TURIN — First it was the light bulbs: They were too energy-intensive. Then it was fans and dryers. Now the European Union's ongoing stand against powerful domestic enemies is taking aim at super-charged vacuum cleaners.
Taking effect Sept. 1, the EU is pulling the plug on vacuum cleaners that eat up too much electricity, banning the sale of models that exceed 1,600 watts.
In 2017, Brussels will lower the maximum again, down to 900 watts — which has been the manufacturers' competitive standard until now. Even the noise levels will be adjusted and must not be higher than 80 decibels. This really is a revolution because there are still many models on the market that exceed 2,000 watts.
The EU's aim is to reduce energy waste; but what does it change for individual families? Will these lower wattage vacuums still do our chores, or will we suddenly find ourselves taking twice as long to clean the carpets and floors?
The EU insists that the new legislation won't affect the appliance's efficiency, but will on the contrary improve it. The new regulations already have precise indications on the suction levels of the devices.
What is certain is that the electricity consumption of one of the most frequently used appliances in European homes will drop significantly. Statistics show that, on average, we use our vacuums for an hour per month.
From now on, each new unit must display a label that clearly shows its consumption — just like on refrigerators and washing machines. Furthermore, the motor must be guaranteed for at least 500 hours of performance. Up until now there had been no clear rules on the average life of a machine, post-purchase.
Wallets and waffles
With our "super green" vacuums, we'll save on our electricity bills between one-third and one-half of what traditional devices consume. Instead, we'll have to fork out more money at the time of purchase. The first high-efficiency models on the market are priced around 200 euros — compared to an average model today that goes for between 60 and 80 euros.
Photo: Matty Ring
Currently, there are not many on the market, and so new technologies will have to be exploited to give the same yield.
It's a little bit like what happened to the fans: Those deemed by the EU as best-performing halved consumption, but the prices were much higher than before. At the end of the day, will we have to spend more? It's hard to say.
While the news is a major headache for manufacturers, it has actually taken 12 years for industries to accept the regulatory framework. Those who oppose the rule include British tech giant Dyson, who have appealed to the EU Court of Justice in Luxembourg. With its famously bagless appliances, it will still be penalized. On the other hand, the robot vacuum cleaners that are becoming increasingly popular in Italian homes are completely excluded from the directive.
All told, there are already some 30 other appliance products under Brussels' magnifying glass. Next on the plate, the EU will arrive at our breakfast table, with new regulations on American-style coffee machines. Beginning Jan. 1, 2015, the plate warmers will have to automatically turn off after five minutes. This will also apply to espresso machines and waffle makers. The smartest of the smart appliances will make sure to turn themselves off after we've finished breakfast.