In the UK it’s been an interesting week for that good-old inventors’ favourite - vacuum cleaners. First we had some Eurosceptic jingoistic furore over the European Commission limiting the size of vacuum cleaner motors and then James Dyson announced the launch of his new (or is it?) robot cleaner…
Certain sections of the press have been rattling their collective sabres, with one tabloid thundering “Banning vacuum cleaners isn’t about saving the planet – it’s about Brussels grabbing even more power!” The fires of the controversy were stoked by Which? Magazine by advising: “If you’re in the market for a powerful vacuum, you should act quickly, before all of the models currently available sell out.” Seven of their ‘best buys’ will be outlawed by the new 1600 watt limit.
Now that the dust has settled, it would appear that the EU directive makes perfect sense. According to their data the ban will save, annually, the equivalent of the domestic power consumption of Belgium (akin to throwing away 105 million large screen televisions). The new directive forces vacuum cleaners to be 63 per cent more efficient and will cut European energy bills by £2.4 billion (a whopping £11 per household per year).
If you read the complete Which? release, after the warning it goes on to say: “Despite what is being widely reported by some other media outlets, a large motor size does not guarantee impressive action. Our independent testing has found many Best Buy vacuums under 1,600 watts, proving that clever engineering and a well-designed floorhead are equally, if not more important, than a powerful motor.”
The new rules are set to become stricter in September 2017 when the maximum wattage will be reduced to 900 watts. Experts say this is perfectly reasonable – Dyson have never had a motor that exceeds 1600 watts (indeed, they have been using some motors as small as 700 watts since 2008). To me, this sounds like the perfect opportunity for inventors and designers to get their thinking caps on.
And Dyson has been busy too. This week, with a fanfare, he launched his new Dyson 360 Eye™ robot cleaner. Hang on a minute, thinks I, we’ve been here before! I first wrote about the DC06 robotic cleaner in the year 2000 (see Cleaning Up!).
To be fair, Dyson admits that his new cleaner has been 16 years in the making and I think that the DC06 was a bit ambitious. Looking back, it’s astonishing just how far the technology has moved-on in the last 14 years.
‘Most robotic vacuum cleaners don’t see their environment, have little suction, and don’t clean properly. They are gimmicks’ he says, and goes on to claim the new Dyson has ‘more suction power than any other robot vacuum cleaner on the market.’
It certainly boasts impressive specifications but don’t rush out just yet to buy one – It will go on sale, in Japan next year, with the rest of the world to follow.