurate measure of the effectiveness of a vacuum system is that manufacturers do not take into consideration factors such as tubing structure, the filtration system and dirt that may lower the air velocity flowing through the network of tubes. Some manufacturers may lower the airflow measurement and raise the water lift measurement to make it appear to have greater suction than it actually does.


If you are purchasing a central vac for the first time, it is a smart idea to understand the concept of air watts and how this affects the performance of the system. Air watts is a derivative of suction (also known as water lift) and cubic feet per minute (CFM), also known as airflow. The air watts measurement is the most accurate indicator of the efficiency of a vacuum, according to the American Society of Testing and Materials. The bottom line is: The higher the air watts amount, the greater the suction power of the central ystem.

Tip: Some manufacturers may mention CFM, airflow or water lift as the determinants of the vacuum’s power. However, these terms in themselves do not mean much; they are just factors that determine the Air watts.

The True Measure of the Power of a Central Vac

The best way to determine the effectiveness of a vac is to take into consideration these three factors:

  • Waterlift
  • Airflow
  • Air watts

Tip: Air watt= Waterlift x Airflow

Other Factors To Consider

In addition to these primary factors that we have talked about above, when choosing the best central vacuum, it is equally important to consider other parameters:

Size of Your Home

The size of your home will determine what the unit’s air watts ratings should be. The manufacturer you choose should be able to guide you in calculating the number of air watts that is compatible with the size of your house.

Motor System

The motor functionality will determine the quality of the product. It is a good idea to select a product that comes with bypass cooling to regulate the motor temperatures and to keep the unit from overheating. While some systems may not come with bypass cooling, the best will have this option.

Noise Level

An advantage of central vac is that the noise levels are so much lower compared to traditional ones. However, you will find that some brands are quieter than others are. Manufacturers will claim that their product is quieter but the truth is that there is no industry standard to measure the appropriate sound decibels. In truth, the quality of the motor accessories really determines the quietness of the setup.

The Warranty

When making any major purchases on household appliances, you most likely are concerned about the availability and length of the warranty. This should be the case too as you determine the best central vac to purchase. The best manufacturers are sure about the superior services that their product will offer, so they typically provide extended warranties on their products.