HVAC Vacuum Pumps: Which Are The Best? – An In-Depth Review

HVAC Vacuum Pumps - Which Are The Best– An In-Depth Buyer’s Guide
HVAC Vacuum Pumps - Which Are The Best– An In-Depth Buyer’s Guide
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If you ever plan on performing maintenance on your own HVAC system, especially your air conditioner or heat pump, probably the most important thing you will need to have on hand is a good vacuum pump.

In fact, a vacuum pump can be handy for many different projects or tasks around the house and garage, and getting a good quality unit becomes pretty important since you might end up using it a lot more than you expect. 

That is why we have compiled this 2020 buyer’s guide and review of vacuum pumps – to help you get the very best vacuum pump for your needs and your money, and one that will work well and dependably for many years.

What is a Vacuum Pump?

A vacuum pump is a motor-driven device which removes pressure from and creates a vacuum in a closed system. 

But what exactly does that mean? Basically that the vacuum pump provides suction which will remove all air from something. In the case of air conditioners, for example, it will remove air from the refrigerant reservoir and pipes, allowing for their cleaning, for leak checking and for replacement of refrigerant after the system is cleaned and repaired.

As a vacuum pump will also remove water, contaminants and all other unwanted fluid and debris, this process can greatly increase both the effectiveness and the life of an air conditioner or heat pump.

And while this is a pretty advanced and involved job for a DIYer, and is usually done by a certified HVAC technician, there are a lot of people who do it for themselves.

But a good vacuum pump has so many other uses that some consider it an essential part of any home maintenance kit.

What is a Vacuum Pump Used For?

A vacuum pump can be used for:

  • HVAC Fluid Exhaustion, System Cleaning and Recharging
  • Attaining and Maintaining Vacuum in an HVAC (or other) System
  • Car, Motorcycle, Boat and Other Engine Maintenance
  • Wine Making and Brewing
  • Food Packaging and Preservation
  • Woodworking
  • Many Other Hobbies and Crafts
  • Plumbing

This is a very basic list, mostly centring on home and DIY uses, but there are many other practical applications for a vacuum pump, in-home, commercial and industrial settings.

What Size Vacuum Pump do I Need?

The primary measure of a vacuum pump’s size, or power, is a number called CFM, or Cubic Feet per Minute – the larger the number, the stronger the pump.

The other main specification you will see is the vacuum level, which is measured in Microns. The smaller the micron level or number, the more complete vacuum the pump is capable of producing – so, in this case, smaller is better. 

That said, it is notable that many professional technicians with years of experience say that neither CFM nor vacuum level (microns) is actually important in choosing a vacuum pump! Indeed, they say, a typical HVAC closed system will not actually hold or maintain a level of vacuum low enough for these numbers to even be meaningful.

We know – this is contrary to what you will read almost anywhere else!

Indeed, if we were to go by the recommendations offered by a typical internet buyer’s guide for the best vacuum pumps available in 2020, we would probably not even consider the very best pumps on the market today – the very vacuum pumps real, working HVAC professionals recommend we should buy!

How Do I Choose the Best Vacuum Pump?

So, on one hand, all the internet guides say that you should look at CFM, Micron Level, One or Two-Stage Operation, Motor Size, Oil Glass and all kinds of other features and specifications, even if one gets the feeling that the writers have never used a vacuum pump in their life.

But actual contractors and technicians say none of that really matters. And indeed, even the higher-end commercial vacuum pumps have specifications which don’t always seem that impressive.

Yet those professionals have been using these vacuum pumps for years and years, sometimes for hours and hours a day, and these pumps always get the job – any size job – done, and keep on working in even the most extreme conditions.

But is a professionally recommended, superior quality vacuum pump actually too much? Is it more than you need? 

