Are vacuum cleaners as good as they used to be?How energy restrictions have affected performance

23 April 2016

Image of an old-fashioned vacuum cleaner

A vacuum cleaner doesn't need to be power hungry to do a good job, our research reveals

Despite many people’s fears, the EU energy restrictions on vacuum cleaners, introduced in September 2014, have not led to a drop in vacuum cleaning standards. 

In fact, Which? testing has found that some vacuum cleaners launched since the regulations were introduced are able to maintain high standards of dust and debris removal while using significantly less energy, largely thanks to innovations in floorhead design. 

In September 2014 the European Commission introduced an energy label for vacuum cleaners that restricted the motor size of any vacuum cleaner sold in the EU to 1600W or less. At the time it was common for vacuum cleaners to have motors of 2600W or more, and consumers looked to power consumption as an indicator of dust-busting ability. 

But our tests reveal that motor power isn't a good indicator of cleaning performance. To find out which vacuum cleaners will leave your home spotless without wasting energy, head straight to our vacuum cleaner reviews.

Infographic showing vacuum cleaner energy use vs dust pick up before and after the energy label

Vacuum cleaner energy consumption vs performance

We've crunched the numbers, analysing the results from every batch of vacuum cleaners we’ve tested going back to 2008 - over 400 vacuum cleaners in total. 

And the results (right) show that energy use has dropped drastically since the introduction of the energy label, while the average cleaning performance on carpet has remained relatively stable over the same period.

To get these figures, we calculated the average amount of energy used by a vacuum cleaner (measured in watt-hours) and the average amount of fine dust removed from carpet in each batch that we tested before the energy label was introduced, and compared this to the averages for vacuum cleaner batches tested since then. 

While we have been critical of some aspects of the energy label, particularly its failure to help consumers accurately distinguish between a good and bad vacuum cleaner due to inconsistent dust pick-up ratings, it’s difficult not to be impressed by the positive impact it has had on the industry’s carbon footprint. 

If you're looking to buy a new vacuum, this is good news for your floors and for your wallet. But the dust pick-up scores shown above are only average figures - we've found that the worst vacuum cleaners on the market will leave behind twice as much dust as a Best Buy does, so make sure you check our vacuum cleaner reviews before you buy.

Vacuum cleaner reviews

Bagged, bagless, upright, cylinder or cordless - whatever you're looking for, we can give you the lowdown on whether the model you have your eye on is worth investing in. We have full reviews of all of the latest vacuum cleaners from Dyson, Miele, Hoover, Vax and more - including Best Buy vacuum cleaners from as little as £100.

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