LEED allows one point for installing a central vacuum system to improve air quality within the home. Central vacuums must have HEPA filtration and exhaust to the outdoors to meet this requirement. There are at least three different types or categories of central vacuum. Many do not need to be exhausted but some allow for exhaust if desired. Many have a HEPA filtration system and some do not but a HEPA filter can be attached at additional expense. Cyclonic vacuums require exhaust and they are more expensive. Bagless models are popular but these makes emptying the dirt more difficult. Since the vacuum chamber only needs to be emptied about two or three times a year, I decided the cost of bags is negligible.
There are several brands of central vacuum, although I read that several are made by the same manufacturers just branded differently.
Another list of brands at ThinkVacuums.com
This site has a pretty good explanation of the various types of vacuums; bagged, filtered, and cyclonic.
These are the diagrams used to explain the differences.
These have a motor and a catch chamber lined with a bag.
These have the motor and a filter, either a washable or self cleaning or disposable cartridge, that keeps the debris from flowing into the motor. A Hybrid filtered system can be used with a bag or without.
This seems to be the controversial design. The air movement separates the debris from the air and protects the motor as in this diagram. These must be vented to the outdoors.
Vacuums can also have more than one motor and the motor can be separate from the containment tub. They can be made of metal or plastic and have varying warranties for motors, parts and cases.
Comparison points include the type, the physical size of the units, the “air watts” or total suck rating, the air lift, which is another measure of suck, and the CFM’s cubic feet per minute of air for the fans. Motors can be one, two or three stage which is basically the number of blades on the fans. A larger diameter motor is considered better and the units I studied had motors between 5.7 and 8.2 inches. Many of the components are made in China although assembled in the US or Canada. Ametek-Lamb motors are made in Ohio.
The number of square feet the vacuum will cover is an unreliable measure and at any rate the advice I read was to double your house square footage and then get a larger rated unit. I had to check if the filtration type was HEPA, and finally sound ratings in decibels will help determine which unit would be the quietest to use.
I had to put several system units on a spreadsheet comparing these qualities. Finding all the data on each required lots of searching. Of course I wanted the highest combination of features for the most reasonable price. I found it at an independent brand not mentioned above. Aspria Systems has several models of central vacuums and the Duragetec had the best combination of features for the price on my spreadsheet so I ordered the Hybrid model as a scratch and dent to save another $100. This vacuum includes Hepa filtration and can be vented which works for the LEED requirements.
Aspria Systems (formerly VacDepot) also had the least expensive prices on attachments and supplies. I had already ordered pipe and a connection kit but I added some electrified inlets and two hose systems with attachments for different parts of the house.
Now I am researching the best design for piping and locations for the inlets. I’ll have low pile oriental carpets in the family room and living room so I want electrified inlets in those locations. I’m planning a vac pan (a device that allows sweeping dirt into the inlet) in the kitchen and a hybrid inlet/pan in the entry. I’m hoping I can fit an inlet over the crawlspace too although the path could be tricky and it is the furthest away from the unit. I don’t want to do all that work only to have poor suction in that part of the house. I can use a long hose instead. The pipe will go in the ventilation duct chase and I think most of the inlets will be inside closets where I will store the attachments. I’m looking forward to this convenience in the house, something I never would have installed if not suggested by LEED.