No – a cheaper pump will, by all reports, leak, fail repeatedly when you use it and eventually just die. If you continue to need and use a vacuum pump, within a few years you might spend many times the amount you would spend getting a good pump right from the start – and that good vacuum pump will work better, faster, cooler and more quietly, and make any job a little easier.

Which Vacuum Pump Would a Professional Recommend?

So our buyer’s guide will take a different tack than the average article. We have talked to actual working contractors, and have done extensive internet research among commercial sites and forums, in order to find out what brands and models of vacuum pumps are best, most reliable and offer the best value. 

We are not so interested in specifications, since the professionals tell us again and again that any good vacuum pump will create enough of a vacuum for any residential job or DIY project (we will nonetheless include the features and specifications of each of our recommended vacuum pumps).

We are, however, quite interested in reliability, effectiveness and value for the money – and, again, we do not assume performance is reflected in published specifications, and value, in this case, is emphatically not the same thing as low price!

So, for home use, or even most light commercial use, any one of the pumps on our list of the best vacuum pumps available in 2020 will do the job quite nicely, offering the features, performance and quality you need in ample measure. And any of the units would be equally good choices for even the busiest professional contractors and technicians and will work well for many years.

You can, then, make your final decision based solely on your own budget – as good as all of our choices are, the more expensive vacuum pumps will generally offer even longer life, and possibly faster performance and quieter operation, but any of them will be more than adequate for even an advanced DIYer:

Robinair VacuMaster 15310 Single Stage Vacuum Pump

This Robinair VacuMaster vacuum pump is designed for long life and reliability, with a cool running motor and an oil system which makes monitoring, adding and completely replacing oil easy.

And, unlike less expensive “budget” vacuum pumps (which almost without fail end up costing a lot more over the long run, and which people tend to just throw away if there’s any problem) the Robinair 15310 is easy to maintain and to repair. Of course, being a Robinair product, it has an almost infinitely smaller chance of ever having a problem than the cheaper brands’ pumps.

The least expensive vacuum pump we know of which is actually used and recommended by professionals, the Robinair VacuMaster 15310 offers extraordinary quality, reliability and performance for the money, and is our choice for best value overall in a vacuum pump in 2020.

Robinair VacuMaster 15310 Single Stage Vacuum Pump Features and Specifications:

  • Free Air Displacement: 3 CFM (Cubic Feet per Minute)
  • Vacuum Level: 75 Microns
  • 1/4 Horsepower Thermally Protected Motor 
  • Single Stage Operation
  • Easy to Read Sight Glass for Oil Level
  • Factory Warranty: 1 Year Parts and Labor
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Robinair (15310) VacuMaster Single Stage Vacuum Pump - Single-Stage, 3 CFM
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Robinair (15310) VacuMaster Single Stage Vacuum Pump - Single-Stage, 3 CFM
  • Robinair's VacuMaster Single-Stage Vacuum...
  • 3 CFM free air displacement; factory rated to...
  • 1/4 HP, 110V/60Hz thermally protected motor
  • Features an inlet fitting engineered for...
  • 1/4 inch flare and 1/2 inch ACME inlet...

Robinair VacuMaster 15500 Two Stage Vacuum Pump

With a higher pulling force and a two-stage motor, the Robinair VacuMaster 15500 vacuum pump will reach vacuum levels more quickly than its less expensive counterpart above, and some pros say that the increased performance, and the larger motor, will make the 15500 last even longer.

Either way, though, you are still getting the same Robinair quality of materials and construction, and professional quality design and performance for a low price. But if a vacuum pump which works fast, and cuts your work time, is important, the Robinair 15500 is a perfect choice.

A great performer that’s sure to last for many years, the Robinair VacuMaster 15500 is our choice for best vacuum pump for home use in 2020.

