What Kind of Pipe is Used for Central Vacuum

Your newly purchased central vacuum system unit is going to need you to install piping in order for it to work.

But, what kind of pipe is used for central vacuum systems?

There is an option of three kinds of pipe for you to choose from when installing a central vacuum cleaning system throughout your home:

  • Central vacuum pipe or tubing
  • PVC pipe
  • Flexible pipe

The central vacuum pipe and the PVC pipe are the two most commonly used piping in the installation of a central vacuum system.

Many say that you should only use central vacuum tubing as it is designed specifically for the cleaning system. Others argue that PVC piping is a great alternative because there is not much difference between the two kinds. 

Now you are left with the question, which one should you buy.

In this article, we discuss the main differences between the two commonly used kinds of central vacuum piping systems. We include some of the good points as well as some of the bad ones that you should know.

PVC piping stands for polyvinyl chloride. It is also often referred to by its “schedule” For example Schedule 40 or Schedule 80). The main difference between the two would be the wall thickness, pressure rating, and the color of the pipe. PVC piping is one of the most versatile kinds of plastic piping on the marketplace today.  It is used in a variety of different industries across the world and for many different purposes.

What materials make PVC piping?

PVC is made of polyvinyl chloride, which is a solid type of material made from vinyl chloride. Phthalate is then added to make it softer and more flexible. This is so that it can be easily molded into different shapes like for central vacuum tubing and fittings.

Common uses of PVC piping

  • Plumbing for water mains
  • Sprinkler systems
  • Sewage pipes
  • And also piping for central vacuum systems

Available lengths and sizes of PVC pipes

These pipes come in various sizes, lengths, wall thicknesses, diameters, with a range of different fittings. The normal length of a PVC pipe is 20 feet or 6 meters. This offers better performance and requires less cutting and gluing. But, they can also come in other lengths if you need them to, both shorter and longer. 

The walls of the PVC pipes are thicker than a central vacuum pipe. They also typically range from half an inch up to 5 inches in diameter. 

If you choose to use PVC piping, it is best to use schedule 40 pipes. With these a special central vacuum pipe adaptors for the inlets of your unit. Schedule 40 pipes have slightly larger diameters that help with the airflow. This also then improves the performance of your cleaning system.

Why do people use PVC pipes?

There are many different reasons why PVC pipes are the kind of pipe used for central vacuums and they are:

  • Easy to obtain from the local hardware stores as well as plumbing stores
  • Affordable as they are mass-produced for a variety of uses
  • Saves you money on freight charges for large piping packages
  • Lightweight
  • Easy to install or replace
  • They are strong and durable
  • Does not corrode easily
  • Have little risk expanding or contracting due to temperature change
  • The materials they are made from are recyclable
  • PVC or plumbing pipe has a larger diameter  and offers less of a chance of blockages
  • Works well for underground installation

Disadvantages of using PVC pipes

PVC pipes are designed to be used with flowing water and the inside walls can be a little rough. This is not an issue for water but can be the cause of dirt and debris getting caught up inside the pipe or on the joints, which then causes a blockage. 

PVC pipes are also a lot thicker than the normal central vacuum pipes, so if you need to cut them to size the edges can be crooked and rough. If you don’t want the dirt to catch on the edges, you will need to spend some time smoothing them out.

With blockages along your pipes, they also cause suction problems and you will need to solve this before you can use the system again. 

Central vacuum pipes

With the central vacuum pipes, they are specifically designed for your vacuum system. This is to help minimize the potential for blockages in the system.  

The central vacuum pipe size is thinner than the PVC pipes, it is 1/16” thick, and the outer diameter is only 2”. This size matches the thickness of the fittings for your unit and no special adaptors are required.

Central vacuum pipes are easier to cut with a cutter for plastic tubing and will leave you with a smoother finish. These pipes are also easier to bond to the fittings with any PVC primers.

Disadvantages of using central vacuum pipes

  • Obtaining a vacuum pipe can be difficult as you are mainly limited to central vacuum dealers.
  • It is not as thick and strong as PVC piping
  • Can be left stranded while waiting for an order to arrive
  • Freight charges are expensive

Flexible Piping

The flexible piping is the third option for what kind of pipe is used for central vacuums. This kind of pipe was designed to bend in the areas you want it to which eliminates the need for using joints in your installation.

But it was found that with this kind of piping the vacuum would lose suction due to ridges that obstructed the air to flow smoothly through it. So many stopped using the flexible central vacuum pipe

To answer your important question about what kind of pipe is used for central vacuums. It is your choice but the best kind of piping would be the central vacuum piping as they are designed specifically for central vacuum systems. On the other hand, if you want to save on time and costs, you can also use a PVC pipe with special adaptors.


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