How to Pick A Central Vacuum Power Unit

Oct 9, 2018 | Information

There’s a bewildering selection of power unit options to choose from, often list of confusing specs and vague descriptions. Our 32 years of Central Vacuum experience in Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill, and the greater Carolinas has taught us a lot about what’s important, and what comparisons to make when selecting a power unit.

SPECS: Not all brands are measured equally!

Most power units will list waterlift and airflow as measurements of performance. Waterlift is the strength of the suction, and airflow is the volume of air that is moved. Most reputable brands measure this at the unit, however some companies give the measurement at the motor, which makes the rating artificially high. All of our technicians are equipped with a water lift meter, and we regularly find that power units under perform their rated listing in the real world.

This is one of the reasons that we prefer power units from Cyclovac and MD. Even when measured at a valve or end of a hose, these brands perform at their rated levels in the real world.

If you have a question about these measurements, and what would be sufficient for your application, give us a call and we can walk you though the options!


If it’s plastic on the outside, it might be weak on the inside. It’s not uncommon that we come across 30 year old power units (often ones we originally installed) that are still going strong. While that’s an above average lifespan of a power unit, a quality motor and robust circuit board are the keys to getting decades of carefree use. Many less expensive power units are not properly cooled, and run extremely hot. This results in cooked internals, and worn down motors. On top of that, units made of plastic with crack and warp over time. Steer clear of plastic units, unless it’s and ABS plastic used for the collection bucket.

We also recommend steering clear of units with lots of flashing lights and screens. While these units may look appealing, it means more money went into aesthetics and marketing than components and quality.

Get The Right Tool For The Job

Dual motors? Tandem or Parallel? High water lift, or high airflow? Certain scenarios require different units and motors For instance, it’s important for Hide-a-Hose applications that the motor is cooled with external air. For heavy on/off cycles, slow start motors preserve motor brushes and extend motor life.

Repairing a BEAM central vacuum power unit.


Quality filtration is key to real world performance. Many power units use a pleated shop vac type filter which get clogged easily and is a mess to clean.

Others use a huge layer of foam, which is inefficient. We typically recommend a “drop filter” unit, where there is a fabric filter that inflates inside of the power unit, providing massive surface area, low air resistance, and superior filtration. These are also semi-self cleaning.

Call us at 919-968-8227 if you’d like to discuss the best power unit for your needs.

Need Installation or service?

We service these common issues and more:

Power Unit Not Turning On

Low or weak suction

Intermittent power

Hissing or leaking noise at valve door

Clog removal

Hose or attachment issues

Powerhead issues

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