Central Vacuum Wiring

When I had everything finally connected and all the inlets installed it was late in the afternoon and I was tired. I opened an inlet and nothing happened. Then I opened the vacpan inlet and all the inlets came on. I actually didn’t realize that all of the inlets are active when one is active.

The DC that allows the inlets to come on is connected in a “daisy chain” or the looping method. This puts all the wiring right at the inlets so that if some maintenance trouble shooting needs to be done, the wiring connections are accessible.

Daisy Chain Wiring

Daisy Chain Wiring

This seemed simple enough and I had no issues hooking up the wiring in this way. However, when the inlets did not come on when opened, I thought I had made an error in the wiring. That evening, I went back to the first few connections and thought about how to rewire them. But instead of rewiring I disconnected most of the house and just tested the vacpan and the utility inlet in the garage. Behold! I realized the utility inlet did come on when I shorted across the two metal bumps inside with a screwdriver. That turned on both inlets too. The vacpan is meant to come on without a hose connection!

So I reconnected the rest of the house and voila, the wiring worked just fine everywhere I plugged in a vacuum hose to turn on the system. I’m not sure why it didn’t make sense at first that all the inlets ran when one did. Once I figured out what was happening, it did make sense to me. All the pipe is connected to the vacuum like plumbing. When water in plumbing pipe is on all the pipe fills with water, but only the faucet that is turned on runs water. When all the vacuum pipe is sucking though, it may be possible to use more than one inlet at the same time. Although any extra openings reduce the pressure in the whole system.

I used the short vacuum hose to suck up a bit of sawdust and other dirt from the install. The suction seems very strong with the short hose. I wonder if it will be reduced much with longer hoses.

Two of the inlets have power assist. That means they can run a carpet powerhead. Older systems just used a nearby plug to power the rotating head. But the newer systems run the power right to the inlet. A separate plug in the inlet is for the electrified hose connection.

Powered Vacuum Inlet

Powered Vacuum Inlet

Near each of the powered inlets was an outlet. It was a simple matter to add the wires running to the powered inlet junction boxes. I haven’t tested the power units yet.

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Central Vacuum Connected

I finished connecting the central vacuum piping and wiring today. Even with all the parts I had ordered, I ran out of pipe and 90 degree sweep elbows so had to wait two days for Amazon to deliver more. I bought two more packages of 5 elbows and another package of 5 pipes.

First I worked on cutting and fitting most of the piping for the inlets. The piping to the unit itself and the first vacpan inlet was already cut and fitted before the ventilation system install. So the big challenge was running the pipe in the narrow garage attic area that all the electrical wiring also goes through. This is a narrow passage made even more narrow by the shaft for the ductwork in the family room. It was a bit of a squeeze to get my hips around the metal and into the space but I did it more than once to get the pipe cut and glued. The area was so awkward that I spilled about half of the can of glue and had to buy more to finish.

Garage Attic Connection

Garage Attic Connection

It is difficult to take a very informative photo of the connections. The camera focuses on just a small area or the piping is lost in busyness of wiring and other systems. The piping to the living area inlet runs through the living area ventilation shaft.

Piping to living area inlet

Piping to living area inlet

Then it goes down the wall between the master bedroom and the living area hallway.

Powered inlet for living area

Powered inlet for living area

I later added a sweep tee here to continue the piping to the hall closet.

Pipe to crawlspace

Pipe to crawlspace

I used a double inlet pipe for the kitchen vacpan and the family room powered inlet. These join the main pipe above the ventilation ductwork on the way to the living area piping.

Double inlet piping

Double inlet piping

There is an inlet between the double and the living area through a sweep tee that goes to the utility room. It runs through the ventilation attic and through the dead space between the back of the shower and the washer and dryer.

Piping to utility room

Piping to utility room inlet

I had the piping glued and the wiring run for all the inlets except one before the extra pipe and elbows arrived. These were for the final inlet in the upper bedroom hall closet. Finding the wall space from under the house was difficult. I used a long drill bit to drill through the drywall at a slight angle into the wall. Then I had to find the drill bit under the house. With a little knocking and running the drill help from Dave, I was able to locate the drill bit and use the 2″ hole saw to create the hole into the wall above. It almost seemed like a miracle that the hole ended up in the right spot.

