Local News

November 1, 2013

Werner Braun: The European Union and large appliances

The European Union has recently taken a stand on large appliances that seems a bit counterintuitive to me. This stand has to do with the amount of energy that appliances, like stoves, dryers and even vacuum cleaners, actually use.

They’re certainly right to be concerned about energy usage. We’re all concerned about how much energy our appliances, cars, HVAC systems and so on use and how that will impact the environment, to say nothing of the impact on our pocketbooks.

But instead of rating appliances such as vacuum cleaners in terms of their cleaning efficiency, the EU is concerned primarily about what wattage they operate on. Over time, the EU expects to reduce the maximum wattage an appliance can have and still be legal, so to speak.

We became aware of this issue earlier this week when we learned that the European Union is in the process of labeling large appliances in terms of their energy consumption. Now they’re requiring all vacuum cleaners sold in the EU to have labels that detail their energy use.

All I can say is that it’s nice that once again the Carpet and Rug Institute is ahead of the power curve — pun intended.

As you may be aware from earlier columns, CRI uses an independent testing program to certify vacuum cleaners and many other cleaning products in terms of both high efficiency and cost benefits through our Seal of Approval program.

Initially, we established the SOA program for vacuum cleaners to determine whether a particular brand met our high criteria. Those criteria still exist today.

First, we want to know whether the vacuum cleaner removes the soil from carpet. Second, we want to determine if the vacuum cleaner is low-emitting. And last, we want to make sure that the appliance can clean efficiently without destroying the carpet.

About a year-and-a-half ago, we began to look at the issue of energy consumption related to various processes, and we first looked at energy consumption with respect to vacuum cleaners.

Through the good folks at Professional Testing Laboratories here in Dalton we were able to conduct tests that determine the “power use effectiveness,” or PUE, of various vacuum cleaners.

Essentially what that means is that if we compare two vacuum cleaners that both operate on 1,000 watts per hour, the vacuum that removes twice as much soil as the other while using the same amount of power gets the higher PUE rating.

The CRI test determines the amount of soil a vacuum can remove divided by the watts per hour to come up with its power use effectiveness rating.

Of course, different machines will use different amounts of energy, and in many cases that varying energy usage is the result of the appliance’s design. Some machines require more power than others to operate.

But for those who are interested in getting the biggest bang for the buck when it comes to both cleaning efficiency and energy consumption, knowing the PUE rating might be a helpful thing.

It seems to me that the focus on energy consumption can be taken too far, however. If it takes twice as much time to clean your carpet with a less energy consuming machine, where are the real benefits? After all, if the vacuum cleaner doesn’t clean the carpet well, or has to be used longer for the same results, it’s all for naught.

The efforts of the European Union just seem a bit misguided to me because they seem to ignore whether or not the product, in this case the vacuum cleaner, really works.

Certainly everyone’s concerned about the energy we consume, but it makes very little sense to throw out the baby with the bathwater. Perhaps the EU can take a chapter from our playbook and see the importance of measuring both efficiency and energy consumption.

Werner Braun is president of the Dalton-based Carpet and Rug Institute.

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