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Saving carbon with efficient vacuum cleaners

Starting from the 1st of September 2014, every vacuum cleaner on sale in the EU will carry an energy label and be rated from A-G for performance, dust re-emission, noise level and power consumption. Additionally, vacuum cleaners with a power consumption of 1600 W or more will no longer be available (this will be further tightened to 900 W in 2017).

Vccume cleaners

The new label for vacuum cleaners


This is part of EU regulation under the Ecodesign for Energy-Using Products and Energy Labelling Directives (for more detail see our June 2014 Progress report to Parliament pp. 179-180). Under these Directives, minimum energy efficiency standards and informative energy labels for a range of appliances have already led to significant savings in household energy bills – for example the most efficient (A+++ labelled) fridge freezer now only costs £20 a year to run, compared to £65 for the average older fridge freezer found in many homes. The Government expects large carbon savings (more than 5 MtCO2 in 2020) from these Directives.

Vacuum cleaners are the latest household appliances to be covered by the Directives. The new regulations have been welcomed by many manufacturers and consumer bodies, yet some newspapers have complained about the EU ‘outlawing’ popular appliances. Apparently, there has been ‘panic’ buying of 2000 W models.

So is the EU threatening the cleanliness of our carpets? And will this latest EU rule actually save carbon?

In reality, wattage does not automatically equate with performance – design is of key importance. The German consumer body Stiftung Warentest has found that among the 20 best-rated products on the German market, only one would be banned by the new rules. The UK’s Which? on the other hand says that of seven vacuum cleaners awarded Best Buy status since January 2013, five have motors of more than 1,600 watts. Personally, I’ve had a Which? best buy ‘eco’ vacuum cleaner for some time which, with a 1200 W motor, provides the same performance as a 2000 W cleaner.

While vacuum cleaners aren’t the largest consumers of electricity in the household, EU-wide, the new regulations are expected to save 19 TWh of electricity by 2020. That’s actually quite a lot of carbon – 6 MtCO2.

Of course, an efficient vacuum cleaner alone won’t save the climate but energy efficiency improvement across a range of appliances will make an important contribution to reducing emissions.

This blog was written by Dr. Ute Collier, Team Leader Buildings & Industry, CCC.