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Installation Tips

We have been installing vacuum systems since 1976.  This document contains tips from our many years of experience.

To determine if a vacuum system can be installed in your home, you need to see to how to install it!

These tips are to be used to determine if a built in vacuum system can be installed in your home. Then if a vacuum system can be installed these tips will help you install it.  Use it with Cana-Vac’s manual.  You cannot install a vacuum system using information from this file only!  You will need a PDF reader like Foxit or Adobe reader.  I prefer Foxit it is a lot faster.

We do not want you to purchase a system and find that you cannot install it.  So take your time checking your home before ordering.

Go to this page to see photos of the vacuum system plumbing installed in homes under construction.

First thing is to check out your house!

You need to be able to run the tubing to the needed areas of the house from where you plan to put the power unit.

Look in closets, attic, under stairs or in crawl spaces,equipment rooms etc.  You will be surprised at all the little spaces you find in your house. Some of these spaces are sealed up. Be careful before opening walls!

Once you have determent that installing a vacuum system is possible (or maybe possible) you next need to decide where the power unit is to be located.

So what is done first?

Find out that you have can get the tubing around.  Look in closets,cabinets, attic, under stairs or in crawl spaces,equipment rooms,  plumbing soffits/wells, cold air returns etc.  You will be surprised at all the little spaces you find in your house. Some of these spaces are sealed up. Be careful before opening walls!

Then determine  where the power unit is to be installed.
    What the unit needs is:
    1. Access to 120V power or where a 120 volt cable can be run. 
    2. To be able to run the tubing to under the house or in the attic or both.
    3. Do a quick check for the prospective best locations for inlets.  (So that you know you can get the tubing to the unit). 

Next see find the placement of the inlets.

  1. One at time see if there is a path to the power unit from each inlet.. 
  2. Space them so that the 30’ hose reaches everything. Make sure you leave play for furniture and going around corners.

Once you have determined that you have paths from all the proposed inlet locations to the proposed power unit location you now know that a central vacuum can be installed in your home!

The following details will help you to find the ways to get the tubing to the power unit.

Where to put the vacuum system power unit?

In the garage, under the house, in closets, under stairs, utility room, attic, (not preferred you do not what to go up if not necessary, also attics are hot). It is preferred to mount it on a outside wall so the vibration and noise is less. Think about the noise it will make so do not mount it on a wall that is being shared with a bedroom for example.

Usually the vacuum unit is mounted in the garage. 

Many homes with 2 or more floors have a room above the garage.  The tubing can be surface run in the garage, to a floor inlet in second floor. Since the second floor in two floor home is usually smaller, one inlet in enough to cover the floor.  

Be careful before opening walls!  You can run the tubing on the surface wall or floor inside of a closet. Sometimes one can get the tubing to an attic or attic roof overhang to the second floor surface run in the garage.  Plumbing walls, ducting wells and soffits can sometimes run from the basement to the top floor or from one part of the home to the other.  In one home I pushed tubing through a plumbing "well" from the basement to the 2nd floor to get two vacuum inlets on the 2nd floor with one on the first floor at the bottom of the "well". Look for the furnace cold air return, there is usually empty space around the ducting. Use ducting, wiring or pipes, vents as a frame of reference to find out where walls are and access points are.  (Do not run the tubing close to a hot vent or hot water pipe, it will melt. Do not run it outside it is thinned walled so it can soften and the plastic will get brittle in the sun.)  Sometimes one can get the tubing to an attic or attic roof overhang to the second floor surface run in the garage. Of course blueprints of your home would be very helpful!

One of our customers was so determined to have a built in vacuum system they hired a plumber to run 2" ABS plumbing piping on the "outside" of a multi-story San Francisco Victorian home.  It would not have been possible to get the tubing to the upper levels otherwise.  Where there is a will there is a way!

If you use 2" ABS pipe, use a reamer in the vacuum tubing to taper the inside to eliminate any source of clogging since the air will go from the larger pipe to the tubing which is inside the pipe.  Do not use any pipe or tubing smaller than 2"; it will have a tendency to clog and you will lower the airflow (CFM).

