Electrical power does not equal cleaning performance. This widespread misconception pushed manufacturers to compete on Watts, spiralling towards ridiculous levels of more than 2 500 W!
All too often, owners of inefficient vacuum cleaners were simply throwing away money in hot air and noise, rather than dust suction and burdening their electricity bills. Hence the need to regulate this product group, re-establish performance on more rational grounds, and guide consumers towards the genuinely best performing models.
What’s the European Union doing?
Ecodesign and energy labelling regulations for vacuum cleaners were adopted in 2013, with staged caps on allowed electrical power entering into force in 2014 and 2017 (at 1,600 W and 900 W respectively), and new labelling classes A+, A++, and A+++ gradually added to the initial A-G scale. It is interesting to note that the electrical power as such is not mentioned on the energy label.
The impact of these requirements on the market, especially the power caps, has been significant. Electricity savings in the order of 20 TWh/year were expected by 2025, as much as the residential electricity consumption of Belgium.
However, one frustrated manufacturer (Dyson), decided to take the European Commission to court for contesting the way vacuum cleaners are tested, that is with their bag empty (to ensure better reproducibility of tests). This test condition is obviously not fully representative of real-life use but, more importantly for Dyson, it gave a supposed disadvantage to its bagless models. Although a recent study raises doubts on this claim, in 2018 the EU judiciary institutions, after a lengthy and tiresome process, decided to support the claim and cancel the energy labelling regulation.
Work started in 2018 to prepare a review of the ecodesign regulation, and a new energy labelling regulation (the latter was scheduled for revision anyhow). A review study was completed, and regulatory consultations are now expected.
What does the coolproducts campaign want?
An extension of the scope of the regulations to battery hand-held models and robot cleaners;
Further stages of caps on power consumption, as this is the most effective tool to reduce the energy consumption of this product group;
Stronger dust pick-up and retention requirements, to further boost performance;
More realistic test standards;
A simplification of the way the energy efficiency is rated;
More consideration for other environmental aspects, such as toxic components and better availability of replacement parts, in the form of ecodesign requirements and information on the energy label (e.g. repairability score).
Coolproducts technical input and position papers: