Future

Why Vacuum Cleaners May Get Less Powerful And More Expensive

European Union regulations will now require lower maximum voltage on vacuums. It may making cleaning slower, purchase prices higher, but hopefully long-term energy saving benefits.

Well, this sucks.
Well, this sucks.
Sandra Riccio

TURIN — First it was the light bulbs: They were too energy-intensive. Then it was fans and dryers. Now the European Union"s ongoing stand against powerful domestic enemies is taking aim at super-charged vacuum cleaners.

Taking effect Sept. 1, the EU is pulling the plug on vacuum cleaners that eat up too much electricity, banning the sale of models that exceed 1,600 watts.

In 2017, Brussels will lower the maximum again, down to 900 watts — which has been the manufacturers' competitive standard until now. Even the noise levels will be adjusted and must not be higher than 80 decibels. This really is a revolution because there are still many models on the market that exceed 2,000 watts.

The EU's aim is to reduce energy waste; but what does it change for individual families? Will these lower wattage vacuums still do our chores, or will we suddenly find ourselves taking twice as long to clean the carpets and floors?

The EU insists that the new legislation won't affect the appliance's efficiency, but will on the contrary improve it. The new regulations already have precise indications on the suction levels of the devices.

What is certain is that the electricity consumption of one of the most frequently used appliances in European homes will drop significantly. Statistics show that, on average, we use our vacuums for an hour per month.

From now on, each new unit must display a label that clearly shows its consumption — just like on refrigerators and washing machines. Furthermore, the motor must be guaranteed for at least 500 hours of performance. Up until now there had been no clear rules on the average life of a machine, post-purchase.

Wallets and waffles

With our "super green" vacuums, we'll save on our electricity bills between one-third and one-half of what traditional devices consume. Instead, we'll have to fork out more money at the time of purchase. The first high-efficiency models on the market are priced around 200 euros — compared to an average model today that goes for between 60 and 80 euros.

Photo: Matty Ring

Currently, there are not many on the market, and so new technologies will have to be exploited to give the same yield.

It's a little bit like what happened to the fans: Those deemed by the EU as best-performing halved consumption, but the prices were much higher than before. At the end of the day, will we have to spend more? It's hard to say.

While the news is a major headache for manufacturers, it has actually taken 12 years for industries to accept the regulatory framework. Those who oppose the rule include British tech giant Dyson, who have appealed to the EU Court of Justice in Luxembourg. With its famously bagless appliances, it will still be penalized. On the other hand, the robot vacuum cleaners that are becoming increasingly popular in Italian homes are completely excluded from the directive.

All told, there are already some 30 other appliance products under Brussels' magnifying glass. Next on the plate, the EU will arrive at our breakfast table, with new regulations on American-style coffee machines. Beginning Jan. 1, 2015, the plate warmers will have to automatically turn off after five minutes. This will also apply to espresso machines and waffle makers. The smartest of the smart appliances will make sure to turn themselves off after we've finished breakfast.

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Society

What It Means When The Jews Of Germany No Longer Feel Safe

A neo-Nazi has been buried in the former grave of a Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender – not an oversight, but a deliberate provocation. This is just one more example of antisemitism on the rise in Germany, and society's inability to respond.

At a protest against antisemitism in Berlin

Eva Marie Kogel

-Essay-

BERLIN — If you want to check the state of your society, there's a simple test: as the U.S. High Commissioner for Germany, John Jay McCloy, said in 1949, the touchstone for a democracy is the well-being of Jews. This litmus test is still relevant today. And it seems Germany would not pass.


Incidents are piling up. Most recently, groups of neo-Nazis from across the country traveled to a church near Berlin for the funeral of a well-known far-right figure. He was buried in the former grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender, a gravesite chosen deliberately by the right-wing extremists.

The incident at the cemetery

They intentionally chose a Jewish grave as an act of provocation, trying to gain maximum publicity for this act of desecration. And the cemetery authorities at the graveyard in Stahnsdorf fell for it. The church issued an immediate apology, calling it a "terrible mistake" and saying they "must immediately see whether and what we can undo."

There are so many incidents that get little to no media attention.

It's unfathomable that this burial was allowed to take place at all, but now the cemetery authorities need to make a decision quickly about how to put things right. Otherwise, the grave may well become a pilgrimage site for Holocaust deniers and antisemites.

The incident has garnered attention in the international press and it will live long in the memory. Like the case of singer-songwriter Gil Ofarim, who recently claimed he was subjected to antisemitic abuse at a hotel in Leipzig. Details of the crime are still being investigated. But there are so many other incidents that get little to no media attention.

Photo of the grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

The grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

Jens Kalaene/dpa/ZUMA

Crimes against Jews are rising

Across all parts of society, antisemitism is on the rise. Until a few years ago, Jewish life was seen as an accepted part of German society. Since the attack on the synagogue in Halle in 2019, the picture has changed: it was a bitter reminder that right-wing terror against Jewish people has a long, unbroken history in Germany.

Stories have abounded about the coronavirus crisis being a Jewish conspiracy; meanwhile, Muslim antisemitism is becoming louder and more forceful. The anti-Israel boycott movement BDS rears its head in every debate on antisemitism, just as left-wing or post-colonial thinking are part of every discussion.

Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

Since 2015, the number of antisemitic crimes recorded has risen by about a third, to 2,350. But victims only report around 20% of cases. Some choose not to because they've had bad experiences with the police, others because they're afraid of the perpetrators, and still others because they just want to put it behind them. Victims clearly hold out little hope of useful reaction from the state – so crimes go unreported.

And the reality of Jewish life in Germany is a dark one. Sociologists say that Jewish children are living out their "identity under siege." What impact does it have on them when they can only go to nursery under police protection? Or when they hear Holocaust jokes at school?

Germany needs to take its antisemitism seriously

This shows that the country of commemorative services and "stumbling blocks" placed in sidewalks as a memorial to victims of the Nazis has lost its moral compass. To make it point true north again, antisemitism needs to be documented from the perspective of those affected, making it visible to the non-Jewish population. And Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

That is the first thing. The second is that we need to talk about specifically German forms of antisemitism. For example, the fact that in no other EU country are Jewish people so often confronted about the Israeli government's policies (according to a survey, 41% of German Jews have experienced this, while the EU average is 28%). Projecting the old antisemitism onto the state of Israel offers people a more comfortable target for their arguments.

Our society needs to have more conversations about antisemitism. The test of German democracy, as McCloy called it, starts with taking these concerns seriously and talking about them. We need to have these conversations because it affects all of us. It's about saving our democracy. Before it's too late.

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