Our article on fuel-efficient cars in this issue gives an insight into how technological developments have made modern cars not only more fuel efficient but also safer and more reliable.

Large household appliances are also much more energy efficient and reliable than in the past. We’re all familiar with energy stars on heat pumps and whiteware – and also EECA’s Energy Star mark on particularly energy-efficient products. These are the big-ticket items, but what about smaller appliances? There’s been a recent media storm in the UK over a European Union (EU)directive on eco-design. The directive has been around since 2009 and it aims to reduce the environmental impact of electrical products – including the energy they use – over their life cycle. Product labelling will enable consumers to buy the most energy-efficient products. But the directive also has the power to ban inefficient products – and it’s proposing to do this for vacuum cleaners. From this month a 1600W limit applies for the maximum power for a vacuum and this reduces to 900W in 2017. The vacuums will still have to meet minimum requirements for power, performance, exhaust air quality, noise and durability. The predictable reaction in the UK – at least in the tabloid press – has been the end of vacuuming as we know it, with stories of people stockpiling 2000W+ machines. However, the reality is rather different. Our German colleagues at Stiftung Warentest stated that they have tested 38 vacuums with motors of 1600W or less and many of them cleaned very well.

Looking at our own test results for vacuums, 16 score 7.0 or more for carpet cleaning – and eight of them have motors under 1600W. Half of our top models already meet the EU directive. It’s not just brute power that determines vacuuming performance. The worst-performing vacuum in our database has a carpet-cleaning score of 2.9: it has a 2200W motor.

We support the EU directive. The International Energy Agency estimates household electrical products use three times more energy than they need. Using less power as households reduces the need for further generation and means savings on consumers’ power bills. We will be increasingly focusing on this issue in our test reports and praising the energy misers and shaming the energy guzzlers.

About the author:

David Naulls is Consumer's deputy CEO and the editor of Consumer magazine.

David works closely with the research and testing team to ensure the quality of all articles published by Consumer NZ. He has previously been a research writer and contract books writer at Consumer. Before returning as Content Editor, he was a freelance writer and editor for 25 years. David has post-graduate qualifications in journalism and political philosophy.