An awful lot of people, egged on by certain quarters in the media, are thoroughly up-in-arms about vacuum cleaners.

You can’t fail to have heard about the recent EU ban on machines that have a motor larger than 1600w. It’s perfect grist for the “look what those idiots in Brussels have gone and done again” brigade. Of course, the story is more nuanced than that.

This ban is actually based on advice given by UK researchers, who found that massive-motored vacuums don’t actually give a return on the extra electricity they consume. After a certain point, far below the 1600w now allowed, apparently, there is little or nothing to be gained from extra oomph – at least not from current designs. It seems the Dyson machines are already all below the 1600w mark anyway, because they’re based on a design that maximises airflow, instead of selling on big numbers for the motor.

So much power do these things waste that they are contributing to growing fears that parts of Europe won’t be able to meet energy demand in years not so far in the future.

So why are we all desperate to have a power-hungry device to pick up bits from the carpet? It seems, as one leader in the consumer electronics world was said to have conceded recently, it all came about because the marketing people were given their head. Their thinking was that more power was a selling point to householders who wanted the floor cleaned without having to go over it five times. More power sounded like it meant more suction – so they kept ramping up the power and kept on selling new models.

Now that game is over and they are all going to have to get clever again. It’s good news for design innovation and, if they’re smart, it’s good news for the vacuum cleaner industry, who can come up with loads of new clever gimmicks, sell on the back of those and tell us all that we need to ditch those inefficient, power-hungry old dinosaurs.

There’s always a good angle somewhere…

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