Q. I plan to install a home-size central vacuum cleaner myself. I have allergies, so I need clean, dust-free air. Since these central units are powerful, do they use a lot of electricity and are they efficient?
A. A central vacuum system does have a larger, more powerful motor than a standard portable vacuum cleaner. It can still be plugged into a standard electric outlet. Considering the length of time that you run a vacuum cleaner each month, the difference in electricity is insignificant.
Central vacuum cleaners are easy to install. They are much more powerful for deep cleaning of furniture and carpets. This deep cleaning can extend the life of your carpeting.
Since the central unit is located in a utility room, basement or garage, there is little noise when you are vacuuming. You just hear the sound of the air flowing into the hose and attachment. A telephone ring or a baby crying can easily be heard.
The combination of the deep, thorough cleaning and the fact that the dust and dirt are collected in the central unit should reduce allergens inside your home. The exhaust air is often vented outdoors. Even with the best filter bag, a standard portable vacuum cleaner allows fine dust to pass through the bag and get back into your room.
To install a central vacuum-cleaning system, mount the central unit on a wall near a standard electric outlet and plug it in. Run a small plastic pipe from the central unit with branches off to wall outlets. With a lightweight, 30-foot hose, you often need only three outlets on each floor.
To get to a second story, you can run the plastic pipe up through a first-floor closet. A low-voltage wire is run along with the pipe. When you flip up the outlet cover and insert the hose, it automatically switches on the central vacuum motor.
There are several types of central vacuum system designs. One type uses a large, disposable filter bag. Since it is big, it generally needs to be replaced only once or twice a year. Another type uses cyclonic action. The incoming dirty air spins around very fast inside the central unit and the dust and dirt drop into a canister. You empty it twice a year.
The cleaning power of central vacuum systems is rated in air power watts. This power rating is based on the amount of suction force and the amount of air flow. A higher air power means more overall cleaning power.
Write to me for Utility Bills Update No. 141 listing addresses and telephone numbers of manufacturers of central vacuum systems. Please include $1.50 and a self-addressed business-size envelope.
Q. My kitchen cabinets fit snugly around my refrigerator, and there is little room for air flow. What can I do to get more air to it?
A. Add a false back, leaving 3 inches behind it, to the cabinets above the refrigerator. Saw holes in the cabinet bottom behind the false back and above the cabinet door. This creates a passage for the warm air to naturally rise up and out.
Questions should be addressed to James Dulley, c/o Baltimore Sun, 6906 Royalgreen Drive, Cincinnati, Ohio 45244.