Eurosceptics and those who want to see the UK exit from the European Union have picked up on EU moves to limit the power of our humble vacuum cleaners and are using this as yet another brickbat with which to beat the Eurocrats. How dare they make us live in dusty houses, screams the (badly informed) mob, by imposing a power limit of 1,600 watts on our cleaners.
At the heart of this are new ecodesign requirements for these devices, which come into force on 1st September 2014 for new machines, where the rated output of a vacuum cleaner must be less than 1,600 W.
I'm no lover of the undemocratic EU, but in this particular case is what it is doing as bad as it is portrayed? Apart from maybe meddling a little too far in consumer choice it does actually aim for some good outcomes.
The first of these is to reduce the total power consumption of vacuum cleaners across the EU. This could not only reduce the need for energy generating capacity when coupled with other such moves it could also have the pleasant effect of reducing household electricity bills.
The second is that, tied in with this energy reduction requirement, there are new 'dust pick up' ratings for cleaners and there is a minimum standard that must be met.
But it does not stop there. What has not been so far been mentioned is that these requirements will be further tightened on 1st September 2017.
By then new vacuum cleaners will have their rated input power reduced to just 900 W. But their minimum dust pick up ratings will be increased from 0.7 to 0.75 for carpets and from 0.95 to 0.98 for hard floors.
But there will also be new requirements from this date
- dust re-emission will be limited to 1%
- sound power level will 80 dB or less
- any hose will have to be durable enough to withstand 40,000 oscillations under strain
- the motor operational lifetime must be at least 500 hours.
Now, if a new vacuum cleaner is cheaper to run, quieter, better performing and will last longer than its predecessors then what's the beef? Other than maybe this should be left to consumers to decide for themselves and for the manufacturers to build in if they see fit. But would we complain if HM Government came out unilaterally with these rules to force better appliance construction, or is this just an EU bashing thing? After all forcing the pace of innovation and improved design may be no bad thing, consider a modern 1,600 cc car in terms of safety, comfort, stability, efficiency, performance and longevity over a 2,000 cc model from the 1970s or 1980s. Which would you choose?
By using this as something to spike the EU with the Eurosceptics are risking the charge that they are misleading people over the truth behind it so diminishing their future ability to then try and point out the real reasons why the UK should leave the EU. I would just ask that they choose their targets wisely and not just jump on any old bandwagon that comes trundling along.