Two different vacuums for two different jobs
I want to add a dust-collection system to my shop. When my house was built, I had it pre-plumbed for a whole-house vacuum. Can any of the shop dust-collection systems be used as a whole-house vacuum, or can any house systems be used for work-shop dust collection?
—Dave Fricke, Akron, Ohio
Either way, Dave, we've gotta say no. A central vacuum system is designed to pull air through 2" pipes at roughly 110 to 210 cubic feet per minute (CFM). A whole-house system outlet in your shop is fine for collecting fine sawdust and a light amount of small chips, as shown above, but a planer, jointer, or tablesaw hooked up to such a system would quickly choke those narrow pipes with debris.
Turning a workshop dust collector into a whole-house vacuum presents two problems. You'll need a way to automatically switch on the vacuum when you plug in the hose, a standard feature on whole-house vacuums. Even if you solve that problem, there's still the risk of damaging the motor by trying to draw approximately 1,400 CFM—the airflow for a 2hp dust collector—through pipes and attachments with openings 2" in diameter or less.