How To Find A Leak In A Central Vacuum System

When cleaning your home and keeping it clean, few things are as efficient and helpful as a central vacuum system. Owning many benefits that portable vacuums don't have, central vacuum systems are expensive to install. A homeowner is going to want their central vacuum system to always be in tip-top shape. So how does one check for leaks in their central vacuum system hoses? We here at Home Decor Bliss have researched how to do that for you in the following article. 

Pressurized soap bubbles can be used to test for leaking air in your hose, with bubbling soap signifying leaks in your vacuum hose. Flexible tape can also detect suspected air leaks, being sucked in where leaks are present. Helium leak detectors and ultrasonic leak detectors are other efficient ways of detecting leaks in central vacuum systems. 

This is a lot of ways to tackle discovering where leaks in your expensive system. Let's break them down further in the article below and look at what to do when you realize you've got links and where. 

Sweeping fallen crackers to the central vacuum system inside a living room, How To Find A Leak In A Central Vacuum System


Ways to test for leaks in your central vacuum system 

Soap bubble test

One of the simpler ways to test for air leaks is to use regular soapy water. After isolating and pressurizing the system, use a brush to apply soapy water to all potential leaking areas. These include fittings and threaded areas. Anywhere where a leak is present, the soapy water will start to bubble. You can then mark these areas and move into fixing those leaks down the line. 

A woman vacuuming the floor of the living room

Make sure to take care when pressurizing your vacuum system, as too much pressure can cause damage. O-rings and seals can become damaged if the pressure becomes too much. 

Tape test 

Tape is another inexpensive way to test for potential leaks upon your vacuum system. Place pieces of tape on any suspected leaking areas and turn on your system. Any area that has leaks will cause suction, thus causing the tape to be deflected inward. Your system won't need pressurization for the tape method to work. 

Ultrasonic leak detector

Ultrasonic leak detectors work by detecting high-frequency sounds that are associated with air leaks. These detectors convert these sounds to an audible range that is then transmissible through headsets. The one issue with this form of leak detection is its susceptibility to background noise. Any amount of background noise can mask or obfuscate the noise of a leak. 

Helium leak detector 

A helium leak detector is an incredibly accurate way of detecting leaks through the use of helium. A sensor is placed by the vacuum's inlet and used to detect any increase in concentrated helium in the airstream. Helium is then sprayed on any potential leaking spots, and if leaking, the helium gets sucked inward. The sensor then detects this movement of helium and alerts the user to a leak. 

Read: How Long Do Bissel Vacuums Last?

How many air watts do I need for a central vacuum?

The number of air watts you'll want from your central vacuum directly coincides with the size of your house. The bigger your house, the more wattage you'll want from your system. You'll want to roughly measure out the square footage of your home to begin with. This will help you make an informed choice on a quality machine to purchase for your home.

Better quality vacuums will have around 600 to 800 air watts, enough to successfully clean a home anywhere from 2,500 to 6,000 square feet. If your home is outside that range, you'll want to look into a stronger vacuum. This will help ensure you have adequate suction power at each outlet in your home. 

How do you calculate air watts?

Air wattage isn't the only indicator of a vacuum's power and efficiency, but it is one of the main ones in which central vacuums are judged. Wattage won't tell you the whole story, but it's a good place to start. Air wattage is based on suction, with airflow at the unit itself at the unit so it is affected by suction and internal resistance to airflow. The formula for air wattage is the following: (Air Flow * Vacuum)/8.5 = Air Watts. Airflow is in cubic feet per minute, and the vacuum is in inches of water lift. 

Air wattage should be readily available to you when looking for central air vacuums and if you feel uncertain with your math, feel free to ask experts with help on the air wattage of any systems you're looking into. 

Why has my central vacuum lost suction?

Your central vacuum may have lost suction for several reasons. Is your vacuum bag more than two-thirds full? If so, replace it before attempting to continue using your central vacuum. A bag with too much in it may impede suction.

Screens becoming impeded with debris can impede the suction of your vacuum. If replacing your bag doesn't work, check all your foam and cloth screens for blockage and replace them if necessary. Keep in mind there are secondary filters behind the main filters that might be causing the issue. 

If any visible blockage isn't the problem, checking to make sure your power unit gaskets are properly installed and in good condition. There is typically a large gasket that connects bottom emptying buckets to your vacuum's body. 

If your system has more than one motor, it's possible that one of your motors has failed. In that case, a replacement is necessary. A motor may appear to be working due to spinning, but this may just be air running through it. Make sure it is actually working uninterrupted for at least 20 minutes. 

How to fix a leaky central vacuum inlet valve?

A vacuum power sock inserted on the outlet

If you identify the loss of suction and it's in a leaky inlet valve, you'll want to start with unscrewing the inlet valve from the wall. If you need to remove any paint or wallpaper from the inlet, gently score around it with a knife to remove the paint or paper. This will safely remove the inlet and allow its complete removal from the wall. 

Gently pull and twist to remove the inlet from the wall. You won't need to remove or cut any wires, so make sure to leave those intact. Taking some electrician tape, place one or two good wraps around the neck of the valve. This will help build up the gasket that has likely deteriorated in older inlets. 

Feed the wires back in safely, and twist the inlet back into place. Push it in firmly and parallel to the wall, and screw it back into place. This should help with air loss and help retain suction back in your vacuum system. If need be, go back in and place slightly more tape for added suction. One more go-around should do it. 

Read: How to Hide Pipes in the Laundry Room?

Can you tape a vacuum hose?

If you've come to realize that the loss of airflow is due to a hole or damage in your hose, you might balk at the idea of full replacement. Especially if your hose is quite long and the hole is small but enough to cause problems. Tape seems like it could be a sufficient solution, and it can be, for a time. If properly applied to holes and dents in a hose, duct tape can work as a sealant. 

You will have to remove the stickiness from the tape so that it doesn't clog up the inside of your hose. You can do this by sprinkling some talcum powder and then suctioning it up, causing it to adhere to the inside of your tape and keeping your hose from getting clogged up. 

This tape will wear down and out over time, and you will likely need to replace your hose after a time. It's recommended that after the tape you applied peels off a second time, you bite the bullet and purchase another hose. 

In Closing 

Your central vacuum system is an important piece of maintaining your home that you're going to put a lot of money and effort into maintaining. In return, it will do a lot to help keep your living space pristine and comfortable. Thankfully if things do go awry with suction issues, there are ways you can help get your vacuum back to where you need it to be to keep your home and your life looking good. 

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