Media coverage of the EU ban on vacuum cleaners with motors over 1,600 watts that started this week, pointed towards a surge in sales of more powerful models in the week leading up to the ban. This comes as no surprise given the finding of Mintel’s research that suction power is by far the most important factor influencing consumers’ choice of vacuum cleaner.

Some 76% of people consider suction power most important when choosing what vacuum cleaner to buy, a long way ahead of the next most important factors of being easy to move around (44%), lightweight (28%) and good at picking up pet hairs (24%). Consumers clearly link vacuum cleaner performance with wattage, but are they right to do so?

As a general rule of thumb, great power in terms of motor wattage (which the ban refers to) means better suction, but that is not always the case as output or suction power (air watts) also depends on the vacuum’s design and efficiency. Air wattage is therefore a better measure for comparing the performance of different vacuum cleaner models.

The challenge for manufacturers is therefore to improve their technology so that vacuum cleaners with less powerful motors deliver greater suction power – and there is certainly room for energy efficiency improvements in engineering and design. In the meantime though, consumers will need to do their research thoroughly before buying to overcome their fears that vacuum cleaners they see as weaker will not pick up all the dust and pet hairs in their homes.

Whether the new legislation will achieve its objective of improving energy efficiency in the home and reducing carbon footprint though is an issue of debate. Critics argue that people will just use weaker models for longer, thus using the same amount of electricity. The restrictions will be extended further in 2017 to limit vacuum cleaners to 900 watts and a ban on a list of high-powered small electrical appliances is also under review (such as kettles and hairdryers).

From a consumer perspective what this all shows though is that people attach a much higher importance to the performance of their appliances than being environmentally-friendly. For UK householders maintaining a clean home is very important – 84% of people think a clean and well-cared-for home leaves a positive impression on others – so they are unwilling to compromise on vacuum cleaning suction power. Reassuring help to them in the form of product performance comparisons on lower wattage models will be crucial.

Richard Caines is Senior Household Analyst at Mintel and researches and writes Mintel’s Household Care reports. He has also worked as a senior analyst on Mintel’s household retail reports. Before Richard joined Mintel in 1998, he was Senior Editor at Key Note, a publisher of market information reports.