Is the Stem Vacuum the New Energy Efficient Cleaning Device? Maybe.

Is the Stem Vacuum the New Energy Efficient Cleaning Device? Maybe.

Jeff Heaton
Sep 8, 2011

A company called Cambridge Consultants has created a vacuum, the Suction Technology Eco Machine (STEM), that consumes 43% less energy than the average vacuum cleaner while maintaining performance. We like the idea, especially if it's a little quitter than our current vacuum. The features the Stem provides also intrigued us, but there are some lingering questions about its viability.

Cambridge Consultants found that there were basically two settings on consumer vacuums: off and full blast. The Stem changes power modes, and thus suction, based on the material being vacuumed (which it detects): heavier for carpet, less for hard floors and almost asleep when standing upright. This differs from current vacuums because the vacuum knows when to switch and the power output changes with it. Besides the energy savings in usage, the product is designed to be ecologically sound from the sourcing of materials through its disposal.

The trick for this product is going to performance. We, and we suspect other users, don't want to feel that we're missing dirt because we've got less suction. Which is why companies have designed loud vacuums and ridiculous commercials where the tank is filled with what can only be a pile of soot. It's why car, truck and motorcycle engines and mufflers are made to make a specific, loud noise. We associate power with quality and a perceived drop might make us feel like we're skimping. Stem (or its successors) will have to overcome this psychological association by impressing us in other ways.

While we agree that a little less power might not be a bad thing if it still gets our floors clean, why does it have to look so clunky? We get the idea that it's green and different, thus the wood, but the look is a bit too much. We decide how a product is going to feel and work partly by its look and to us this looks cheap (like it's made from leftover IKEA bits), and almost condescending. While only a concept, and one that might help to make great gains in this product segment, we feel it still needs some work.

Would you buy this vacuum? What do you think about its look and feel?

Cambridge Consultants via Fast Company

(Images: Cambridge Consultants.)

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