Plumbers will use a larger pipe for the "Main Line" in drain pipe.  This is unnecessary for vacuum system piping.  It can also cause problems since there will be a change of CFM going from one size of pipe to another.  (I finished a vacuum that a plumber installed this way with ABS pipe the smaller pipe was the 1 1/2" and I am sure it will clog.)  Only one vacuum inlet can be used at a time so there is no need for a larger capacity "main line".  

If you do not put the power unit in the garage consider putting a vacuum inlet in there.

Slab Floor Home

If your house has a concrete slab floor the tubing, cannot be run without opening the walls and/or running the tubing in the attic. If the walls are opened, running up to the attic works quite well since anything too heavy falls down to the inlet valve preventing clogging of the tubing.  If you have an open beam ceiling with a slab floor home, it cannot be done at all,) except running it outside the walls and putting the inlets in outside walls.)  I do not recommend this without construction experience and professional tools.  If the open beam ceiling home is under construction, the piping can be put in the slab before it is poured.  Have the plumber do this and use 2" ABS or PCV schedule 40 drain pipe.  The vacuum tubing can be connected to the pipe coming out of the slab then run to the inlet.  I have used the vacuum tubing in slabs with no problems but would not do it again, I got lucky that they were not damaged in the poring of the concrete or by stepped on my a worker.

2" ABS or PVC schedule 40 waste/drain pipe can be used to run outside where it will be exposed to the heat like on the roof or underground to connect detached buildings.  This is not water pipe with tight (sharp) fittings.  It is designed for waste with sweep fittings.   As mentioned, vacuum system tubing is 2" OD, it will fit in the 2" ID pipe.  ABS to PVC pipe is glued with the universal solvent that is designed to glue ABS and PVC together.

Wall Mounted Inlets

In Cana-Vac's manual it tells how to install an inlet in a closed wall.   This is not as easy as it seems. It is really hard to hold onto and glue face plate bracket to the tube, (especially if you have large hands.)  Do not attempt this unless you have lots of time, professional tool and experience with tools and construction.  You also need to know what is in the walls.  It is easy to drill through a low volt wire, like a phone line.  You will not be able to predict were the electrician decided to run wires.  If you are lucky not to hit a wire or pipe while making the opening for the inlet you then need to keep your luck drilling the hole up from under the house directly below the opening without hitting any wires or pipes, electricians will nail the cable to the footer where you will be drilling.   So it is best not to install it in the walls.

But if you really need to have the inlets in the walls, choose locations where the opposite wall is in a closet or cabinet.   Remove a piece of sheetrock in the closet where it is not seen, and install the inlet in the opposite wall.  Patches inside the closet will not be noticed.  If you really need to have all the inlets in the walls and have an experience with sheet rock you can cut the sheet rock carefully, saving the piece of sheet rock removed, then installing the inlet and replacing the sheet rock.  You need to have experience with patching and texturizing.  I do not recommend this unless you are experienced in working with sheetrock. This will double the time it takes to install the vacuum system but can be done for all the inlets. Wood walls are a problem stay away from them.  It is considerably easier and faster and less risky to install in the floor than trying to get the inlet in the wall with or without opening it.   Inlets plates are normally mounted so the door is opened down.  This puts the electrical contacts on top where they will not short out from accumulated dust.  I have installed inlets to open up for customers with children since they will try to step on the down open inlets. This is fine but keep the inlet clean so the contacts do not short. It is possible to install inlets horizontal.  It is more work since you have to mount a 2x4 horizontally for the bracket.

Floor Mounted Inlets

To keep the installation simple, plan on installing the inlets in the floor. 

Floor mounted inlets are quick and requires basic experience and tools. Be careful with cutting and drilling in carpet.  Some types of carpet will “run" like a stocking. To find the spot directly below the proposed location, drill a small hole (1/6") and put a painted coat hanger, (painted so it is easy to see in the dark).   To prevent running your carpet get a 6" long 1/8 pipe, sharpen one end and drive it in the carpet, after adjusting to avoid cutting anymore carpet then necessary.)  You then drill through the pipe.  The pipe will protect the carpet from getting caught in the drill.  

