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Thread: Would you consider a central vacuum for small tool DC

  1. #1
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    Question Would you consider a central vacuum for small tool DC

    I have a dust collector for my large tools, but need to do something about my ROS and EQ55 Track Saw. I've been using a Ridgid Shop Vac, but it died. Before replacing it, I'd like to investigate your thoughts on using a central vacuum system.

    I think being able to mount the vac outside my shop would be a huge improvement noise and space wise. Of course, I'm sure this usage would void any type of manufacturer's warranty on the vacuum unit. Have others tried this? Outcome?

    Thanks
    Last edited by Lisa Starr; 10-27-2021 at 11:48 AM. Reason: Corrected typo

  2. #2
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    I don't think a central vacuum unit remotely mounted will have the cpm air flow of a good shop vac that is only a few feet away.

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    Lisa, I've been using my central vac for small power tools (sanders, track saw, domino, kreg forman, etc) for years. It works perfectly. Plenty of suction for all those tools, and I don't have that big of a power unit. I rigged up a remote control for it that hangs on my apron along with the one for the dust collector. I even use the central vac when sanding sheetrock. You get some white dust in the grass where the unit exhausts, but I'm ok with that.

    I made a simple adapter for each of my small power tool hoses that fits into the CV port.
    --Certainty is the refuge of a small mind--

  4. #4
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    They can be adapted and work well as Paul mentions. They are not generally designed for the kind of volume that is normally handled by a "shop vac", but for small tool extraction, rather than cleanup, it could be doable. Of course, it's one more "network" to install in the shop. You may also not get some of the feature benefits that you would enjoy with something like a Festool vac that has variable speed and remote/start sensing from the tool, etc. Make a tee chart of features, advantages and disadvantages of each method to help with your decision.

    Personally, I have a CT dedicated to small tools and have for years. A regular, small shop vac gets used for cleanup tasks.
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    The most expensive tool is the one you buy "cheaply" and often...

  5. #5
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    Not sure I would describe a central vac as a network any more than a shop vac or CT. All three require a power cord and inlet piping or hose to connect to the tool. The volume of a central vac is less than most shop vacs but it would be relatively easy to modify a central vac to increase the volume or add a Thien baffle or dust deputy upstream as many do with shop vacs. I think most central vacs have self cleaning filters (at least my twenty year old Beam does) which is an advantage over most shop vacs. Around here central vacs show up in the free section of Craigslist fairly often, if my Rigid shop vac were to die I might consider trying it. It would be interesting to compare the specs of a typical central vac vs a shop vac to see the relative cfm and suction.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Doug Garson View Post
    Not sure I would describe a central vac as a network any more than a shop vac or CT. All three require a power cord and inlet piping or hose to connect to the tool. The volume of a central vac is less than most shop vacs but it would be relatively easy to modify a central vac to increase the volume or add a Thien baffle or dust deputy upstream as many do with shop vacs. I think most central vacs have self cleaning filters (at least my twenty year old Beam does) which is an advantage over most shop vacs. Around here central vacs show up in the free section of Craigslist fairly often, if my Rigid shop vac were to die I might consider trying it. It would be interesting to compare the specs of a typical central vac vs a shop vac to see the relative cfm and suction.
    Two i just looked at - shop vac, 15gal was 204cfm, the generic central vac was 160.

  7. #7
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    i would be mount the power unit in another section of the building my shop is housed in. The unit would hang on the wall common with my shop and would likely require a minimum amount of piping as I would place my vac outlet on the shop side of that wall. My sanding area is approximately 4 to 5' from the outlet location. The space where I setup to use the track saw is also near that wall, so I would use the same vac outlet.

    Paul, Can you tell me about adapting from the vacuum outlet to your various tool ports? I imagined I could just 3D print some adapters, but is that a folly?

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Justin Rapp View Post
    Two i just looked at - shop vac, 15gal was 204cfm, the generic central vac was 160.
    Did the specs include the static or just cfm? Part of the challenge in doing a comparison is the lack of consistency in how performance is specified. For example one Beam central vac I looked at was rated at 550 AirWatts, which are calculated using the formula, (Air Flow (in CFM) x Vacuum (in inches of water lift)) / 8.5 = Air Watts . Most shop vacs don't state the vacuum or air watt ratings instead they state a meaningless peak horsepower.

  9. #9
    I've got an old central vac from my house that I am going to use for that exact purpose, primarily my random orbit sanders and probably porting other portable stuff to it. It probably has a capacity of a around 8 gallons, but it would be pulling mostly sanding dust, and that is a lot of sanding. I've already got a 3HP cyclone fort the big stuff.

    When I tested it out, I found that it had a heck of a lot of static pressure, far more than my shop vac, which would make up for any lack of cfm, particularly since I'm using it on tools that don't require a lot cfm. If anything, I will likely need to have some way of throttling back the volume and pressure. I'll probably plumb it up with 2" PVC.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Andrew Seemann View Post
    I've got an old central vac from my house that I am going to use for that exact purpose, primarily my random orbit sanders and probably porting other portable stuff to it. It probably has a capacity of a around 8 gallons, but it would be pulling mostly sanding dust, and that is a lot of sanding. I've already got a 3HP cyclone fort the big stuff.

