DOE Efficiency Rules not Dishwasher Safe

Published August 5, 2015

Dishwasher manufacturers are warning the Obama administration its latest efficiency standards for their products could wind up using more water and possible create public health problems. 

The Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM) says the Department of Energy (DOE) proposal to increase dishwasher efficiency standards, allowing only 3.1 gallons to be used to wash each load of dishes, is politically motivated, not grounded in sound understanding of technology and would result in consumers often re-washing dishes, possibly multiple times, thus erasing any efficiency gains. 

The appliance industry suspects the DOE is pushing the rules to try and meet President Obama’s greenhouse gas emissions goals under the Climate Action Plan, and while manufacturers want to play ball, they do not want meeting those goals to come at the expense of producing effective products. 

Rob McAver, AHAM’s chief lobbyist, said regulators are going too far, “At some point, they’re trying to squeeze blood from a stone that just doesn’t have any blood left in it.” 

Test Results ‘Not Encouraging’

Some AHAM members, including companies like GE Appliances & Lighting and Whirlpool Corp., tweaked their models to comply with the DOE’s proposals and then tested their products using standard tests with food stuck to dishes. The results were not encouraging. 

McAver brought DOE officials to his office recently to show them the results and released photos of it publicly. “They found some stuff that was pretty disgusting,” McAver said.

Time for a Rewrite

McAver hopes hopes after seeing the poor results DOE will reexamine their proposals and work more closely with the industry to shape more realistic ones this time. 

When it released the proposal in December, the DOE estimated the proposed efficiency standard would save 240 billion gallons over a 30-year period and reduce energy consumption by 12 percent, shaving $2 billion off consumers’ utility bills. 

McAver believes the DOE’s estimates are way off. “The poor performance that would result would totally undercut and go backwards in terms of energy and water use, because of the need for running the dishwasher again, or pre-rinsing or hand-washing, which uses a lot of water,” said McAver. 

Based on manufacturer test results, the AHAM estimates more than 70 percent of dishwasher owners “could actually experience a net financial loss when purchasing a product that meets the proposed levels,” AHAM said in a statement.

The Hill (7/20/15) reports, after seeing the results an unnamed agency spokeswoman said “The department has not put a fork in this rule, and has extended the comment period to work closely with manufacturers to test new products and ensure that consumers have the most efficient, highest performing products available.”

H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D. ([email protected]) is managing editor of Environment & Climate News.