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Noisy vacuum cleaners will bite the dust under new EU rules

Rear view of man vacuuming carpet
Floored: vacuum cleaners above 80 decibels will be banned Photograph: Maskot/Getty Images/Maskot

A ban on the sale of deafening vacuum cleaners, with a noise level above 80 decibels, will come into force at the start of next month in the UK (and other EU countries) under new European rules designed to boost energy efficiency and cut carbon emissions.

When Which? tested most new vacuums, it found that noise levels varied dramatically from 65 up to 90 decibels – that’s the difference between the sound of a conversation a metre away to the sound of a busy main road.

How will it affect shoppers? According to John Lewis, among its top-selling models is the Míele Classic C1 Edition Powerline (£99.95) – it emits 79 decibels, so just scrapes in within the ruling.

But the cheaper Hoover Whirlwind Bagless Upright (£54.99) emits 85 decibels, according to the John Lewis site, so will fall foul of the rules.

The changes are included in a new energy label which also reduces the maximum wattage from 1,600 to 900 for any model manufactured or sold in the EU.

That follows an earlier (and controversial) energy label introduced in September 2014, which cut the maximum wattage to 1,600 and became a cause celebre among anti-EU campaigners, following stories in some newspapers that claimed “Now Europe wants to make it harder to clean your carpets”.

The same rules also ushered in A-to-G ratings: energy use, dust pick up on hard floors, dust pick up on carpets and dust emissions. The label also showed how noisy the vacuum is in decibels.

The upgraded, new-style label will introduce minimum durability requirements, with all models having to pass two tests – one on the motor and another on the main hose.

From September, the most efficient cleaners will carry a label of A+++. These ratings take into account the total power and how efficiently it is used to pick up dust.

Stores will still be able to sell models that don’t comply with the new label, but only until stocks run out.

Performance is unlikely to be affected by the reduction in power – as motor size is rarely an indicator of effectiveness. Some manufacturers, including Dyson, have been producing motors smaller than 900 watts for many years.

The European commission points out that choosing one of the most efficient models could save you more than £50 over the lifetime of the appliance.

The move has been welcomed by the Quiet Mark group, which includes cleaners in its tests. It says it has not been uncommon for some to emit around 95 decibels, a level that could damage hearing if exposure is regular and prolonged; 85 is the so-called “action level” where heavy-duty hearing protection, through ear plugs or headphones, is recommended.

Quiet Mark is working with leading brands, including Míele and Bosch, as well as Dyson, to support the development of quiet technology across all white goods and household appliances. In a survey, it found that the vacuum cleaner was the second most annoying appliance noise in the home, with the washing machine the most irritating.

What will happen post-Brexit? “Any future trade negotiations between the EU and UK could potentially cover energy efficiency rules amongst other regulatory aspects, but that cannot be predicted,” the European commission says in statement.

“The UK has said it will write all EU law in force at the time of Brexit into UK law under the great repeal bill, which will be debated in parliament in the autumn. There will be consideration of what should be kept longer term and what should be changed.”

Meanwhile, some consumers may be relieved to know that floor polishers, mattress cleaners, handheld, battery-operated and robot vacuum cleaners, are excluded from the new regulations.

This article titled "Noisy vacuum cleaners will bite the dust under new EU rules" was written by Rebecca Smithers, for The Guardian on Saturday 12 August 2017 06.00am


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