What Is a Central Vacuum System and How Much Does It Cost?

by Elizabeth Marcant
Central vacuum series

Vacuuming is a chore people either love or hate. For some, seeing the vacuum lines make pleasing geometric patterns on the carpet and knowing the floor is clean provides a sense of satisfaction. For others, even hauling the vacuum out of the closet or other storage location can be a pain.

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Whether you love or hate this floor-care task, a central vacuum system can make the job a bit easier.

What Is a Central Vacuum or Whole-House Vacuum System?

A whole-house vacuum system is a vacuum system that's built directly into your home. The system is made up of three main parts:

  • The central vacuum unit: This is the bit that powers the entire system, and it's where all the debris ends up when you vacuum. It's usually located in a basement, utility room or some other nonliving space in the home.
  • Vacuum attachments: The attachments are what you use to connect to the system, so you can vacuum. You usually have at least one long hose that can reach various spaces in the home, as well as traditional attachments for vacuuming different types of surfaces.
  • Concealed pipes: These pipes are built into the walls and are typically made of PVC. They carry vacuumed dirt and debris from throughout the home to the central vacuum unit.

How Does a Central Vacuum System Work?

When you want to vacuum, you don't have to go get the machine out of the closet. Instead, you use vacuum attachments with discreet locations in the walls of various rooms. When you vacuum your space, any debris you vacuum up is sucked into pipes hidden in your walls and to a vacuum repository in a central location.

The locations where you plug the vacuum in are like outlets in the wall. They're usually covered discretely, and you open them up when you want to use them.

How Much Does It Cost to Install a Whole-House Vacuum in a New Build?

It's typically cheaper to install a central vacuum system in new construction. Since the vacuum components and pipes can be installed before the walls are finished, there isn't labor or materials associated with tearing out parts of walls and rebuilding, drywalling and painting over them.

According to This Old House, a whole-house vacuum system costs around $1,500 (CAD 1,978), although you can pay much more for extra bells and whistles or certain name brands. Labor costs are typically minimal and may be included in the overall construction costs. You might expect to pay a few hundred dollars more, at most.

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How Much Does It Cost to Install a Central Vacuum in an Existing House?

The cost of the house vacuum system itself is the same when you're purchasing one for an existing home. But since the installation team will have to pull away Sheetrock, contend with whatever structure and debris might be in your wall and fix it all up professionally when they're done, you're looking at more labor and supplies. You'll definitely want the team to close the walls back up and paint them, so it doesn't look like anything was ever done.

Think Vacuums says you can expect to pay $400 to $1,000 (CAD 527 to CAD 1,318) for labor and supplies for installing a central vacuum system in an existing home. If you're handy and like to tackle DIY home jobs, you might shave off some of that expense by handling the drywall installation or painting phases of the job yourself.

All CAD conversions are based on the exchange rate on the date of publication.