    When I tested it out, I found that it had a heck of a lot of static pressure, far more than my shop vac, which would make up for any lack of cfm, particularly since I'm using it on tools that don't require a lot cfm. If anything, I will likely need to have some way of throttling back the volume and pressure. I'll probably plumb it up with 2" PVC.
    Probably better to control the suction by adding a variable opening in the side of pipe or hose rather than a throttling device. I think the motor is cooled by the airflow like a shopvac and starving the airflow is the biggest killer of shopvacs in my experience. Can be as simple as a hole in the pipe with a sleeve you can slide over it to vary the area. My central vac has this near the end of the hose.

  11. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by Doug Garson View Post
    Probably better to control the suction by adding a variable opening in the side of pipe or hose rather than a throttling device. I think the motor is cooled by the airflow like a shopvac and starving the airflow is the biggest killer of shopvacs in my experience. Can be as simple as a hole in the pipe with a sleeve you can slide over it to vary the area. My central vac has this near the end of the hose.
    That was the general idea; I just phrased it poorly Definitely no to slowing the motor or restricting the airflow. I would have some kind of adjustable opening in the line. The main thing would be to find a way to keep it from whistling like the big reversed organ pipe it is.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lisa Starr View Post
    i would be mount the power unit in another section of the building my shop is housed in. The unit would hang on the wall common with my shop and would likely require a minimum amount of piping as I would place my vac outlet on the shop side of that wall. My sanding area is approximately 4 to 5' from the outlet location. The space where I setup to use the track saw is also near that wall, so I would use the same vac outlet.

    Paul, Can you tell me about adapting from the vacuum outlet to your various tool ports? I imagined I could just 3D print some adapters, but is that a folly?
    Lisa,

    3D printing would certainly be a great way to do it, but I didn't find it to be complicated. Here's a pic:

    IMG_1010.jpg

    I found that a piece of "Structural FRP" tubing from Mcmaster, 1 1/2 OD, (Mcmaster 8535K72) fit almost perfectly into the central vac inlets that I have, requiring only a touch of sanding to get a nice snug fit. And by some good fortune, the "suck" end of the 2 or 3 hoses I use with most small tools fit tightly over the tubing as well. I might have had remove a hard plastic piece from one of the hoses. I had bought some 2" diameter heat shrink tubing to secure the hose to the tube, but I didn't even need to use it. I just cut off a 6" or so piece of tubing for each hose and it stays attached to the hose.

    If you're just dedicating this to dust collection, you don't really need to use a standard CV inlet, but those 30' lightweight hoses come in real handy for cleaning the shop.

    As far as CFM goes, I find you don't need much CFM with these smaller tools, you really need the ability to overcome the static pressure losses of those small dust ports and small diameter hoses; and a central vac does that well. BTW, my central vac is old, really old, and it has no filter bag or filter at all. It has a separation bin with a plastic cyclone type insert, and a very coarse screen to keep big stuff out of the fan, and then exhausts outside.
    --Certainty is the refuge of a small mind--

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Doug Garson View Post
    Not sure I would describe a central vac as a network any more than a shop vac or CT.
    Let me clarify...my use of the word "network" was very loose and referred to another implementation of duct in addition to that being used by the larger dust collection system. Hence, the quotes. I'm sorry that was not clear.
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  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Doug Garson View Post
    Probably better to control the suction by adding a variable opening in the side of pipe or hose rather than a throttling device. I think the motor is cooled by the airflow like a shopvac and starving the airflow is the biggest killer of shopvacs in my experience. Can be as simple as a hole in the pipe with a sleeve you can slide over it to vary the area. My central vac has this near the end of the hose.
    It depends upon the specific vacuum design. Some need the air flow from the primary operation to cool the vac motor and some do not and use other cooling methods. The units that have electronic speed/vacuum control likely have cooling provisions that don't require the air to be moving at full volume. Most basic design "shop vacs" do require that air flow so tapping the hose like you describe is a great way to reduce suction for things like sanding with fine abrasives without burning up the vacuum. I remember having a short fitting that had a sliding door thingie to do just that awhile ago before I bought my CT. Worked nicely.
    --

    The most expensive tool is the one you buy "cheaply" and often...

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Doug Garson View Post
    Did the specs include the static or just cfm? Part of the challenge in doing a comparison is the lack of consistency in how performance is specified. For example one Beam central vac I looked at was rated at 550 AirWatts, which are calculated using the formula, (Air Flow (in CFM) x Vacuum (in inches of water lift)) / 8.5 = Air Watts . Most shop vacs don't state the vacuum or air watt ratings instead they state a meaningless peak horsepower.
    It was just CFM for the shop vac. The vacuum i think had water lift but it isn't a good compare unless they both have it.

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