Robinair VacuMaster 15500 Single Stage Vacuum Pump Features and Specifications:

  • Free Air Displacement: 5 CFM (Cubic Feet per Minute)
  • Vacuum Level: 35 Microns
  • 1/3 Horsepower Thermally Protected Motor 
  • Two-Stage Operation
  • Easy to Read Sight Glass for Oil Level
  • Factory Warranty: 1 Year Parts and Labor
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Robinair (15500) VacuMaster Economy Vacuum Pump - 2-Stage, 5 CFM
  • Robinair's VacuMaster Economy Vacuum Pump is...
  • 5 CFM free air displacement; factory rated to...
  • 1/3 HP, 115V/60 Hz thermally protected motor
  • Features an inlet fitting engineered for...
  • 1/4 inch MFL & 3/8 inch ACME inlet fittings,...

Robinair CoolTech 15600 Two Stage Professional Vacuum Pump

While the two models above are the most highly recommended by professionals for home and DIY use, with the Robinair CoolTech line we are getting into vacuum pumps that those professional contractors actually use in their day to day work.

The Robinair CoolTech 15600 vacuum pump has higher specifications, which allow it to be used for bigger jobs, like servicing larger capacity HVAC systems quickly and effectively.

And while all Robinair products are made to exceptionally high standards, the CoolTech is a pump that, with proper care, can work for hours and hours every day without any loss of performance or issues with reliability.

The CoolTech 15600 may be overkill for the average DIY project, but its fast, quiet and cool operation is a joy, and you can be certain it will last a lifetime – pumps like this are exactly why Robinair has a legendary reputation for quality, and the CoolTech 15600 is our choice for the best value in a vacuum pump for professional use.

Robinair VacuMaster 15600 Two Stage Vacuum Pump Features and Specifications:

  • Free Air Displacement: 6 CFM (Cubic Feet per Minute)
  • Vacuum Level: 15 Microns
  • 1/2 Horsepower Thermally Protected Motor 
  • Two-Stage Operation
  • Offset Rotary Vanes
  • Durable Molded Polycarbonate Base
  • Iso-Valve System Isolating Lever
  • Easy to Read Sight Glass for Oil Level
  • Factory Warranty: 1 Year Parts and Labor

[lasso type=”button” ref=”robinair-15600-cooltech-vacuum-pump-2-stage-6-cfm” id=”13500″ link_id=”2995″]

For even faster, more powerful vacuum pull, consider the VacuMaster 15120A, rated at 10 CFM.

Robinair (15600) CoolTech Vacuum Pump - 2-Stage, 6 CFM
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Robinair (15600) CoolTech Vacuum Pump - 2-Stage, 6 CFM
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  • Offset rotary vanes build powerful...
  • Iso-Valve isolates pump from system with just...
  • 1/4, 3/8, and 1/2 inch male flare inlet...

Yellow Jacket SuperEvac 93560 Two Stage Vacuum Pump

With features that really matter to the working contractor – like the balanced carrying handle and strap, ultra-precision vacuum gauge and deep vacuum pull –  the Yellow Jacket 93560 vacuum pump is a favourite among professionals.

The 93560 has an all-metal construction and extremely tight tolerances, which not only allow for the deepest pull but also ensure this is among the most reliable and longest-lasting vacuum pumps available today. This made in America vacuum pump also has a hardened drive shaft and cap screws, large bearings and an intake filter screen, all adding to this superb unit’s reliability and long life.

A large oil reservoir ensures longer running times, lower temperatures and less contamination, and the oil can be changed without losing vacuum. In addition, a gas ballast keeps the oil cleaner longer, and an internal intake check valve keeps oil from backing up during power failures.

Offering excellent design, superior quality and real usability, the Yellow Jacket SuperEvac 93560 is our choice for best vacuum pump for professional use.