Drilling the closet floor into the wall plate

Drilling the closet floor into the wall plate

The pipe runs through the wall from the living area inlet under the stairs to the upper bedrooms and over to the hall closet.

Piping in the crawlspace

Piping in the crawlspace

After crawling around under the house most of the day, I was finally able to test the system. I found one inlet that I had not glued all the way. It was LOUD where the leak was in the family room inlet so it was easy to find. I’m going to check the rest of the piping while it is running to see if there are any smaller leaks.

I also had an issue with the wiring which I will explain in another post.

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Central Vacuum Accessories and Piping

I’m working on the central vac piping. The pipes are GO VACUUM brand for vacuum systems. These are 2″ but a bit smaller than Schedule 40 PVC. They supposedly build up less static inside them and fit the inlets exactly. They glue together much the same as plumbing pipe. The installation guidelines suggest using glue only on the pipe not the connectors.

I bought a couple of kits to put the system together as well as the long pieces of pipe.

Central Vac Install Kit

Central Vac Install Kit

The kit from Amazon included:
4 White Wall Plates.
4 Mounting Plates New Construction.
8 Stop Couplings
1 Can 8oz Glue.
4 90 Degree Short
8 Pipe Strap.
3 Sweep T.
8 45 Degree Elbow.
12 90 Degree Sweep.
120′ Low Voltage Wire.

I bought 25 straight pipes from Amazon too. They are each 56.5″ long and 2 inch diameter. And I ordered extra couplings.

I also purchased a dust pan inlet, one that accepts dirt swept from the floor, for the kitchen and a kit of three power inlets that allow the use of a powered vacuum head. The power inlets came with extra couplings and wire. I bought a powered vacuum head kit with a 30 ft. hose and another 40 ft. hose with a stainless wand and various attachments and extra bags. These items were from their retail store VacDepot.com which is now sent directly to Central Vacuum Stores.

Power Brush Kit

Power Brush Kit

Last month I added a stainless steel interceptor canister that allows the system to pick up liquids or heavy dirt and a nifty spin duster attachment that works by building up static in the brush that attracts the dust on furniture, and then sweeps the dirt off of it in a vacuum inlet attachment.

Cen-Tec Interceptor for Vacuum

Cen-Tec Interceptor for Vacuum

Spin Duster

Spin Duster

I just visited the web site though and they no longer sell online! They refer to Central Vacuum Systems but their products are not listed. Too bad. I thought the company had great products at reasonable prices. And the customer service was personal and well done. I hardly ever use a warranty so I doubt that will be an issue. I think the vacuum is repairable and the other items I bought were name brands such as Cen-Tec. I received an answer to my inquiry to Central Vacuum Stores about the Aspria. Turns out the Aspria was made by Cana-Vac for the VacDepot. So the version I purchased is almost the same as the Signature XLS 970 Cana-Vac.

Canvac Signature XLS 970

Cana-vac Signature XLS 970

The specifications are almost exactly the same. This is the Cana-Vac’s most powerful model. The warranty of the Aspria was 12 years and on the XLS 970 it is 15 years. The motor and other specifications are the same except that the bag is 6 gallons instead of 7 gallons. No wonder the Aspria’s specifications seemed so good. I was extremely lucky to buy all the components for about half of the cost of the Cana-Vac systems.

I now have a large box of items to put the system together. The plan is to install the dust pan inlet, three non-powered inlets, one of which has a dust pan option, and two powered inlets. There is also a utility inlet that goes close to the vac unit in the garage.

Central Vac Install Plan

Central Vac Install Plan

 

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Structural Inspection

Guest Shower Wall

Guest Shower Wall

We had a structural inspection a few months ago when we thought it had to come before the electrical was put in the walls. Instead, it had to wait until the rough plumbing and rough electrical were passed. I assumed the rough electrical was passed because the inspector told me to just call him when the electricians were finished with the last outlet and he would just approve it. Unfortunately that appears to not have happened after my call. The structural inspector still did the inspection though he said that rough electrical has to be finalized. I called the building department and they are going to put us on the schedule for rough electrical tomorrow. I was hoping the electrical inspector who told me it passed would just fix the paperwork. Oh well, not a big deal I guess.