When you are sure of the location (not over a beam or joice), cut a rectangle of the correct size (smaller than the outside of the face plate; see Cana-Vac’s manual) but large enough for the inside of the face plate.  You can use a wide wood chisel to cut the carpet.  Mark the rectangle with a ruler and a marker pen.  Drill or use a reciprocating saw to make a hole in the floor, keeping the drill or saw from catching the carpet.  

Some More Installation Tips

  1. When pushing the tubing through a soffit or plumbing well use electrical tape to fasten low volt wire to the end of the tubing before pushing it up.  This will prevent you from having to fish the wire later.  If you forget and run the pipe without the wire you can use a long stick to fish the wire to the other end of the soffit.
  2. Some state and local building codes require a separate circuit breaker for a vacuum system.   The new California code requires a 20 amp circuit for a power unit running a motor from 9 to 13 amps.
  3. Building codes in most areas require GFSI 120 volt receptacles in any areas near water. Some areas that are required to have a GFSI are basements, garages, outside and under houses.
  4. Building codes in most areas also require metal pipe through a "fire wall".  Fire walls are typically a wall between a garage and living space and around an equipment room, (that has equipment with the potential to cause a fire like a furnace or hot water heater.)   The actual fire wall, is covered with a more fire-resistant material than the rest of the home, like 5/8" sheet rock instead of the usual  ½” inch sheet rock.  I have seen contractors use 2 sheets of  ½” sheet rock for extra protection.  Check your local building codes.  A firewall could also be concrete or some kind of non-combustible material.  We sell a 1 foot piece of metal pipe for going through the firewall, ( we can make one longer if you need one, just email.)  I glue them to the tubing, and to make sure, use a clamp as well.  The PCV vacuum tubing plastic coupling can be also clamped to the metal pipe with a 2" pipe clamp.
  5. Use a utility knife to ream out the inside and outside of the tubing. If you use a tubing cutter, there will be less need for a reamer, but it still sometimes needs reaming to fit correctly, also to remove any blockage potential.
  6. Remember, when you fit the tubing for size, you will not always be able to push the tubing all the way into the fitting,  then when you glue it, you will find your measurements are seem to be wrong, most the tubing will be too short.  This is because the glue acts as a lubricant so it will go in all the way.  Keep this in mind when measuring.  Glue the pieces one at a time so you have can make changes at the last minute.  Do not fit a lot of pieces together then glue them, you can also forget which was glued.  Make a line on both fittings or tubing before taking apart to glue so you can get them in the corrrest position when glued.  The glue sets fast so you will not always have time to move the fiting in position.
  7. Hole saws and self-feed bits use a pilot drill.  If a mistake is made and the hole needs to be made large or offset it from first hole, a wood plug needs to be installed in the hole for the pilot so a larger hole saw can be used, or moving the hole over a little. A problem with hole saws is that for deep cuts, the plug in the hole saw has to be removed periodically.
  8. Self-feed bits work best but are expensive and need low speed high torque commercial drill; they can burn out home ½” or 3/4” drills very fast. 
  9. Hole saws are necessary for a clean cut in a wood floor, siding, plywood, shingles and if you hit too many nails (they will cut nails), for some examples.
  10. If while drilling you just miss a joist and the pilot is outside of the joist,(if structurally it is all right to drill the joist,) nail a 2x4 to it so the pilot has a place to go.  This way you can cut a little into the joist for a 90 deg fitting.
  11. To prevent clogs, do not install fittings too close to each other.
  12. Near the power unit consider the future need to remove the power unit for repair or for moving it out of the way.  Tape or clamp the tubing in key joints so that the unit can be removed easily without cutting tubing.  Tape works in areas where the tubing is supported and not under stress.
  13. Old wood is usually hard; be prepared to take your time drilling studs, beams or joists in an old house.  Try to avoid drilling into beam and joists, structurally it is not a good idea.  If you need to drill a beam or joist get an expert to tell you if it is structurally sound.  If you are having a hard time drilling in old wood, drill a bunch of small holes to "weaken" it. Remember do not drill a hole in your pilot spot.
  14. Use traps and clean outs only where necessary. All of the vacuum intlets and the unit intake are “clean outs”, so you do not need many.  If there are long runs under the house put in a clean out.  It is just a "T" with a cap and clamp.
  15. A trap is used when you have a long up hill or straight up.  The large items will get trapped in the ell at the bottom of the long run if they are too heavy to be pulled up or if the unit is turned off.   What the trap is a Y instead of this ell with a short tube and a cap clamped on.  The heavy items drop in the short tube and out of the way.  Here is a drawing of a trap.
  16. Nail removing tools, pinchers, bars, nail removers, cold chisel (for getting rid of nails in the way). Sometimes you will have to get a metal cutting drill bit to "get rid of a nail."
  17. Use MEK to thin the PVC solvent, (if it dries up) and clean up spilled solvent.

