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Is a Central Vacuum System Worth the Money?

Trying to decide between installing a central vacuum system and purchasing a portable vacuum? Both options have their strengths and weaknesses, from the initial cost to suctioning power, and maintenance. Here, we’ll take a look at the pros and cons of both options, and let you decide for yourself.

Portable Vacuums

There are numerous different options under the category of portable vacuums, including canisters, uprights, stick vacs, robot vacuums, and handhelds. This makes it easy to select the right vacuum for any size and style of home.



One of the biggest reasons to choose this style of vacuum is portability. This is especially true with the proliferation of cordless stick vacuums, cordless upright and cordless canister vacuums now on the market. Upstairs, downstairs, on the stairs or out in the car, depending upon the type of portable vacuum you choose, you really can clean just about anything, anywhere.

Smaller Upfront Investment

Portable vacuums are available at a variety of different price points. At the lower end of the scale, a bargain brand stick vac can be acquired for less than $30, while at the other end, a big Dyson will run you about $800. In between those two price points you will find that your typical upright vacuum is going to be somewhere between $199 and $499 here in Canada.

Hi-Tech Cleaning Options

One of the most interesting benefits to choosing a portable vacuum is the ability to take advantage of some exciting new technology. Robot vacuums that clean on their own, and smart vacuums that automatically adjust to different types of flooring can make cleaning with a portable vacuum even easier than ever before.



When in the market for a portable vacuum with maximum suction, power and flow-rate, many people opt for a cannister style vacuum. However, since the motor tends to be the largest available in a portable vacuum, it makes canister vacuums heavy.

While the presence of wheels takes the load off when moving around from room to room, the weight of the canister can make it cumbersome. This can result in accidently dragging it into furnishing and walls.


Uprights and canister vacuums have always had a bad reputation for being difficult to use on stairs. Even with a hose and specialty attachments, lugging a heavy canister or upright up and down the stairs, while cleaning isn’t anyone’s idea of a good time. However, this is where lightweight stick vacuums really step up to the plate.

Stick vacuums tackle stairs with very little effort required. Many models are lightweight, cordless, and equipped with interchangeable heads to make scaling stairs and cleaning tight corners very easy.

More frequent emptying

Whether bagged or bag less, there’s still more frequent dirt emptying than with a central vac system. There is also filter washing to consider in some models. Some people find this tedious.

Central Vacuum Systems

For many homeowners, a central vacuum system is simply something that “came with the house”, and their usefulness is not always fully understood. The reality is that central vacuum systems are powerful systems that can actually help improve you home’s air quality.



Unlike with a portable vacuum, the power behind a central vacuum system does not travel with you as you clean your home. Instead, it’s housed within a large canister, usually tucked into the basement, the garage, or a utility closet.  The allows for a much more robust motor, which can provide considerably more power than a standard upright or canister vacuum.


Proponents of central vac often point to reduced noise as one of its strengths. This is both true and not so much. Since the motor is housed in an out-of-the-way space, you really aren’t likely to hear the engine noise as loudly as you might with a portable vacuum… unless you happen to be in that particular space.

The actual noise made by a central vac is just as loud if not louder than a portable. It’s simply a matter of proximity that makes it seems

Allergen Reduction

As we mentioned, central vac systems are more powerful. As a result, they do a better job of removing dust and allergens from the home. Central vacuum systems also completely remove these allergens from the general living space and into the main unit in the garage or basement. Combined, this means that a central vacuum system can result in a cleaner home, more allergy-free home.

It should be noted that several portable vacuum manufacturers are taking steps to create canister and upright systems that are able to trap and contain dust and allergens at a level that rivals central vac systems.

Home Resale Value

Planning to sell your home in the near future? Listing a central vacuum system among the amenities can add value to your listing.


Expensive Upfront Cost

In Canada, central vacuum systems tend to start at around $400 and can go all the way up to $2,000+. Keep in mind that this is the cost of the system only. If you don’t have the knowhow or aren’t comfortable with the notion of installing your system, you’ll need to think about hiring someone to install it as well.

Expensive to Maintain

Central vacuum system are generally well-made, and can work effectively for as long as 20 years or more…if you maintain them. Since a central vac system is a part of your home, much like a furnace, you’re going to want to have it on a regular maintenance schedule. This is great for ensuring that it always performs at its best. However, a maintenance plan can cost between $100 to $250 every year.

If something eventually does go wrong, the cost of parts and labour typically costs more than it does to fix a portable vacuum.

Requires Large Hose Storage Space

Storage is often a major complaint among owners of central vacuum systems. The vacuum hose is typically between 30 to 35 feet, which makes it bulky and cumbersome to use and store. However, central vac storage issues may be on their way out, as retractable hose systems become more popular.

Retractable systems can keep up to 50 feet of hose stored within a special tube that’s hidden behind the wall.

Making Your Choice

When it comes down to choosing between a central system and a portable vac, your priorities will lead you in the right direction. Whether cost, technological advancement, or allergen-reduction are at the top of your “must-haves”, taking an in-depth look at the pros and cons of each system will help you make the right choice.

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