For many years, the European Union has been setting noise standards for outdoor equipment: construction tools, lawnmowers, etc. More recently, however, the EU developed an extension of this program to include regulations for indoor appliances with the primary focus being standards for energy savings. And, for some appliances like vacuums, not-to-exceed noise levels are being included in the new regulations. What does that mean for the makes and models also sold in the US? Well, much like the contents of a vacuum canister, it is a mixed bag.
For appliances used inside the home this is completely new. In the case of upright and canister vacuum cleaners the EU has decreed that all vacuums must produce a sound power level less than 80 dBA. Any vacuum not meeting this standard will no longer be allowed to be marketed in the EU after September 1, 2017. As a result, vacuum manufacturers are in the midst of development programs aimed at meeting the new EU regulations, for energy consumption, dust pick up, and noise.
Vacuum manufacturers produce and market their products worldwide. The brands familiar to consumers in the US, like Hoover, Electrolux, Oreck, Dyson, are household names in Europe as well. So how will the new EU regulations affect products sold in the US?
Because electrical standards are different in Europe and in the US (230 volts and 50 Hz vs 120 volts and 60 Hz) any changes to motors used in European products will not automatically translate to their American counterparts. Manufacturers will likely be faced with increased costs for components that reduce noise. Will it be cost-effective to manufacture the same machine, or include seals which reduce noise leaks for those components common to the US and European models, or will it be more cost effective to leave the US models as-is? Undoubtedly these questions will be answered differently by different manufacturers. It would only be through regulations designed for the American market that we could be assured of the end result.