Here is a summary for determining if a vacuum system can be installed in your home and tips for installing a vacuum system and ordering.

  1. Create a floor plan of your house.  A simple drawing will do it does not have to be to scale. It will be used for positioning the vacuum inlets.
  2. Download Cana-Vac Manual.  Read it thoroughly.
  3. Read this document completely. 
  4. Use your floor plan, the Cana-Vac installation manual, and our tips while you are checking out your home for the proposed locations of the power unit and the vacuum inlets.
  5. Find a path for the tubing from each inlet to the power unit.  (The hose is 30 feet cover a lot so keep that in mind.)
  6. Mark the location of vacuum inlets and the path of the tubing. Use a 30 ft rope as a guide for the 30 ft hose to determine the best locations of the inlets. The rope is more flexible than a tape measure, so it will give you a good idea where the hose will reach.
  7. The placement of the vacuum inlets will change when you start to install the system, but this will give you a guide in determining where they are needed and how many are needed.
  8. <>Determine which power unit you need. Remember, the higher the altitude, the less sealed vacuum the power unit will have. Also, if the unit is mounted on a floor above inlets more strength is needed to pull up; consider the power units with more sealed vacuum. When the power unit has longer distance to pull i.e. a single floor house where the unit is mounted on one end and there is over 100' get a unit with over 100 CFM the rule of thumb is more CFM is desired for longer pulls, more inlets larger homes.  More sealed vacuum is desired for higher elevations and for pulls uphill.  Too little of both sealed vacuum and CFM is not desired.
  9. Determine where the power unit will be mount. The vacuum power unit is commonly installed in the garage, equipment room or under the house when there is plenty of room and when the basement is relatively sealed up.  Dampness can damage the power unit so if it gets damp in the winter under your house find another place to install it. The unit can also be installed in closets or under stairs or in attics with high roofs and good ventilation since heat can cause the motor to overheat and shorten it’s life and/or cause the internal circuit breaker to trip.
  10. Plan on installing a vent for the power unit exhaust in smaller areas or areas like equipment rooms which are crowded and warm from other equipment. Ideally you want the power centrally located and lower than the inlets, in other words, basements, under the house or on a lower floor.
  11. Venting does quiet the vacuum down it just puts the noise outside.  Is the power unit in an area where sound might be a problem?  Or consider the a muffler if only the exhaust needs to be silenced.
  12. Do you want a hose sock ?   A hose sock is a knitted sock that covers the hose protection, the walls, and furniture when you are navigating around them.
  13. Consider putting a vacuum inlet in the garage so that you can vacuum your car if the power unit is located elsewhere.
  14. Do you have carpets?  You will need the electric hose and electric carpet brush.


1. Electronic stud finder, to find studs for mounting the power unit. Also to determine if the wall is clear if you decided to install the inlets in the walls instead of the floor.

2. Position locator.  Used to find a position under a floor.

3. Hole saws. 2 9/16" is the best.  If you have to drill in a tight space 2 1/4" is the smallest. This is for making a hole in a tight space.  If it has to go more than 2x4 depth, you need a larger hole for some play to work in. Otherwise, you will find that drilling holes perfectly straight is not possible. Putting a 90 degree fitting on a tube at a slight angle is a pain, and if you do get it together, it will have a lot of stress on it and will probably leak.