Ritchie Engineering Yellow Jacket 93560 SuperEvac Two Stage Vacuum Pump Features and Specifications:

  • Free Air Displacement: 6 CFM (Cubic Feet per Minute)
  • Vacuum Level: 15 Microns
  • 1/2 Horsepower Thermally Protected Motor 
  • Two-Stage Operation
  • Built-In Vacuum Gauge
  • All Metal Construction and Heavy Duty Rubber Base 
  • Isolation Valve for On the Go Oil Change
  • Large Sight Glass for Oil Level
  • Large Brass Oil Drain
  • Gas Ballast
  • Internal Intake Check Valve
  • Intake Filter Screen
  • Heavy Duty Rotors and Bearings
  • Heavy Duty Steel Handle with Lift Hook
  • Factory Warranty: 1 Year Parts and Labor

Also highly recommended, and even more powerful, the Yellow Jacket  93580 and the Yellow Jacket 93590 SuperEvac Two Stage Vacuum Pumps offer 8 CFM and 11 CFM respectively.

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Yellow Jacket 93560 6CFM VAC PUMP 115V SUPEREVAC
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Yellow Jacket 93560 6CFM VAC PUMP 115V SUPEREVAC
  • heavy duty rotor and bearing
  • heavy duty steel handle for well balanced...
  • 1/2 horsepower power rating

JB Industries DV-285N Platinum 10 CFM Vacuum Pump

Professional vacuum pumps are always extremely well made, durable and reliable machines, which always work exactly as they are meant to.

And yet, somehow, JB Industries pumps are considered by professionals to be the best of the best – widely recognized as the best operating, best built and the nicest vacuum pumps to use.

This is why they are also the most recommended among HVAC service personnel and all kinds of professional contractors.

The JB Industries DV-285N Platinum is the company’s top of the line model, with superior performance, possibly the best build quality available today and truly useful professional features.

But what the pros mention is not the aluminium fin motor housing, the brass fittings, the ultra-stable base, the check valve or the gas ballast, but how well the DV-285N works, and how it never fails.

There are certainly much more expensive vacuum pumps available, but there is almost certainly none better than the JB Industries DV285N, which is our choice for best vacuum pump overall.

JB Industries DV-285N Platinum Vacuum Pump Features and Specifications

  • Free Air Displacement: 10 CFM (Cubic Feet per Minute)
  • Vacuum Level: 15 Microns
  • 1/2 Horsepower Thermally Protected Motor 
  • Two-Stage Operation
  • 26 Ounce Oil Capacity
  • Oil Back-Flow Check Valve
  • Gas Ballast Valve
  • All-Metal Construction
  • All Brass Fittings
  • Completely Field Repairable
  • Factory Warranty: 2 Years Parts and Labor
JB Industries DV-285N Platinum 10 CFM Vacuum Pump
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  • 26 ounce (709 cc) oil capacity - Gas ballast...
  • 2 stage direct drive to achieve deep 15...
  • Low profile rocker switch - Lift ring to...

Final Thoughts: How Can I Choose the Best Vacuum Pump for Me?

A vacuum pump is a strange mixture of high-stress machinery and high-precision functionality, and cheap units tend to not do either one very well.

We know that so many buyers guides for vacuum pumps recommend brands like Kozyvacu and Zeny, and that it is tempting to get something really cheap – heck, they can cost half of our least expensive recommendation. They may even have better-claimed specs!

If you have come here looking for the best vacuum pump for HVAC, the best vacuum pump for home projects or DIY, we can’t in good conscience recommend any of those. 

Spend a little more, get a well-built unit that will last and will always do the job, and you will find it to be a great purchase, an important part of your kit and a joy to use.

But if you are a professional HVAC technician, you already know all of these brands and models, and don’t need us to tell you just how important or how smart it is to invest in quality.

Thanks for reading our article – HVAC Vacuum Pumps: Which Are The Best? – An In-Depth Buyer’s Guide. We hope it has been helpful, and hope to see you back here again soon!

James McWhirter
James McWhirter
Hey! I'm James. I like to share my love for technology and all things tech-related. With previous experience working as an editor at a newspaper, I now help knowtheflo.com with content production and of course, test out few products myself!

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