There is a very positive side to this 'news' story!
There were many reports in the press about concerns over what is the European Ecodesign Directive 2009/125/EC. This is not new legislation but has recently been transposed into UK law. It covers several types of products and has been gradually transposed into UK law since 2009.
This isn't actually such a negative thing as initially perceived and promoted by some UK media. The number of watts does not mean a vacuum cleaner will necessarily perform better. The new regulation will ensure that the vacuum cleaners not only use less energy but that their sucking power meets a minimum requirement. Contrary to what is written in some articles and comments, the wattage does not automatically indicate how well a vacuum cleaner will clean. The wattage indicates how much electrical power is used by the engine. Wattage has become a marketing tool, steering the market towards more power-hungry appliances, without any regulation of effectiveness. The side-effect is that a lot of electrical power is wasted and not turned into sucking power, whereas the consumer is still paying for that wasted electricity. This has also been emphasised and re-iterated by Which? - UK´s largest consumer association that works to protect and better inform UK´s consumers.
The important question is: How efficiently is electrical power translated into picking up dust? From 1 September 2014, vacuum cleaners in the EU will have to abide by a new set of minimum requirements. They cover:
• Performance (ability to pick up dust)
• Energy efficiency
• Dust re-emission in the exhaust air (particularly important for people with asthma)
• Noise level
• Durability (no early failure of the hose or the motor)
Thus, we will have better vacuum cleaners that save energy, clean better with less noise.
The efficiency and performance of vacuum cleaners will have to be rated on A-G scales in an energy label displayed on appliances in shops and also in Internet stores. Consumers can now make a more informed choice by reading the clear labelling system. The new emphasis is on cleaning performance. New models put on the market must meet minimum dust pick-up requirements, based on a practical test that measures the performance.
The new rules will save 19 terawatt-hour per year by 2020, which is the electricity produced by more than 4 power plants or consumed by 5.5 million households.
Of course, measures on vacuum cleaners alone will not tackle climate change. However, if we consider all products together for which minimum efficiency requirements exist in the EU, the overall savings achieve up to a third of the EU's energy saving target for 2020.
Ecodesign and labelling regulations save money for consumers. The electricity consumption of fridges and freezers has been reduced to a fraction of what it was at the time when the EU label was introduced almost 20 years ago. This is on top of the regulation of CFCs, these were destroying the ozone layer and with their near elimination we are seeing the ozone layer repairing itself.
The regulation aims to help EU consumers save money on electricity bills – which is important in times of ever increasing electricity prices.
I have also been contacted about ‘proposals’ to limit the power of electric kettles. The EU has asked consultants to identify how much power various other domestic appliances use and whether that can be reduced in the interests of energy efficiency and lower bills for consumers. Only then will any decisions be made about possible technological improvements that could be necessary. A study by an independent consultant, to be unveiled in January 2015, will look at a list of other products for which energy savings might be achieved. Whether further products will be regulated is a political decision taken by the EU Commission, the European Parliament and the Member States.