UPDATE: After two more visits by electrical inspectors, the rough electrical was finally signed off without any further requirements. The first inspector was concerned that the bedroom fire alarms would not be hard wired but the original inspector said that was OK and passed us.

We passed the structural inspection although there are two things that still need to be done. Where the wires go up into a second story structure, the attic in this case, the electrical penetrations have to be filled with foam as a fire stop. And although we have multiple combo fire/carbon monoxide alarms wired into the house, a new requirement is to have a fire alarm in every bedroom but since they do not have to be hard-wired, we can buy two battery operated alarms for the back bedrooms.

Now we are free to finish up with the membrane and the rest of the tasks necessary before we get the drywall done. We only have six months from today (I guess the electrical gained us another week!) to have the final inspection and everything has to be done by then, all plumbing, finishing, lighting etc. It sounds almost impossible to me. Will probably have to have some kind of inspection just to continue our permit past August 16th or perhaps I can just apply for an extension.

I’m pretty sure it will take longer than six months to finish everything. I may work at it almost every day but progress is very slow.

 

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HVAC Inspection Failed

I’m not actually surprised that I failed the first inspection of the ventilation system. It makes sense that I would do some things incorrectly or at least not up to code. In this case I substituted lightweight zip ties over the approved tape to connect flex duct to the pipe. I needed to use a more heavy duty code approved band. The inspector recommended the stainless steel ring clamps which I used for some of the connections and so I’m getting more of them and redoing all the connections made with the zip ties. Tape, then ring clamp, then I should tape instead of zip tie the insulation over the connection.

The other problem I have is that I had the piping too convoluted and too close to the top of the ERV. Not enough room for maintenance for the unit. It is very tight with the unit in the space. Because the vents are on each side of the unit, it is more difficult to fit the piping in the space I created for the unit. This piping won’t do.

Three intertwining flex ducts

Three intertwining flex ducts

So I moved the ERV closer to the middle of the attic area and placed the pipes along one side of the ERV instead of over it. The inspector suggested I use duct pipe elbows to avoid having to make 180 degree turns with the flex duct. So I am adding 8″ elbows to the outside air supply and exhaust.

Supply and exhaust with elbows

Supply and exhaust with elbows

The pipe has just enough room now to lay flat next to the ERV instead of over it. I have to change the pipe supports from the perforated metal strips to a wider mesh banding that won’t work holes in the insulation covering too.

New pipe layout

New pipe layout

Unfortunately there is much less room to get around the attic area now. But hopefully enough for the installation to be approved.

The inspector also asked for the design documents. Luckily all of those are prepared for the LEED documentation so I sent these two files:

  1. IEQ 4.2a Ventilation Calculations
  2. IEQ 4.1 Design Ventilation Ductwork Calculations

I hope they are adequate for the professional level of duct design and ventilation requirements that are expected for this type of system.

The inspector said since the unit and ducting are accessible we could progress towards getting the drywall finished before calling him back for another HVAC inspection. So we are close, but not yet approved.

 

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Foobot Air Quality Monitor


This Foobot air quality monitor is a very cool device. I purchased it from a seller on ebay for about half of retail. It is an easily set up device using a smart phone app. It comes in an orange package and orange is the led color for low air quality.

It enables a consumer to monitor indoor air quality. This is more important as homes become better sealed from air infiltration. The device provides these features:

  • Realtime air quality reading on the device with classy LED lights
  • Tracks harmful indoor pollutants: VOCs, PM2.5, and CO2 (derived from VOC), Temperature, Humidity
  • Automate good air within your smart home: Foobot can trigger other devices when pollution level rises
  • Works with Nest, Ecobee, Amazon Echo, IFTTT and more
  • Made for iOS (8 or later) and Android (4 or later) – Compatible with WiFi 2.4GHz
  • One of the rare home air quality meter showing all your data over time, since day 1
  • Multi-room monitoring
  • Actionable tips to improve your indoor air quality
  • *Fast email support* available 16 hours a day from Monday to Friday (support@foobot.io)

I have installed the foobot in the living area and it reads our air quality data and reports it on my iphone. The iphone must be connected to wifi to see the readings. I’m using IFTTT to send the information to google spreadsheets on my google account. The system needs a few days, they say about a week to acclimate itself to the location and collect more accurate data.

