When it Comes to Value-Added Sales, Central Vacuums Do Not Suck

A recent study conducted by the University of California at Davis called upon 25 allergy sufferers to participate in a six-month experiment. Their mission? To pay close attention to their vacuuming habits.
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A recent study conducted by the University of California at Davis called upon 25 allergy sufferers to participate in a six-month experiment. Their mission? To pay close attention to their vacuuming habits.

The study was divided into two parts: for three months, participants would vacuum their homes using a conventional-or portable-vacuum. For another three months, they would use a central vacuum system. (For this study, Beam Serenity Series Central Vacuum Systems were used.) Each week, participants would report on the state of their allergies. When the six months were up, these individuals relayed significant improvements in eye, nasal and non-nasal symptoms, as well as improvements in sleep, emotional well being and overall level of activity while using the central vacuum system.

Vacuuming may not be the most glamorous subject, but for custom installation companies touting their "one-stop shop" capabilities, the sale of central vacuum systems may be necessary.

"One of the things that really appeals to people is to have a clean, safe home," said Bob Oliver, business development manager at Beam Industries (www.beamvac.com), a central vacuum system manufacturer headquartered in Webster City, Iowa. "For people with allergies and asthma, clean is equivalent to safe, because you don't have an environment that is triggering your allergic or asthmatic reactions."

Central vacuum systems place the dirt canister in a spot less frequented-the basement, a storage closet or the garage-minimizing dust particles in the main living area.

Last fall, the American Lung Association Health House program utilized Beam Serenity Series systems as part of a promotional campaign that emphasized the importance of healthy living environments. "Because of managed health care, Americans are becoming acutely aware of the cost of their illnesses, and they are having to pay for most of it themselves," Oliver said. "That produces an awareness that they are the masters of their own fates. People are very interested in their health and the health of their families."

Richard Kitney of Hayden Industries (www.haydenvac.com), a central vacuum system manufacturer based in Brantford, Ontario, Canada, offered advice on how to gain the most health benefits from central vacuum systems. "To get true value out of a central vac system, the system should be exhausted to an outside wall. That way, you are truly creating a healthier home environment because all of the allergen-causing pollutants that blow past canister bags and upright bags after vacuuming are in the air, and you are just reintroducing that into the room that you are vacuuming. You continue to breathe them in over and over again. With central vac being exhausted outside, everything is going outside. We have worked so hard to make our homes energy efficient and in the process, really sealed them off to keep all of these allergens in. If you are using a portable vacuum you may be cleaning your carpet, but you are not cleaning the air and creating a healthy home environment."

M.D. Manufacturing (www.centralvacuum.com), has developed a system it calls AirForce, which the company claims minimizes sound. In this case, the canister has been reduced in size to allow users in smaller living spaces to take advantage of central vacuum systems. "It allows the unit to be put in spaces such as a closet or a pantry," said M.D.'s general manager, Grant Olewiler. "We have very small units that fit underneath bathroom sinks. In a condo situation where you don't have much room, you can have it in a smaller location as long as you can run exhaust from that location." In addition, the system is activated wirelessly.

Still, the implementation of central vac is a long way from the integration of Crestron control systems. Michael Turner, general manager and buyer at Stereo & Video Integrators Inc. (732.796.7000) a custom installation company based in Middletown, New Jersey, admitted that at first, the idea of becoming a central vac dealer seemed a little far-fetched.

"At the beginning, we did not sell the product at all because we sell stereo systems and structured wiring, and those types of products," said Turner, who now sells the Dirt Devil Platinum Series. "Then we tried it. It's really installing the piping and everything that goes along with it, and it's not as involved as doing structured wiring. We introduced it to some of the builders, and they immediately wanted us to show the systems in our design centers. The customers gave us a huge response."

Bud Kirkpatrick, president of Dirt Devil manufacturer, H-P Products Inc., (www.hpproducts.net and www.vacuflo.com), noted that many builders would like to get all of their low voltage systems from one source. "Those low voltage systems include security, home theater, audio, central vacuum, and, in many cases, lighting and structured wiring. Because builders are asking for that, there is a trend for those dealers that carry one type of system to start carrying the others."

Doug Dodd, systems designer at Audio Advisors (www.audioadvisors.com), a custom installation firm in West Palm Beach, Florida, is matter-of-fact: "Central vac is one of the more mundane items, but it also is one of those things where, if you are doing a high-end house, it is something that you need."

In fact, the implementation of central vacuum systems led to a significant contract for Audio Advisors not long ago. When a high-end housing development was constructed in the West Palm Beach area, the company was called upon to propose a bid for the central vac systems for the entire community of homes, which were priced between $1 million and $5 million, according to Jeff Hoover, president of the dealer. Not only did Hoover's his team win the bid for central vac, they were also contracted to implement structured wiring and security systems.

"Had we not been central vac dealers, they wouldn't have sent us a bid package, we wouldn't have done anything about it and then we would have lost all of that work," Hoover said. "If we are really going to be everything we say we are to our clients, we have to incorporate everything."

Carolyn Heinze (carolyn@punchface.com) works from her office in Vancouver, Canada.

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