GREEN VIEW: Once the dust settles, we’ll be better off thanks to new rules

Green View by Peter Gudde
Green View by Peter Gudde
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It’s not only nature that abhors a vacuum. You may have heard that the EU has pulled the rug from beneath the highest powered hoovers. As a result, a certain celebrated designer of domestic dirt collectors is looking to have a dust up with those Brussels bureaucrats.

To give you the full story, the EU has banned the sale of household cleaners with motors rated over 1600 watts. By 2017 this ban will be extended to models over 900 watts.

This has upset national newspapers and even Which Magazine, which advised consumers to get out and buy before the ban. There was even a press story about people stockpiling cleaners. So what is all this about?

To be brief, it’s the EU’s ongoing drive to improve the energy efficiency of everyday appliances.

Energy labelling of fridges, TVs and light bulbs has made a difference to what consumers buy and been a positive step to giving us more informed choice.

Up until September this year, the humble hoover had always been sold on the presumption that bigger motors meant more cleaning power.

With the move to domestic cleaners becoming the ‘must have’ consumer product, we have seen their power consumption increase fivefold from the 1960s to super models of the 21st century. The current turbo, optimax whatevers have motors which use the same amount of power as two horses. Can you imagine needing to use that much power to get the fluff of your shag pile?

Yet research shows that cleaner performance is not a function of wattage. Product tests done by independent German consumer advisers, Stiftung Warentest, have shown that the best vacuum cleaners are those with a power consumption of 1200 watts. The newest test winner in 2014 actually only consumes 870 watts. It seems that we have been victims of marketing spin over suction.

We need designers and manufacturers to increase the effectiveness of our domestic appliances and this does not necessarily mean sticking in a big motor. All that happens is that we use more electricity and that costs us on our energy bills.

Whatever you think, rules like these continue to make manufacturers re-think their designs. If only they would think about the full cost for the consumer.

Anyway, back to my own vacuum cleaner, I sold it last week. Well, it was only collecting dust (Thanks, Tim Vine).

-- Peter Gudde is environment manager for St Edmundsbury and Forest Heath councils.