4. Utility knife, for reaming out the tubing, cutting sheet rock.

5. Long small wood drill bit 1/16" to 1/4" for probing, and determining if it is clear under the proposed inlet site.   A small hole will not show if the spot is not used.  Be careful not to drill something like a heater duct, water pipe or ABS drainpipe.  Look very carefully before drilling even the test hole.  Pipes can be behind things like blocking and other supports and not visible.

6. Straightened coat hangers. To put in test hole and go under the house to see if the location is OK.  Use white or another light color. Black is hard to see under a house.

7. For existing homes the inlets are installed in the floor.  This only requires simple tools, 1/2" drill, and saber saw, to make a small hole in the floor.

8. Metal/AC  locator.  For avoiding drilling into metal pipes or wires, will not detect plastic pipe.

9.  Rags and drop cloths for spills and messes.  Not much to say about this!

10. Square and level, to make the face plates look nice and to mount the unit.

Consider Renting Professional like Milwaukee Right Angle drill, Milwaukee Hole Haug, or the equivalent in other makes.  Reciprocating saw like Milwaukee or Porter Cable, Milwaukee self feed bits, 2-1/4" minimum to 2-9/16", drill extensions,  2-½” tubing cutter, tubing reamer.  Also heavy duty ladders you do not what to fall down with a 30 pound drill!

For drilling concrete rent a 2-½” concrete hole saw and drill or an electric jackhammer.  The less expensive way is to drill a bunch of holes and chisel the rest out, (if you have the time and arms).

For installing a vacuum in homes under construction, there is lots of drilling to do.  Deep holes (over 4" or so) cannot be done without the stronger professional drills and the self-feed bits (unless you want to stop and take the plug out of the hole saw every couple of minutes).  A home ½” drill can be burned out quickly installing a vacuum system in a home under construction.   I take two boxes of tools on the job site and sometimes I need something I do not have!  I cannot list all the tools you might need, especially installing in a house under construction.

Warning:   Do not attempt to install a vacuum system in a home under construction without professional tools!   These tools are needed for homes under construction since the holes have to be drilled into the 2x4's, floors and joices, sometimes 2 or three or four 2x4's together.  I have even had to drill up through a 16" header; a 12" header is hard enough.

If you are building a home, have the general contractor or plumber drill the holes for you.  You will still save money by installing it yourself even if a contractor does the drilling.


1. Electrical tape, white tape for visible tubing (near power unit); black will do for most of the installation.

2. Plumber’s strapping tape and large head nails, long roofing nails work best. Metal or plastic will work.

3. Scrap wire, for hanging the tubing temporarily while arranging it in and allowing the glue to set.  Rebar strapping wire works great and is inexpensive.

4. Knee and elbow pads.

5. Flashlights and work lights, under the house the "head light works great".

6. Eye protection, to keep glue from dripping in your eyes while working under the house.

7. Hat and gloves, also to keep glue off your person.

8. Multipurpose solvent/glue if using ABS pipe with the vacuum system PVC tubing.

9. If you are sensitive to PVC solvent and ventilation is not possible, i.e. fan and/or open windows, you will need a filter mask. This needs to be a mask that can take out PVC fumes. Ask the salesperson in the hardware store.

10. PVC solvent/glue.  Purchase the gray instead of clear.  You can use clear for visible areas like to the power unit on surfaced run in closets or the garage. You can just look at your plumbing to see if it has been glued with the gray glue.

11.  MEK,  METHYL ETHYL KETONE.  One of the many solvents of PVC plastic.  It will clean up spilled glue and thin thickened solvent. This is toxic stuff; keep out of reach of children. MEK can be found in most hardware stores.  Do not get in on your hands!   If you get glue on your hands while working peel it off with soap and water, do not use the MEK.  Wear gloves when gluing to prevent this.

This document was written By Kevin E. West can be downloaded for printing but cannot be reproduced, sold, linked or used by anyone except for personal use.

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