Choosing A Carpeting Powerhead: Are You Using The Right Style?

11904699_10152890917551741_7483454051126290825_nWhile staying at a hotel, I happened across a housekeeping station and noticed rows of bulky, upright vacuum cleaners waiting for use. It dawned on me that the hotel industry is painfully behind the times. Why aren’t they using central vacuum systems? No more giant vacuum cleaners on every floor to be lugged around by staff – just put an inlet in each room and keep a few hoses on hand. Bam. Done.

I voiced my brilliant observation to a friend, sure that she would nominate me for some kind of “Innovative Thinking” award. Instead, she shrugged her shoulders and said, “But central vacuum systems don’t clean carpeting as well as a regular vacuum.”  The horror I felt cannot be described. How could someone in my circle possibly have such a ludicrous notion? Had I failed her? Had I not explained the benefits clearly enough? Could we still be friends?

0083244_step-by-step-powerhead-finder_300When I mentioned the conversation to members of our support team, I learned this was a very common misconception. What they’ve discovered over the years (remember, we’ve been in business since the 1940’s) is that many homeowners use an incorrect or insufficient floor tool on their carpeting, causing them to grow distrustful of the entire system. But this is so easily remedied!

So, to set the record straight: a central vacuum system is AWESOME for carpeting. 

Now let’s talk more about the right tools for the job.

Learn The Lingo

In shopping for a central vacuum powerhead you’ll come across some basic terms.

  1. Air / Turbo – 0083226_air-driven-turbo-powerheads_300When you see the words “Air,” “Air-Driven,” “Turbo Air,” or “Turbo Driven” in the description of a powerhead, they all mean the same thing. Essentially, these powerheads use the suction of the vacuum to rotate the beater bar. As the vacuum suction pulls air through, that air spins the bar and the bar agitates the carpeting fibers to release dirt.
    • If you have a few, low-pile area rugs to clean, a Turbo powerhead is enough. These units provide a less powerful clean, but for a basic rug, it’s more than efficient.
  2. 0083225_electric-powerheads_300Electric – An electric powerhead has power (electricity) running to the beater bar. This allows the bar to rotate separate from the vacuum suction. In other words, it has its own power and thus is more powerful than a turbo or air-driven powerhead. Some electric powerheads can only work with electric wands. You’ll need to determine if you have an electric wand system first. (You can read more about the in #3.)
    • This is where people go wrong – If your home has any carpeting or dense area rugs, you really should own an electric powerhead. It’s understandable you’d want to save money by buying a less expensive, Turbo-style powerhead, but the results will be very disappointing. To properly clean and refresh carpeting fibers, the electric beater bar is a must.
  3. Direct Connect vs Pigtail/Corded – These terms are in reference to electric style powerheads. Depending on your central vacuum system, you will need to purchase one of these two styles if you wish to have an electric powerhead.
    • Some central vacuum systems are designed for use with electric powerheads and will have a “Direct Connect” port at the inlet. You’ll see two holes on the inlet that connect to two prongs on the hose. Within your hose is electrical wiring that will power the carpeting powerhead. If your inlet and hose feature the prongs, you can choose a “Direct Connect” style electric powerhead.
    • A standard central vacuum system does not enable an electric powerhead. If your vacuum inlet does not feature the connecting holes, you would choose a “Pigtail” style. A pigtail powerhead will have a separate cord coming from the powerhead that would connect to a plug in your home. This way, your home’s electricity will power the beater bar.
    • To determine what style system you have, check your inlet…
Electric Hose Inlet
Standard Hose Inlet

Features To Consider

Once you discover the style and type of powerhead you want, you can narrow your search more by determining the features you need.

Height Adjustment

0067092_honeywell-premier-power-head-045419.jpegMost powerheads feature some kind of height adjustment feature, but not all are created equal. It’s incredibly important to determine the pile of your carpeting and what different levels you’ll need to vacuum. For example, if you have high pile carpeting and the powerhead doesn’t have the right height adjustments, you may find it very hard to push. Some powerheads have a floating head that automatically adjusts to different carpet heights and others have an adjustment you must manually set. Think about how many levels of carpeting you have and how often you’ll need to make adjustments when choosing.

Roller Brush Quality

0054548_beam-155402-roller-brushWhen vacuuming carpeting, it all revolves around the roller brush. (See what I did there?) Some roller brushes or beater bars are made of high-quality steel with sealed ball bearings while others are made of wood or aluminum. Some have replaceable brush strips so that when the powerhead wears, you only have to buy brushes, not a whole new roller brush. If you’re investing in a quality powerhead, it’s nice to add years of life to it with simple repairs.

Belt System

0056173_vacuflo-turbocat-geared-beltBelt designs for powerheads vary. Long ago, there was only one kind of belt in any vacuum, but today there are three designs found in powerheads: A Poly-V belt, a Cogged or Geared Belt, or a traditional flat belt. Geared belts generally last much longer than a standard flat belt. Poly-V belts also last longer than a flat belt.


0056580_vacuflo-turbo-cat-zoom-powerhead-sapphire-8704.jpegDo you have low furniture in the carpeted areas of your home? You may want to consider a powerhead with a very low profile so you can easily vacuum under beds and furniture. Considering the height of your lowest furniture and the height of the powerhead may be important to you.


0057219_lindhaus-500-pb20e-electronic-power-head.jpegPowerheads come in a range of widths. Choosing the right width for your needs is important. Some customers prefer a narrow 10-inch power brush because they want to be able to get beside beds or other narrow places in their homes. Some prefer a wide 14-inch powerhead because they have lots of carpeting and want to clean more space in less time.


0054732_electrolux-q-quietclean-elux1600-powerhead-045059_200Maybe you have back trouble and need to carry the powerhead up and down stairs. If so, you may want to consider the weight of the powerhead as well. A lightweight powerhead that can still do the job you need may be an important feature for you to consider.

Brand Name Bound?

Just because you have a specific brand’s hose or power unit doesn’t necessarily mean you have to buy that brand’s floor tools. Many systems are standard and interchangeable. The best way to determine your options is to use this easy Powerhead Finder Tool. Simply answer a few questions and you’ll be given all available powerheads that will fit your system, regardless of brand.

How To Compare Powerheads

So when you’ve reviewed your flooring situation, chosen a powerhead style, and decided which features are important to you, it’s time to actually shop. But how do you compare the numerous options side-by-side. Easy!

On the site, you can select the Add To Compare option on any product. This builds a custom comparison page of up to four items. You can see each highlighted feature side-by-side to help you choose the perfect powerhead.


Screen Shot 2017-03-22 at 1
Select ADD TO COMPARE on up to four powerheads to see them side-by-side.


It’s easy to get a sense of the differences and benefits when you see the items lined up. You’re sure to choose the correct powerhead for your home or office!

Screen Shot 2017-03-22 at 1.52.12 PM

Still not sure? No worries. It may be time to simply call and speak with an expert. Central Vacuum Stores has been selling vacuum cleaners and parts since 1948, so you can trust we know a thing or two million. Your best bet is to call one of our customer service members at 1-800-221-8227 and get their guidance. 

And yes… despite her ridiculous theory on carpet cleaning, we were able to remain friends.


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