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New dishwasher rule is unnecessary, jeopardizes consumer savings

Dishwasher standards are saving consumers money while meeting their needs

WASHINGTON — A new Department of Energy (DOE) rule would create a new class of dishwashers for which the “normal” cycle, from wash through drying, would take 1 hour or less.

“At best this rule is unnecessary because most consumers already have access to 1-hour or quick-wash cycles on their dishwashers,” says David Friedman, Vice President of Advocacy at Consumer Reports, and a former acting assistant secretary for the Department of Energy. “What this rule really does is adds unnecessary regulations and undermines existing rules that have been providing consumers with well-performing and efficient dishwashers.”

In the most recent Consumer Reports test of dishwashers, the top two performing products not only got the highest marks in consumer satisfaction, but both have 95-minute wash cycles, and cost significantly less than some competitors.

“This shows us that the technology is there to provide consumers with both quality and reasonable speed,” adds Friedman. “And there are a lot of other well-performing dishwashers that deliver wash cycles at around 150 minutes and also get ‘Excellent’ scores.”

Consumer Reports last tested dishwashers in 2019 and found that of the 35 dishwashers earning CR’s “excellent” overall score, which considers reliability, owner satisfaction, washing, drying, energy use, noise, and drying time, all 35 score “excellent” on energy usage.

Since Congress established the first dishwasher standards in 1987, dishwasher energy and water use have declined by about 50%, according to the Appliance Standards Awareness Project (ASAP). Before the standards, it wasn’t unusual for a dishwasher tested by Consumer Reports to use 10 gallons of water or more for a normal cycle. Today, half that amount is common. At the same time, dishwasher prices declined by about 30%.

DOE is now putting at risk those huge gains in efficiency and consumer savings.

“Taxpayer money was wasted in creating this unnecessary class of dishwashers, which can then go on to cost those same taxpayers even more money by wasting energy and water,” says Friedman.

Consumer Reports wrote to the DOE back in 2018 urging that a new rule not be developed. The letter cites a CR survey published in 2017, which found:

  • 87% of respondents reported their most frequently used cycle was the either the Normal/Regular or Auto/Smart cycle. 
  • 66% of respondents use Normal/Regular cycle more than 50% of the time.
  • Only 6% of survey respondents reported that their most frequently used cycle was the Quick/Express/1-hour cycle.”
  • 27% of survey respondents reported using the Quick/Express/1- hour cycle at least some of the time, and the reported usage of the Quick/Express/1-hour cycle was similar to reported usage of other non-normal cycles such as “Heavy Duty” or “Pots & Pans.”
  • 67% of survey respondents reported that they ran their dishwasher at the end of the evening and unloaded it the next day.
Adam Winer