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Look beyond the label when choosing a new vacuum cleaner

26 March 2018

The EU Rating System for vacuum cleaners gives an A*** to D performance rating, using power consumption, dust re-emission, pick- up performance and noise. But this does not always mean that the highest rated models perform the best in real world operation, argues SEBO

Before the EU Rating System, the more technically-minded buyers looked at the very basics of what makes effective suction. This is the combination of airflow and vacuum pressure. Very simply, the more of these properties, especially airflow, the better the performance.

Knowledge is power 

The biggest factor in the new rating system is the power, in Watts, that the vacuum cleaner uses. The new EU rules dictate that today’s vacuum cleaners must use less than 900 Watts of power. However, many manufacturers have decided to use much less than this, typically around 600 Watts. This gives a boost to the overall EU rating. As a knock on, the less powerful the motor, the less noise it makes; again, more boost to the overall rating. A buyer, therefore, can easily opt for an ‘A’ rated vacuum cleaner without realizing it has compromised suction for low Wattage. This has been exacerbated by performance tests which do not reflect real world conditions. 

This path has lead to many of our most loved vacuum cleaners to be not only less powerful than before the new rules, but about 30% less powerful than many that do comply with the new rules. When measured in the old way, these machines have around half the vacuum pressure and airflow than they used to. 

This is much more important in suction-only vacuum cleaners as these rely solely on airflow and vacuum pressure to suck up soiling. Upright vacuums have rotating brushes to remove soiling from the floor for the airflow and vacuum pressure to take away into the bag. Not only does this mechanical action remove a larger proportion of the soiling but gives carpeted floors that beautiful groomed appearance.  

Some manufacturers have adopted an approach to maintain as much power as allowed, keeping the airflow and vacuum pressure as high as possible. High performance filters are used which give high particle retention while still allowing air to pass with a minimum of resistance and which act as silencers to reduce noise. Improving airways within the machines and better seals help to maintain suction…but, more importantly to give as much real cleaning power as possible. 

It may not be fashionable to measure performance with airflow and suction pressure. However, these are the essential requirement of all suction-only vacuum cleaners old and new.

Manufacturers have generally taken one of two very different approaches to the EU rules. One is to see the rating as the important objective and to achieve as good a label as possible, even if this compromises actual performance. The other, to design a vacuum cleaner to work as effectively as possible across the wide spectrum of everyday use and still comply to the rules, giving high performance in the real world, but not necessarily achieve the highest rating on paper. 

Make sure when you choose your vacuum cleaner it is the latter!