Retailers are reporting a spike on sales of powerful hoovers in response to the recent news that the European Union is preparing to ban vacuum cleaners over 1,600 watts. Indeed, some UK businesses have seen a 50 per cent increase in purchases of hoovers with powerful motors in the last few weeks.
The law, which came into effect yesterday (Monday), is intended to help the European Commission meet its targets on energy efficiency under its new ‘Ecodesign’ directive. This is only the first step, however, as the maximum wattage will subsequently be lowered to 900 watts by 2017. This will then encompass one of Britain’s best-loved hoovers, the goggle-eyed Henry the Hoover, which has caused consternation among many domestic gods and goddesses, including Claudia Pritchard. Writing in the Independent, Pritchard exclaimed, “hands off my Hoover!”
Marlene Holzer, energy spokesman for the European Commission, has defended the legislation, arguing that a limit on wattage would not automatically mean less efficient vacuum cleaners, and that excellent models would still be available to buy. Vacuum cleaners are the latest appliance to be regulated; televisions, washing machines and refrigerators have also suffered the same fate.
However, there has been substantial criticism of the new EU legislation. Users claim that banning the most efficient models will only have negative consequences for the environment, as people will be forced to use less powerful models for longer. For example, consumer watchdog ‘Which?’ warned last week that five of the seven models awarded its ‘Best Buy’ status since January 2013 exceed the new limit. A ‘Which?’ spokesperson commented: “A Best Buy 2,200-watt vacuum costs around £27 a year to run in electricity – only around £8 more than the best-scoring 1,600-watt we’ve tested.”
Nevertheless, Leanne Beswick, head of small domestic appliances at the company, has attempted to allay fears regarding the quality of the remaining vacuum cleaners on the market. “Even though these particular models will eventually be off the market, this doesn’t mean that new and other existing models are any less effective - they are not,” she said. “Although they may need to lose power to conform to the new regulations, they won’t lose performance.”
For many supermarkets that have been struggling in recent months to cope with the well-publicised ongoing price war, this has been good news in the short term at least. Tesco announced its sales of vacuums have increased by 44 per cent (according to the Daily Mail), selling out of two of its high power models, including the Hoover Breeze BR2306, which a 2,300 watt motor. The Cooperative Electrical shop also noted a 38 per cent sales rise. Equally, Currys said online stocks of its two Samsung models, as well as a Vax Pet vacuum, were sold out.