There has been some debate about the use of schedule 40 PVC plumbing pipe for central vacuum installations. Roger Ambrose, President and CEO of Central Vacuum Stores, has more than 32 years of experience installing vac systems. Roger’s company sells thousands and thousands of feet of central vacuum ASTM certified pipe every year, but they also sell a patented adapter that allows customers to use plumbing PVC schedule 40 pipe to install a central vacuum.
“The industry standard is central vacuum pipe and manufacturer’s recommend vacuum pipe in residential installations.” says Roger, “Every industry has to have a standard, but there is really no difference between vacuum tubing and plumbing tubing, except for the diameter. Because so many engineers on industrial jobs were requesting PVC schedule 40 plumbing pipe, we decided to develop an adapter that would allow our residential customers to use the same product our industrial customers were using. As of January 2011 we have sold over 70,000 of these adapters.”
Some websites claim that building inspectors will not approve plumbing PVC schedule 40 for central vacuum systems. “We haven’t had a single customer experience a problem with building inspectors approving their central system installed with plumbing pipe since we started selling the adapters 8 years ago. In fact, we recommend our customers call the local building department in their area to verify what we are saying. We have actually spent a sizable amount of time calling building departments in major cities across the country, and many just chuckled when we asked if they would approve plumbing PVC schedule 40 for central vacuum installations. The answer was always ‘yes’.”
The adapter developed by CentralVacuumStores.com allows plumbing PVC pipe to connect to vacuum PVC pipe. The patents pending adapters are designed in such a way that the plumbing pipe and the vacuum pipe actually fit snuggly into each end of the adapter creating a smooth interior wall. This means the possibility of interference from the connection is eliminated. The adapters are actually connected outside of the pipe, allowing efficient airflow to move dirt and debris through the system and into the dirt container without interference or potential for clogs.
The engineers from Murray Company, Mechanical Contractors in Compton, California, requested PVC schedule 40 for a vacuum system when they called Central Vacuum Stores. “Since these are the guys with the education and experience, we decided to ask them for their professional opinion,” Ambrose explains. “We wanted to know if they knew of any disadvantages to using plumbing schedule 40 instead of vacuum tubing and the engineers at Murray agreed there were none. They told us they could find no reason why 2″ schedule 40 PVC would affect the system in a negative way.”
In the end, customer preference is what it all comes down to. Central vacuum tubing is more flexible and a little easier to work with while plumbing PVC schedule 40 pipe is slightly stronger and more readily available. One very important thing to remember is, if you decide to use plumbing pipe, only use large sweep elbows instead of hard sweeps. Hard sweeps would restrict the movement of debris through your system and should never be used with a central vacuum system.