These are some of my early readings.

Foobot instant data

Foobot instant data

There is a general pollution level reading (19 GREAT) and three individual readings; particulate matter, CO2 and VOC’s.

Foobot historical data

Foobot particulate historical data

The historical data can be listed by minute, hour, day or week.

Foobot CO2 historical data

Foobot CO2 historical data

The data downloaded into the Google spreadsheets has this information in it.

Foobot Readings Spreadsheet

Foobot Readings Spreadsheet

I use formulas to tease more information from the original columns. Changing the time to Mountain Standard and the temperature to Fahrenheit.

Foobot Revised Spreadsheet

Foobot Revised Spreadsheet

Since the living area Nest is also wired to the ERV boost, the Foobot can send a signal to Nest whenever it detects whatever limits on one or more of the readings that have been set up in IFTTT. Currently I only have it set to start the ventilation for the default number of minutes set for fan on the Nest. I have the Nest set to 30 minutes. The Foobot is set to turn on ventilation when the combined level on the global pollution scale exceeds 50.

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Ventilation Controls

The standard controller that is included with the Recoupaerator is a manual variable speed on/off wall dial control.

Variable Controller Installed

Variable Controller Installed

The wiring on the back of the panel consists of six wires and it comes with a very short cable attached.

Controller Wiring

Controller Wiring

I am not planning to have this dial be the main source of control so I just mounted it with the existing wire and very close to the outlet.
The interior control panel has several wiring options.

Interior Control Panel

Interior Control Panel

These are labeled in the manual. I chose to use the boost control inputs to wire to the Nest Thermostat in the living area. I ran a two wire thermostat wire from this boost control and attached it to the Nest common and fan inputs. The Boost input runs the fan on high speed which is good for clearing kitchen odors etc.

Recoupaerator Boost Wiring

Recoupaerator Boost Wiring


I can turn on the ventilation by using the fan controls on the Nest which are accessible by the phone application as well as on the thermostat. I can set a schedule too. I had to remember to switch it ON though.
Setting Nest Fan Timer

Setting Nest Fan Timer


I had set this schedule and when it didn’t run I noticed that I had not flipped the ON switch.
Setting Nest Fan Schedule

Setting Nest Fan Schedule


I’m hoping this schedule will keep it from getting too stuffy during the hottest part of the day.
There are more controls possible that can interact with the Nest as well as the Wemo system and I’m working on those too.

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Reopening a Roof Vent

We had patched the two existing roof vents in the old attic when we insulated the roof. But then I decided to use one for the ERV exhaust.

The Chosen Roof Vent

The Chosen Roof Vent

I opened the vent by cutting the metal front corners and bending it back. I had to cut through the roof patch and remove a section for the ductwork.

Cutting through the plywood patch

Cutting through the plywood patch

Fitting the butterfly vent and the ductwork into the existing collar was no picnic. The vent collar which was 8″ instead of 6″ so I had to buy a new butterfly vent too. I tried a longer piece of pipe to go through the ceiling but I could not get it at the right angle. I decided to just attach the flex duct to the butterfly vent piece but the new vent would not go all the way into the collar even though it was the right size. It was something about the angle but I couldn’t figure out how to fix it. I was able to screw the vent to the collar on two sides and it appeared sturdy enough. Then I replaced the screen top on the vent and screwed the vent cover closed again. I taped over the seams that I made on the upper side.
From inside the flex duct goes through the ceiling to the butterfly vent at the top of the shaft.

Ductwork through the roof

Ductwork through the roof

And the three large flexible ducts are intertwined a bit to hold them up off the lid of the ERV. There is the supply in, the exhaust out and the exhaust from the bathroom duct. The rest of the ductwork is shorter on the other side of the ERV.

