Yes, the central vacuum has come a long way since its debut during the late 19th century, and the effectiveness of today’s central vacs are far superior to the ones back then, but are you familiar enough with the physics involved that you would truly be able to appreciate the advances made? Simply read on to find out just how amazing these phenomena are!

1. Centrifugal Force

Its name may have a cool ring to it, but centrifugal force is a “fictitious” or “pseudo” force in Newtonian physics; it’s used to describe the illusion of force on moving objects as seen in a rotating frame of reference. Ever felt like you were about to fly off that rollercoaster? That’s centrifugal force. Likewise, when a cyclonic vacuum system separates debris from the air stream, the force would appear to propel the debris outward. The debris eventually reaches the bottom of the funnel and becomes deposited, as if its momentum were depleted (when it was actually simply a mirror image opposite to its centripetal force, which is explained below).

People enjoying the centrifugal force.

People enjoying the centrifugal force.

2. Centripetal Force

Centrifugal force may be an optical illusion, but centripetal force—“centripetal” meaning “center-seeking” in Latin—isn’t. Whereas centrifugal force appears to push a moving object outwardly from its center of rotation, centripetal force pulls the object inwardly toward the center of rotation; the inward pull on the person on a spinning playground roundabout is centripetal force. You can observe the vacuumed material act on this force as it gets sucked into the funnel of the cyclone.

Centripetal force.

3. Atmospheric Pressure

Atmospheric pressure is another crucial aspect that enters the equation, since it affects suction. (Since suction is possible due to the lowering of earth’s atmospheric pressure, differently suited vacuum cleaners would be necessary on different planets.) Just think: In space, trying to use the best of our special vacs would be utterly futile!

A hose sucking in dust.


4. Gravity

The law of gravity is perhaps the most well-known among the physical laws listed here. In a cyclone system, gravity enables the dust to settle and collect in a canister (or a bag). Without gravitational forces, dust would constantly float weightlessly and make canister maintenance a much more arduous process, although the reduced cluttering would likely mean less mold and therefore, less smell!

A man taking the dirt out of a central vac.

Thanks, gravity!

5. Humanity

Last but not least: This is where you come in. The importance of the human being using the equipment cannot be understated. Known as the X-factor as well as the one who sets everything into motion (by pressing “On”), the vacuum user is arguably the most important part of the operation.

A person inserting the end of the central vac hose into the wall inlet.

The X-factor.


Newtonian laws of motion and the human element aside, the central vacuum is a delight to use. I mean, what better way to start your chores than cooking up a storm (literally)? Let us nerd out together about these wondrous pieces of equipment at Don’s Heating and Cooling!