Update for March 2019: following an EU court ruling, the label has been annulled. Find out what this means for vacuum cleaners.
There are just six days to go before new EU vacuum cleaner regulations come into force, banning the sale of vacuum cleaners with motors more powerful than 900W. So do you need to buy a new vacuum cleaner this weekend?
The new vacuum cleaners energy label rules will reduce the maximum wattage from 1,600W to 900W for any vacuum cleaner manufactured or sold in the EU. It also introduces new restrictions on how noisy vacuum cleaners can be, limiting them to 80dB, and stipulates minimum durability requirements. You can find out more about the changes in our guide to the 2017 vacuum cleaners ban.
The changes are controversial. Managing Director of Sebo UK, Justin Binks, has said that he believes that the new energy label is bad for consumers, and there are reports that some retailers have stocked up on powerful vacuum cleaners, in anticipation of a surge in demand. But do you need to rush out and buy a 1,600W vacuum cleaner before they sell out, or is 900W more than enough for top-notch cleaning?
Are 1,600W vacuum cleaners better?
Despite what you might read elsewhere, the reduction in power is no cause for panic. We have tested thousands of vacuum cleaners over the years and found that more power doesn’t necessarily mean better cleaning. While it is too early to say what the impact of new regulations will be, we have tested vacuum cleaners with 900W motors that do a better job of dust-busting than vacuum cleaners with motors two or three times the size.
What’s more, we’ve reported on vacuum cleaners in the past that are so noisy, you’d be forgiven for thinking that you were using a lawnmower to clean your living room. So the maximum noise restriction could be good news for your ears.
See our vacuum cleaner reviews to find out which models clean brilliantly without making a racket.
7 consequences of the vacuum cleaners energy label
Since the first wave of vacuum cleaner regulations came into force in September 2014, we’ve found plenty of Best Buy vacuum cleaners. But we’ve also noticed some issues. We revealed in January 2015 that the performance ratings on the energy label weren’t an effective guide for consumers to choosing a good vacuum cleaner. Here are seven more key ways the energy label has affected vacuum cleaners.
1. Vacuum cleaners are generally better at cleaning
The energy label regulations introduced minimum cleaning standards for different floor surfaces in 2014, and as a result we’ve seen an improvement in average cleaning performance.
2. It’s good news for the environment
While you’re unlikely to see a noticeable reduction in your energy bills at home, the EU estimates that the amount of energy saved as a result of the label will be 20TWh annually, that’s equivalent to the residential electricity consumption of Belgium.
3. Your vacuum cleaner should last longer
The 2017 vacuum cleaners energy label includes minimum durability requirements for the motor and hose of vacuum cleaners. This should lead to vacuum cleaners developing fewer faults and reduce the number of unreliable vacuum cleaner brands, the likes of which we expose on our most and least reliable vacuum cleaner brands guide.
4. Cordless vacuum cleaner boom
The popularity of cordless vacuum cleaners has exploded over the last few years. Cordless vacuum cleaners are currently exempt from the energy label regulations, as they use a rechargeable battery, which is potentially one of the reasons that vacuum manufacturers are releasing ever-increasing numbers.
Cordless vacuums have some key benefits too, as they tend to have a slim stick design that can make whipping round the house extra easy. However, our latest tests reveal that the cordless market is currently a bit like the Wild West – chock full of bad apples. We’ve named and shamed 11 Don’t Buy cordless vacuum cleaners that do a terrible job of sucking up dust and dirt. To see the models we recommend, check our list of the best cordless vacuum cleaners.
5. Some vacuums suck at cleaning larger spills
We noticed that some vacuum cleaners got worse at picking up larger debris round the house such as crumbs, hair and fluff. This can be an issue if you design the floor tool specifically for picking up fine dust – like that used in the vacuum cleaners energy label tests. It’s not an issue if you choose carefully though, we test vacuum cleaners on a variety of floor surfaces and upholstery and with a wide range of debris including fine dust, lentils, rice, pet hair and longer hair, and we have found models that can do a great job of cleaning, whatever the mess.
6. Some vacuum cleaners are harder to push
Which? members told us that some vacuums were near impossible to push along the floor, especially on carpets. When we investigated, we found that some manufacturers had sacrificed ease of use for cleaning power, again in pursuit of better label ratings. We test how hard vacuum cleaners are to push, and, on vacuum cleaners with variable suction, only test cleaning performance at a level that is going to be usable when you get the vac home. Some models we’ve tested have recorded a push force of up to 80 newtons. That’s like lifting a mens’ Olympic shotput every time you move your vacuum cleaner.
7. The rise of multiple floor tools
Our Best Buy vacuum cleaners all come with a combination floor tool that can clean just as well on carpets or hard floors. However, many vacuum cleaners now include a bewildering array of floor tools, each one specialising in a different surface, to achieve a high rating in the EU cleaning tests. We know that the majority of vacuum cleaner users prefer not to regularly switch floor heads when they move from room to room, so we tell you how good a vacuum is using the main floor tool, to save time and effort when cleaning.
900W vacuum cleaners reviewed
We’ve got a crop of the new energy label-compliant vacuum cleaners at our test lab as we speak, with results due in late September. If you need a vacuum cleaner now, jump straight to our Best Buy vacuum cleaners to find the right model.