I consider a vacuum an essential tool aboard any cruising or liveaboard yacht. Our big Ridgid Canister Vac has performed well for cleaning up nasty project dust, but also for the typical indoor debris from floors, counters and upholstery in the cabin. While living on a previous boat, I actually placed this same utility vac deep in the lazarette and routed a lengthened hose and power cord into the cabin. I left the power switch to the vacuum in the ON position. To begin cleaning, I would take out the hose and plug the power cord into a 110v outlet in the galley. This makeshift central vacuum served us well, but proved too inconvenient when another project required its removal.
A much more elegant solution was to install a vacuum manufactured for permanent onboard use. A little research and I decided on the ‘Dometic RVac Ultra-Compact Central Vacuum’ ($237 amazon). The unit is very well built and extremely powerful for its size. The capacity is quite small, but the bags are easy to change. The included accessories are also of a very high quality. I’m particularly happy with the hose. Many new vacuums come with a disappointingly short and inflexible corrugated plastic hose. The RVac instead has a highly flexible hose that can extend up to 40 ft! By deciding on a location for the unit at the center of the boat, the hose easily reaches every corner of the cabin, from stem to stern.
The installation was straightforward.
- Install a 110v outlet near the mounting location.
- Cut a hole for the vacuum unit to be flush mounted in a cabinet or bulkhead.
- Mount vacuum and plug it in.
The installation may be uncomplicated, however even an experienced marine electrician will warn you that running cable can be very time consuming. If you can, install the vacuum near an existing 110v outlet to make it much easier to run your cable to the new (interior) outlet. In my case I had to spend considerable time routing some marine grade triplex into the hanging locker which was now home to the backside of the new vacuum. Thankfully, the cable, receptacles and outlet box were all existing parts that I had aboard. The voltages in your 110v system are dangerous and an improperly wired circuit can kill! If you’re not familiar with how to properly wire an A/C outlet, ask a knowledgeable friend for help, or hire an electrician. I always check my work with a plug-in style polarity tester that I purchased at Home Depot.
Measure twice cut once. Even with my assiduous attention to detail, I messed this one up. After precisely marking the location of my hole, I found it to be a bit too high. I was concerned that the vacuum would interfere with other wiring on the back side of the bulkhead. So, I marked it again. I even used my parallel rules from the nav desk to ensure that everything would be inline with the corner of the existing joinery. Next, I used a small hole saw to remove material at the corners that would allow me to neatly begin my cuts with the jigsaw. Then it happened... I drilled a 1 inch hole right through the bulkhead in the wrong spot! “Amateur mistake,” I thought to myself. Oh well, I finished the installation by drilling, jigsaw cutting, and securing the vacuum in its new hole. Later, I widened the ‘mistake’ hole to accept a 12 volt usb charging outlet. I wired that directly to the DC panel above with an inline fuse. Aberration concealed.