Energy Department Deciding One-Hour Dishwasher Debate

By Alan Wolf, YSN

There’s a fierce debate being waged in Washington that could change the way you sell dishwashers.

Last year a non-profit libertarian think tank called the Competitive Enterprise Institute petitioned the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to create a new class of dishwashers that clean better and faster. Sounds great, right?

Problem is the new one-hour dishwashers would require the DOE to drop current energy and water efficiency standards that have cut the consumption of both by half over the past two decades.

The way the Competitive Enterprise Institute sees it, however, DOE’s increasingly stringent regulations have resulted in dishwashers that take twice as long to cycle through and still leave dishes dirty. “Basically, these dishwashers have turned into crap,” Sam Kazman, the think tank’s general counsel, told The Washington Times. “And it is solely the result of the Department of Energy’s so-called efficiency regulations.”

Kazman, who’s group was founded to fight big government and support a free, deregulated marketplace, cited data from Consumer Reports showing that average wash times have increased from about 70 minutes in 1983 to 140 minutes in 2018, the newspaper reported. The slower cycles were designed to “compensate for the negative impact on cleaning performance,” the DOE acknowledged in 2016.

But according to EcoWatch, an environmental news site, many parties, including appliance manufacturers, environmental groups, and a dozen state attorneys general, are opposed to the regulation rollbacks, even if they will only pertain to a select class of dishwasher. Among them, the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM), the trade group representing white-goods vendors, argues that the new rules would require costly product and factory redesigns that would be paid for in part by consumers, while forcing brands to abandon past investments in efficiency innovations.

What’s more, AHAM noted that nearly 87 percent of current dishwasher models already feature a quick-clean setting and that nearly half of those cycles can tackle tough loads, precluding the need for the new rules. GE Appliances, meanwhile, has submitted data showing that most consumers run their dishwashers overnight or after breakfast, waiting eight hours to unload them, EcoWatch reported.

The DOE has since granted the petition filed by the Competitive Enterprise Institute and has proposed the new dishwasher product class. It is presently weighing public comments before publishing a final rule, and is considering “appropriate” energy and water use limits for the faster machines should the proposal go forward.