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Young Homeowners Drawn to Central Vacuums

Welcome to the ‘new smartphone technology’ of central vacuums.

By Casey Meserve, Staff Writer, - September 02, 2014

BEAM Central Vac

Central vacuum systems are finding their way into new homes with young tech-savvy owners. It’s a new trend for a product most often found in custom homes.

The bulky, noisy systems of the past have been replaced with sleekly designed systems with onboard sensors and display screens that communicate when the canister is full or when there is a blockage in the hose. They’re also quieter with sound-absorbing foam insulation around the motor, and they’re easier to maintain with self-cleaning HEPA filters.

They also come in a wide range of prices making them as affordable as an upright vacuum cleaner in many cases, and can clean much more than just the carpets. While high-end systems can cost upwards of $2,000 and more depending on living space, there are also small systems for apartments or condominiums that cost as low as $500, installed.

The Consumer Electronic Association and Home Innovation Research Laboratory did joint studies on the demands of new homebuilders, and central vacuum systems scored highly. The National Home Builders Association performed a study in 2013 called “What Home Buyers Really Want,” and 34 percent of consumers consider a central vac system technology they would like to have, behind multi-zone HVAC systems and home theaters.

BEAM Alliance Central Vacuum Handle

Greg Goodman, of Beam of Knoxville in Knoxville, Tenn., says young homeowners who have purchased their first home or condo are driving sales of central vacuums, and brands such as Electrolux are changing their designs and shifting their marketing strategies toward this demographic.

“It seems awareness is much higher in that age group than it was 15 years ago. I liken it to a smartphone,” Goodman says. “I say, ‘This is the new smartphone technology of central vacuums,’ and they’re immediately hooked on your presentation.”

Electrolux’s latest high-end system, the Beam Alliance, features LED lights, and LCD screen on the handle and the vacuum’s high-tech looking steel canister, and two-way communication between the handle and the canister that lets the operator know when the canister is full or if there’s a clog in the hose. The Beam systems meet both LEED and National Green Building standards for indoor air quality. The system removes biological, chemical and other pollutants in the home’s living space completely, evacuating the pollutants through the system’s filters, unlike a standard hand-operated vacuum cleaner.

The Alliance features a high-efficiency motor that delivers up to 700 air watts of cleaning power to remove more dirt and allergens while using 30 percent less energy than traditional central vacuum motors.

  • Sound suppression foam insulation around the motor, muffling the system’s noise to 86 decibels. Hose handle power control allows the user to reduce power for cleaning delicate items like sheer draperies and increase power for cleaning carpets or bare floors.
  • A “Quick Clean Valve” on the power unit allows users to control the system from the hose handle when cleaning a garage, car, boat or basement.
  • A permanent, self-cleaning HEPA filter prevents captured dust and allergens from re-entering the living space. It captures 98 percent of particulates at 0.3 microns and larger.
  • A secondary True HEPA filter captures 99.97 percent of particulates of 0.3 microns or larger come from the motor exhaust.

Beam Allaince 700TC

“It’s been kind of fun to present these,” Goodman continues. “We’re getting a whole new generation of central vac customers who are more in tune with technology.”

While custom home sales still make up the majority of sales, Goodman says young homeowners in their 30s and 40s are doing their research on vacuum cleaners and want systems with a high-tech design, but that also help maintain a healthy home.

“We have a more educated consumer now; either because they grew up with it, or they’re more aware, but they understand there is a clean air issue and they understand that a central vac system is the best way to maintain indoor air quality,” Goodman says.

Central vacuum systems like the Beam Alliance move 130 cubic feet of air per minute, evacuating the air from the living space and into the garage or utility room where it’s located where it’s vented from the house after going through a fine filter (some brands and models offer HEPA air filters).

The cost of central vac systems may have been prohibitive in the past; Goodman says that’s not the case with younger consumers who are willing to pay for the features they want. “People pay $1,600 for a portable vacuum and they could have had a central vac for just a couple hundred dollars more. And the young customer understands that right away,” he says.

The changes in the demographics also means that consumers are purchasing smaller systems for condo and smaller new homes being constructed closer to cities, according to Lars Hybel, global general manager for Electrolux. “Before the [housing] crisis the dream was to have the biggest possible house in the outer suburbs. And now we see the demographics moving toward the city,” Hybel says.

That shift has led Electrolux to look at their production strategy. Next year Electrolux will offer a down-sized model for smaller homes, townhouses and condominiums. “Some product development for 2015 centers around smaller products that fit into cabinets, closets and utility areas for townhouse-type living,” Hybel says.

While central vacuum systems are still seen, and marketed, as a building appliance designed for upmarket and custom homes, the new focus on technology and indoor air quality has driven younger and new homeowners to seek out systems and make the purchase, which in turn has changed the marketing strategies of some of the largest manufacturers.