Supply and Exhaust Side of ERV

Interior Supply and Exhaust Side of ERV

It is just possible to make out the upper and lower ductwork on this side of the ERV. The upper pipes are exhaust in and the lower pipes feed the supply lines. It is a tight arrangement with all the ductwork in this small central spot and I hope it passes inspection!

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Exhaust Side Ductwork

It has taken several weeks to put together the ductwork for both the supply and exhaust for the RecoupAerator ERV system. It seems I keep needing another part to make the next connection. I realized that I purchased 10″ exhaust vents, but I decided to connect all the exhaust vents to 8″ instead of 10″ pipe. So I need reducers for two of the vents. The third I bought after I made the 8″ duct decision.

The general plan for the ductwork was designed with the idea that the ducts would all be on the same side of the ERV or on the top. But the supply and exhaust to the outside are on one side and the supply and exhaust to the ERV are on the other. I arranged the ERV so that the interior supply and exhaust pipes are towards the back of the attic area and the exterior connections are towards the front. On the supply side I eliminated the living room tee and the utility room duct. The bathroom and kitchen ducts are next to each other on a wye pipe.

Duct Layout

Duct Layout

There are three ventilation returns in the central attic area which are not shown in the diagram. One is on each side of the attic: towards the living area and towards the family room. One is above the bathroom as the inspector told me the bathroom needed both a supply and exhaust. It is possible to see the 10″ return air duct in the upper left corner and the supply pipe along the kitchen wall under the junction box for the kitchen and the bathroom.

Supply piping and Exhaust Duct

Supply piping and Exhaust Duct

The next photo shows the family room 10″ return air duct and the supply piping that is connected through the front wall of the house.

Family Room Exhaust Duct

Family Room Exhaust Duct

I had to reconfigure the intake piping for the exhaust several times and the wiring that was stapled to the walls in the two sections had to be moved. I moved the living area return duct several times to get it aligned better with the tee for both large rooms. The four inch PVC pipe is the second radon port that will be connected to a fan on the roof.

Early Exhaust Duct Connectiona

Early Exhaust Duct Connections

The tee that ducts the bathroom exhaust vent finally made it to a position that appears possible to connect that duct.

Redone Exhaust Duct Connections

Redone Exhaust Duct Connections

Before I can install the bathroom exhaust vent I will need to build the wall between the bathroom and the attic leaving a door area large enough to service the ERV. But the next step is to finish the vent in the roof for the exhaust piping.

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Efergy Electrical Usage Monitoring

I have been interested in monitoring our electrical use, especially since it has gone up significantly since we keep the spa warm all winter.

I started with a monitor for just the spa circuit. The Efergy kit has two clamps for the circuit wires that are plugged into a transmitter to send the signal from the electrical wires to a monitor and/or to an internet hub.

Efergy Elite Classic

Efergy Elite Classic

The clamps plug into the battery powered transmitter and the monitor, also battery powered, receives the signal and records the data. It keeps a history for the day, week, and month but that data cannot be downloaded. Currently the history shows 14.04 KWH for the day and 127.4 KWH for the week. I have not used it for a full month, but so far this month the total shows 584.3 KWH.

Efergy Elite Contents

Efergy Elite Contents

The Efergy Hub system records the data on an internet account where current use and history of use data can be downloaded. The hub system picks up more than one transmitter so there is now one on the house separate from the spa sub panel and I could place one on the air conditioning sub panel later as well.

Efergy Hub System

Efergy Hub System

There is also an iPhone app to read data. This is current data.

House Usage

House Usage

Spa Usage

Spa Usage

And a short graph of the today’s historical usage. Obviously the spa is the big user of electrical power.

Historical Usage for Day

Historical Usage for Day

I also purchased an outlet monitor. I am thiniking I will use it with energy hungry appliances like the refrigerator or the microwave. It will record a 110 circuit.

Efergy Ego Outlet

Efergy Ego Outlet

Efergy Ego Outlet Monitor

Efergy Ego Outlet Monitor

I would need additional transmitter kits to record other 220 volt appliances etc. It would be nice to have several of these kits and outlet readers. This one cannot be controlled with IFTTT which is what I bought for the air quality monitor to control the ventilation system. So that one will record information on a different platform.

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