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Get to Know LEED®: Central Vacuum for Contaminant Control

Sunset Green Home is about to close up its walls.  Electrical and plumbing inspections have been completed. And installation of insulation is underway.  We're only a few days away from beginning to install the home's drywall.

On a recent visit, I snapped a few photos of an important system that is installed inside the home's walls: our BEAM Alliance central vacuum system.  Most households own a vacuum cleaner, but did you know that the LEED for Homes green building program awards a point toward LEED certification to projects that install a central vacuum system with exhaust to the outdoors? 

Here's why...

According to the LEED for Homes Reference Guide, "a majority of the dirt and dust in homes is tracked in by occupants.  Debris carried into the house from shoes often contains lead, asbestos, pesticides, and other hazardous materials...Central vacuums exhaust collected dust and particulates to the outdoors."

In last month's Practical Sustainability column, I advocated taking one's shoes off inside the house.  We do it at home, and find that our home stays cleaner and requires less maintenance.  But even when we remove our shoes, we still find that our floor needs to be vacuumed.  Conventional vacuums recirculate the air they use to draw dirt inside.  Even the best filters still exhaust the smallest particulates back into the room.  By contrast, since LEED compliant central vacuums exhaust the air outdoors, any particulates that are picked up by the vacuum will either be trapped by the system or exhausted to the home's exterior.

Central vacuum systems are easy to install in new construction (and can also be retrofitted into existing homes).  Inlet valves are installed in the walls or baseboards as in the photo below:

The wall inlet valves are connected to vacuum piping, which runs to the power unit (located in the home's mechanical room, in the case of Sunset Green Home.  Note, in the photo below, the low voltage wire that runs along the piping, enabling the vacuum handle to communicate with the power unit in a BEAM Alliance system.

Sunset Green Home will earn one point toward certification by installing a central vacuum system.  We're using the BEAM Alliance - 650SB model, which features a hose handle that communicates with the power unit located in Sunset Green Home's mechanical room.  The bells and whistles are nice to have, but what makes us really happy is the knowledge that we're installing a system designed to improve Sunset Green Home's indoor air quality.

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