What are Central Vacuum Airwatts?

If you’ve been shopping for a central vacuum lately you’ve come across the term “airwatts” quite frequently in your search for the perfect built-in vacuum system. What exactly does this term mean though? It gets thrown around quite a bit by dealers, and sometimes it’s not used in the most honest of ways. In this article were going to dig down into the term and what it means for the central vacuum industry. We’ve called upon several people, including the head technician at central vacuum direct to give their insight into this term and how it should affect customers buying decision.

First off, what is airwatts and how is it related to the suction power of a built in vacuum?  Airwatts is a combination of the airflow (cubic ft. per minute) and water lift (inches of H20) a power unit provides at the point where the suction goes into the unit. The calculation is based on a special formula that uses these two variables which is used to come out with the third variable, “airwatts”.

Now that we know how this variable is calculated, it is important to recognize how it can be misleading in the central vac industry. A built-in vac essentially uses three components:

1) an outer body, preferably made of steel but for cheaper units is made of polycarbonate (a fancy name for plastic)

2) an electronic control board to turn the machine on and off and provide you with the necessary electrical functions.

3) a motor to provide the vacuum needed to create the suction for the power unit.

It is very hard to be misleading when it comes to electronics and steel, so this only leaves the motor as the main part you should be concerned with when purchasing your central vac. There are several different types of motors that are available as you can see from the graphic below.


This graphic shows the wide range of motors that can be used in built-in systems, and the differences between them. Cheaper power units will always use a flow-thru or peripheral bypass motor and the more expensive ones will use the tangential bypass motor. Canavac, the only company to use the infinity tangential bypass motor, uses a higher grade motor that lasts about 50% longer than the average power unit.

When you’re searching for a new power unit, always be weary of what type of motor is installed. As a wise man once said “the bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten” and in the central vac industry it truly comes down to “you pay for what you get”.

Thanks for reading and happy cleaning!

The Central Vac Guys

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