5891937784_c034447c9bIf you have just been inducted into the world of central vacuuming, chances are that you are very interested in the possibilities. Though installing a central vacuuming system is a bit more expensive than buying a regular vacuum cleaner, the potential benefits in terms of convenience and ease of cleaning make it worth it. One of the problems that many people face when installing or maintaining the system is understanding the jargon associated with central vacuum systems. As long as you get your installation and maintenance services from a high quality contractor, you may not need to know the meanings of all this jargon. However, understanding some of the more important terms will make you understand what’s going on, as well as helping you make the right decisions as well. Some of these terms include:


This acronym stands for Cubic Feet of air per Minute. It describes the amount of air that the system suctions per minute, and is usually used to describe the power of the vacuum system. The CFM will define how powerful the system will be in lifting dirt from surfaces such as carpets. When the unit has a low CFM, it means that only the lightest particles will be suctioned, and this will make it an ineffective system. When considering CFM values, you also have to keep in mind the area of the tube through which the air is flowing. When the hose is narrow, you can afford to have a slightly lower CFM since the pressure generated by the flowing air will be high enough to suck even moderately large items. For a more thorough understanding of the ideal CFM rating you should get, you should consider discussing the issue with your contractor.

Water Lift

This is a measurement that defines how high a column of water would be lifted up the hose and tubing if the end of the hose were to be completely immersed in water with no leaks in the system. This figure is an approximation of the vacuum system’s continuous suction pressure. If you happen to have a system in which the tubing has to span a large distance, it would be important to get a central vacuum system with a large water lift. This ensures that it can sustain the force of suction even for hoses that are far away from the central power unit.


The power rating of the vacuum system will be defined in watts. The decision on whether to get a system that has a higher amperage rating or not should not be done in isolation. For instance, a system may use up a lot of amps when working, which could make you think that it has a very powerful motor. However, this could simply mean that the system is not designed to use energy efficiently, and so needs a lot of it to do little work. On the other hand, you may be tempted to get a system with low amp ratings for environmental and economic reasons. However, this might turn out to be a bad idea if this translates to weak suction power. Consulting a skilled contractor will make it easier for you to figure out the ideal rating that will provide just enough power to clean the whole house, but not too much as to be expensive to run.

Cyclonic Action

A number of central vacuum systems will be described as having cyclonic action. This simply means that the motor moves the air around in a circular fashion, creating a tornado-like effect. This influences pressures within the tubing and hose to create a negative pressure that will suck up debris.


Some systems you come across will have HEPA ratings. HEPA stands for High Efficiency Particle Arrestor, and refers to a system of filters that gets rid of over 99% of the particles in air. These tend to be more expensive than regular systems, but are useful in environments such as hospitals where removal of even the smallest particles from surfaces during cleaning is desired.

Soft Start

Some central vacuum systems are designed so that when you switch them on for the first time, the motors spool up slowly rather than reaching maximum speed the moment you switch them on. The latter is associated with voltage spikes within the system which may end up damaging the unit in the long run. Soft Start systems therefore have longer lifespans than the alternative.

Bypass Cooling/Through Flow Motors

When the vacuum fans are on, they tend to generate a lot of heat that has to be dissipated to keep the device working properly. Bypass cooling refers to a method of cooling in which another set of fans draw air from the surrounding and use it to cool the main motors. Through flow motors depend on the dirt-laden air drawn from the hoses to cool the motors. This is a less efficient method of cooling the system.