How Powerful Is A Central Vacuum System?

SERIES: If Only People Knew…

Recently, Central Vacuum Stores’ owner, Renee Ambrose, was on the phone with her daughter-in-law, Lindsay, talking about the central vacuum system Renee’s son was installing in their new home. Newly married and a first-time homeowner, Lindsay was very excited about the prospect of a new system. She mentioned that she had shared her excitement with friends and family and was surprised by the number of people who didn’t know what a central vacuum system was. She said, “If only people knew how great they were, everyone would want one!” That phrase really got Renee thinking.

“If only people knew…”

With that as our motivation, we’re launching a new campaign to educate folks about all we wished they knew about a central vacuum system. We’ll be addressing some of our most frequently asked questions and simplifying some basic facts. The blog below will focus on a query we answer on a daily basis: Is a central vacuum system more powerful than a regular vacuum?

Listen to Nancy speak candidly about the power of her central vacuum system:

How Powerful Is A Central Vacuum System?

One way to measure the power of a vacuum is by “water lift.” Water lift isn’t just for wet vacs; the term is applied to anything that has suction. To calculate water lift, tests are done to determine how many inches up a tube the vacuum’s motor will suction water. The higher the water travels (typically in inches) the greater the suction.

Let’s put water lift into perspective:

  • 0061782_sebo-x4-automatic-navyyellow-upright-9577amThis commercial vacuum cleaner is designed for professional use from a brand favored by the cleaning industry. It’s sold for about $850.00.
  • This expensive, high quality, commercial vacuum has a water lift of 92 inches.


  • 0057277_imperium-cv3200-power-unit_200This central vacuum power unit is designed for homes as large as 6,000 square feet. It’s sold for under $500.
  • The CV3200 has a water lift of 142 inches.
That’s 64% MORE powerful than a commercial vacuum cleaner!

Another method to measure vacuum power is by “air watts.” While water lift measures suction power at its purest form at the motor, air watts is a calculated measurement taking into account both CFM and waterlift in real-time at the end of the vacuum hose, tool, or brush.

Let’s put air watts into perspective:

  • Inthebox_Upright_BallAnimalThis popular Dyson Ball Animal is made for homes with pets and boasts, “Strongest suction of any vacuum” on their website. It’s sold for around $500.00
  • Even though it claims to have powerful suction, it has an air watt measurement of 270AW.


  • 0053421_rhino-vac-399r-l-power-unit_200.jpegThis central vacuum power unit is intended for homes as large as 8,000 square feet. It’s sold for around $500, as well.
  • The Rhino Vac 399R-L has an air watt measurement of 520AW.
That’s 192% MORE powerful than the Dyson vacuum!

Why Are Central Vacuums So Powerful?

0082084_shop-by-filtration-type_300Central vacuums are larger than a normal vacuum cleaner because they’re installed in your home. That means they can house a larger motor and a larger motor means more power.

Standard vacuums need to be relatively lightweight so that they can be carried around a home. With a central vacuum, the user is only carrying a hose. All the “workings” of the vacuum are housed in the power unit. So central vacuums can use better quality motors, wiring, bearings, etc. In short, they’re better made with better materials.

But Do I Really Need All That Power?

It’s up to you to decide if more powerful vacuuming is important, but here are a few things to consider…

  1. Better suction is what picks up the little stuff.
    • Ever watch those fancy infomercials where a vacuum cleans up a bunch of spilled cereal? Well, the thing is, that’s the easy part. Vacuuming up large, visible pieces is pretty standard. What’s really difficult is ensuring you’re vacuuming fine, light, nearly invisible particles like dust, pet fur & dander, dust mites, pollen, and other key allergens. Sure, you want your floors to look clean. But don’t you want your home to be healthy, too?
  2. One word: Carpeting.
    • If you have even a scrap of carpeting in your home you need to consider this article vital. Carpeting is wonderful; it’s soft and comfortable and warm in the winter. But when you consider all the gross stuff that is at the base of your carpet fibers, unreachable with a standard vacuum, it’s enough to make you rip them out and install hard wood tomorrow. Bits of dirt, debris, and all sorts of allergens sift their way into your carpeting, settling at the bottom. Unless you have powerful suction, you’re not getting it out! After a year or so, that carpeting is basically a sneeze-inducing cesspool.
  3. Suction helps you reach the difficult stuff.
    • Vacuuming with less suction means the majority of cleaning is happening directly under the power head. But with a powerful central vacuum system, your vacuum floor tool is just the start of the cleaning suction. You’ll watch as debris is carried into the vacuum from the inches surrounding the floor brush, saving you time, effort, and helping you reach further under furniture and into corners. 

Even If I Want A Central Vacuum System, Can I Install It In My Home?


A common misconception is that central vacuum systems are only meant for new construction. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Installing a built-in vacuum in your existing home is possible and even a DIY project with a little knowledge. Check out these incredible resources for installing a central vacuum system yourself including videos, downloadable guides, and more.

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