How do Vacuum Systems Work?

Vacuum systems operate by creating a space devoid of air, where the pressure is lower than that of the surrounding atmosphere. This differential allows vacuums to suck in particles or fluids, harnessing physics to clean or transport materials. Intrigued by the science behind this everyday tool? Discover how this invisible force powers various technologies in our comprehensive guide. What will you uncover?
Carol Francois
Carol Francois

All vacuum systems work by creating a difference in air pressure. The initial suction is created by the reduction of pressure inside the vacuum tube, either with the use of a pump or a motor. Atmospheric pressure sucks the air into the vacuum system to return the pressure levels to normal.

To understand how vacuum systems work, follow the steps below. Stand upright and place the palm of your hands on your stomach. Feel your stomach move as your breath in and out. Breathe out as much air as you can and observe what happens next. As soon as you stop pushing the air out, your lungs will force you to inhale -- exactly how vacuum systems work. In order to equalize the air pressure in your lungs, the air is sucked in with no effort by you.

Canister vacuums have motorized canisters housed separately from the vaucuum's beater head.
Canister vacuums have motorized canisters housed separately from the vaucuum's beater head.

Vacuum systems are used in households as well as manufacturing. There are five different types of vacuum cleaners available for household usage. Each of these models offers slightly different features, but all vacuum systems work on the same basic principles.

Upright vacuum cleaners use a brush roll or beater bar to agitate the dirt and then pick it up through the use of fans. There are two types of fan designs: dirty fan or clean fan. The dirty fan design places the fan close to the suction opening and the clean fan design placed the fan behind the dirt collection bag.

A canister vacuum cleaner has a motorized canister housed separately from the vacuum beater head. Wet vacuums use the same principles as canister vacuum cleaners, but are designed for use with wet and dry materials. Pneumatic vacuums are connected to compressed air and are common in industrial facilities.

Central, or built-in, vacuum cleaners have a powerful motor permanently installed in the building. Ductwork and vacuum inlets are located throughout the facility. The user needs to carry just the hose and pickup head in order to vacuum the space. The power provided by this type of system is typically must stronger than other types of vacuums, as significant pressure must be generated to create the appropriate level of suction in a system with multiple outlets.

Vacuum systems are very common in manufacturing and robotics installations. Ongoing research and development work is underway to promote better measurement and analysis of vacuums and pumping. These mechanical functions have an impact on the future development of vacuum systems and are in great demand for use with space exploration projects.

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Discussion Comments


I have used several different vacuum systems and while I am thankful that each of them works, I have a favorite that I keep going back to.

I bought an upright Oreck vacuum that I just love. It is so light weight and easy to carry with me wherever I need to go. This makes the job of vacuuming so much easier for me.

It also does a good job of picking up lint and small pieces of dirt from the floor. I can use this vacuum in every area of my house as it works on carpet, tile and hard wood floors.

I have never given much thought before to how a vacuum system works, I just know that I am thankful for them. If I have to go a week or so without one, I realize how dependent I am on them to keep my floors clean.


When we moved to our home three years ago, there was already a central vacuum system installed. This was the first time I had used a vacuum like this and was used to using an upright vacuum.

I was excited about it and thought I would love it. There are many advantages to it, such as not having to carry around a vacuum with you everywhere. The hose is also quite long so you can cover a big area at once.

My biggest complaint about it is that because the hose is so long, it is hard to keep it from getting tangled. It seems like I spend about as much time making sure the hose is straight as it does to vacuum the whole room.

I still have my upright vacuum and keep it in the basement. This way I don't have to drag the hose downstairs when I want to vacuum down there.

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    • Canister vacuums have motorized canisters housed separately from the vaucuum's beater head.
      By: Supertrooper
      Canister vacuums have motorized canisters housed separately from the vaucuum's beater head.