If presented with the two above component cards and asked which you would rather have in your laptop as a high speed graphics card for game play you would quickly select the card on the right. This card is clearly outfitted with some advanced technology and would make a much better choice of graphics card.
What if presented with the two same component cards again and asked to select which card you would rather have connected to your kitchen light switch? When you flip your wall switch for your kitchen lights this component card will turn the lights on or off. In this scenario you instinctively would choose the card on the left. The card on the left has many fewer components and for a simple task and it would be more reliable because there are fewer parts to fail. Both component cards perform the exact same task so the one that does it with fewer parts is more efficient and statistically more reliable.
If you are a geek then you likely recognize the read only memory chip when looking at the advanced components card which contains operating instructions, a firmware which is used to program or control a system the card is connect with. Also quite obvious is the large aluminum heatsink bar across the width of the components card which is used to dissipate the excessive heat generated by all of the components on the card. A full geek inspection would also reveal the dozens of SMD’s (surface mount devices) which are miniaturized components that are fitted and connected by an advanced production robotic system in a clean room environment. Even a non-geek knows that the card on the right is much more expensive to manufacture than the card on the left.
As you suspect we are not discussing graphics cards or lighting controllers in our analogically comparison, both of these are central vacuum controllers. For the vacuum system user both of these control cards provide exactly the same function: turn the vacuum on or off when required to do so. As you likely have correctly assumed pricing for these two cards differs. The control card on the left cost about $30. and the one of the right is about $100. The card on the left has 9 components, including a push-button reset overload breaker. The card on the right has more than 80 components, including a non-replaceable glass fuse. Does the controller card on the right have more problems than the one on the left with inoperable failures that require replacement? Oh you better believe they do.
You have new information, the wheels are turning, and now you ask: Why would a manufacturer build a vacuum using the controller on the right when the controller on the left is 1/3 the cost and many times more reliable? Like most product design decisions made jointly by designers, engineers and accountants the answer is driven by cost. Give this manufacturer credit in so far that this is a long term global cost savings program for the company. True, the advanced programatic switch does cost more to build but there is a cost savings in efficiency. Having one controller that can be used in all of this companies vacuum units is efficient for production, design, warehousing and service. It also allows this manufacturer to save money and warehouse space by purchasing just one model of motor instead of four different motors and programing the controller to operate the motor at differing levels of performance to simulate different models of vacuum. We admit, that clearly is genius. Bravo to them.
Still we have to ask, how exactly does this costly controller help the person using the vacuum system? Unfortunately it doesn’t, but did we mention how it helps the manufacturer save warehouse space and logistics? Not only will you pay more for the vacuum (so you can support the extra cost of this controller), but there is a significantly higher chance that you will also get to purchase a replacement controller during the ownership of the vacuum system. These advanced programmable controller cards are far less reliable and more expensive to replace, which you will do much more often just after the warranty expires.
Sometimes a switch is just a switch. Get a good one by all means but lets not go crazy.