The cleanliness of Britain’s homes is being threatened by European bureaucrats.
First it was traditional light bulbs, then it was plasma televisions. Now European bureaucrats are targeting the nation’s vacuum cleaners as part of plans to cut energy use in the home. Officials at the European Commission are proposing to restrict the power of domestic vacuum cleaners in a move which experts fear could reduce their effectiveness in sucking up dust and dirt.
Manufacturers say it could also reduce cleaners’ ability to remove fine particles from the air they pump back into the atmosphere, potentially leading to nasty side-effects for allergy and asthma sufferers.
The EU experts propose restricting the power of vacuum cleaners to levels last seen in the 1960s.
Britain’s current best selling upright bagged vacuum cleaner, the Hoover Pure Power, has a power rating of 2.1 kilowatts (kW) – about the same as a typical kettle. A rival, the Vax Power 2 Pet has a power input of 2.2kW.
The EC, however, wants power inputs to be cut by the year 2014 to 500 Watts (0.5kW) for upright cleaners and 750 Watts for canister cleaners and upright cleaners with integral hose and tools. The cuts, it claims, would help save enough electricity to power 2.3 million homes.
Alex Martin, technical director at the Association of Manufacturers of Domestic Appliances, said manufacturers were concerned about the move.
“If you are affecting the amount of energy you have flowing through a product then of course it is a concern about how that will impact on cleaning performance,” he said.
“Filtration efficiency is something else that is being looked at. If you lower the amount of energy in a product then there are numerous other criteria that need to be considered such as to how able a product is able to filter dust.”
Giles Chichester MEP, Conservative energy spokesman at the European Parliament, said: “Banning powerful cleaners in households could have a severe impact on allergy and asthma sufferers.
“This is another example of how EU legislation has good intentions but sometimes there are detrimental side-effects.
“I hope that both the EU and the UK government can find a way around this so that we improve energy efficiency without forcing people back to their broomsticks.”
An EU report drawn up by a panel of experts, which has now been sent for consultation with member states and vacuum cleaner manufacturers, states: “Vacuum cleaner input power ratings have increased markedly since the 1960s.
“However, the energy efficiency of vacuum cleaners has dropped over the years, in other words, more power does not necessarily equate to better cleaning.”
The European Commission’s proposed regulations, which must be approved by member states, calls for new technology to be developed to help increase the appliance’s efficiency.
In one example it suggests that manufacturers could develop new types of nozzles that vibrate or brush the surface being cleaned to help remove dust, but it also warns that this could damage valuable or delicate carpets.
The report comes just a year since the Commission began rolling out a ban on traditional incandescent light bulbs which was aimed at forcing consumers to switch to energy efficient bulbs.
The move provoked a backlash from consumers who said the newer energy efficient bulbs produced less light and were more expensive than their traditional counterparts.
The European Commission has also introduced strict energy efficiency targets for other household appliances including fridges, freezers, televisions and computers, which are expected to cut electricity use across the EU by 12.5 per cent by 2020.
Dyson, which makes some of the most energy efficient vacuum cleaners available for the domestic market, produces appliances with an average energy input of around 1.2kW but it has just produced a 650 Watt DC24 Dyson Ball.
The company’s founder James Dyson gave the European Commission’s proposals a cautious welcome but added that developing new technology required to improve efficiency can take years.
He said: “Bigger motors don’t equal better performance. In fact they symbolise outmoded ineffective design.
“Breakthrough technology takes time to develop. Our engineers have spent a decade developing highly efficient digital motors.”
Marlene Holzner, energy spokesman for the EC, said: “Technology is a rapidly developing and we have seen in other areas that it is capable of reducing energy while keeping all the functions and performance the same, if not improving them.”
Paul Pearce, technical director of the national carpet cleaning association, said: “The performance of a vacuum cleaner has more to do with airflow than with the power rating, so it should be possible to reduce the power without affecting the cleaning perforance.”