How to Troubleshoot a Central Vacuum

What You'll Need
Basic Understanding of how a central vacuum system works or an owner's manual
Basic understanding about circuit breakers

It can be aggravating when your central vacuum system decides not to work properly. Much more aggravating is thinking about the cost of calling in a repair-person to fix a problem that just may be as simple as a clog. Here are a few troubleshooting tips to help keep your vacuum out of a repair shop:

Step 1 –Canister and Filter

A full canister may be the culprit. It will need to be emptied before performance can be improved. Sometimes, the canister may not be properly installed. This may be due to unfastened or damaged latches.

Also check for a dirty filter because that can also lessen the power of a vacuum system. A damaged filter bag will need to be replaced.

Step 2 – Check the Hose

A clog in the hose, tubing or exhaust system will need to be unclogged. Connect the hose of the central vacuum directly to the canister. Poor suction means the hose is clogged; good suction means a clog in the tubing system.

While the unit is turned on at the canister insert a disposable cleaning cloth into an inlet. If the cloth doesn’t make it to the canister then you have a complete obstruction or clog in your tubing. If the disposable wipe does make it to the canister but is ripped or damaged then you have partial clog in your tubing. If the disposable wipe makes it unharmed then there is no clog in your tubing.

Step 3 – Check for Air Leaks

Air leakage is often the source for lower suction power. Air leaks are often caused by:

  • Inlet valve gaskets or valves gone bad
  • Cracked tubing or hoses
  • Poorly glued fittings or tubing (or not glued at all)
  • Tubing punctured by a drywall screw or nail
  • Poorly installed tubing system
  • Hoses not hooked up correctly

If a lot of air is coming out of the motor, you can detach the tubing system from the power unit and block the intake of the power unit. Turn on the Power unit while blocking. If the motor exhaust still has a lot of air coming out you will need to check for leaks coming from the power unit. If there is very little air coming out you need to reconnect the power unit and tubing system and be sure all inlets valves are closed in order to seal the unit. 

While the unit is turned on, listen closely for hissing sounds as you trace the tubing to each inlet.  Hissing sounds mean an air leakage. If no sound is heard be sure to check out all of the exposed tubing and inlet valves. Sometimes the hissing is too muffled or the leakage is too large to create a sound.  If all is fine then you may have a bad piping system that needs to be replaced.