Many people are surprised to learn that vacuum cleaners have a significant impact on the environment.
For example, millions of vacuum bags, filters, lithium-ion batteries, and old vacuums end up in landfill each year. Inefficient vacuum motors also cause the emission of large amounts of carbon.
While there’s no such thing as a “zero carbon” vacuum cleaner, there are many features you can look for to reduce the environmental impact of your next vac. Here are five of the most important features.
1. Low Power Motor to Minimise Energy Usage
There was a time when powerful motors were a key selling point of vacuum cleaners. Aside from being noisy and using large amounts of energy, these motors were largely marketing gimmicks.
It’s true that cleaning performance is partly related to raw motor strength. But features like the type of floorhead, brush bar power, sealed body to maximise airflow, and a cyclonic design, have a bigger impact.
This was proven when the EU limited vacuums to a maximum 900W motor power, without causing a noticeable difference to vacuum performance.
For this reason, it’s important to look for vacuums with low power usage.
There are many high-quality vacuums with a motor power of 700W-900W, but there are also some excellent options with 450W motors. Shark, Numatic, and various other brands produce vacuums in this power range.
Tip: You could even consider using a manual carpet sweeper instead of a vacuum. These rely on manual power rather than electronics, which means they don’t emit any carbon when in use.
2. Lifetime Filters That Don’t Need to be Replaced
A high-quality vacuum filter is essential for maintaining the air quality in your home. Vacuums with inefficient filters pump tiny particles of dust, pet dander, and mould back into the air, which can trigger allergies and unpleasant smells.
Unfortunately, most filters end up in landfill when they are replaced. To avoid this issue, look for vacuum cleaners that are advertised with a lifetime filter. These can be washed to maintain their effectiveness, without needing to be replaced.
If possible, buy a vacuum with a HEPA filter. These filters are more effective than basic foam filters at removing allergens and pollutants from the air when vacuuming.
3. Corded Rather Than Cordless
Cordless vacuums with lithium-ion batteries have become increasingly popular in recent years. But a major drawback to these models is the societal and environmental concerns associated with lithium mining.
While lithium-ion batteries themselves may be beneficial to the environment, the mining process uses large quantities of water. This can deprive local people of water, particularly as most lithium mining takes place in dry environments. Processing lithium is also associated with water contamination.
In addition, some of the other raw materials required for these batteries (such as nickel) is linked with deforestation and pollution. Many lithium batteries also end up being thrown into landfill rather than being properly recycled.
As corded vacuums are nearly always more powerful and provide better cleaning performance, it’s best to avoid cordless models when looking for an Eco-friendly vacuum.
4. Bagless or Reusable Bags
There are advantages to both bagless and bagged vacuums.
Bagged models often provide better filtration, as the bag acts as an extra filter, and have a self-sealing design that’s great for allergy-prone individuals. On the other hand, bagless vacuums tend to have more consistent suction and save money on replacement bags.
When it comes to environmental impact, bagless vacuums are often the best choice as they reduce unnecessary waste. Spotless Vacuum provides a regularly updated list of the best bagless models if you’re not sure which to choose. If you need a bagged vacuum for allergies, then buy from a brand that also sells reusable bags.
Note: Some brands, such as Miele, claim that a bag helps a vacuum’s motor to last longer. This may offset some of the environmental benefits of a bagless vacuum.
5. Durable and Long-Lasting Design
While the features in this article are all important when buying an Eco-friendly vacuum cleaner, the process of manufacturing and shipping a vacuum still has a negative impact on the environment.
To minimise this environmental cost, only buy a high-quality vacuum that’s designed to last a long time. Vacuum brands with a reputation for durable and long-lasting vacuums include Miele, Sebo, Dyson, and Numatic.
It’s also a good idea to check where the vacuum cleaner was manufactured.
Nearly all vacuums come from China, although Numatic (UK) and Sebo (Germany) are two exceptions. Dyson was included in this list until 2002, although they now manufacture their vacuums in Malaysia and the Philippines.
You could also consider buying a second-hand vacuum cleaner. Check the vacuum’s specification before you buy, however, as many older models have big motors that use up a lot of energy.
Consider the environmental impact of a vacuum before you buy. Look for a model with a low motor power, lifetime filters, and a corded design. If you don’t have allergies, then a bag-less vacuum reduces waste, although you can often buy reusable bags for bagged models.
For light cleaning, consider a manual carpet sweeper. These don’t generate suction, which makes them less effective than a vacuum, but they are much more Eco-friendly. Many people are also surprised by how much dirt a manual sweeper can still pick up.
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