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New washing machine rule undermines the standards that are saving consumers money and energy

Current clothes washer and dryer standards are saving consumers money while meeting their needs

WASHINGTON — A new Department of Energy (DOE) rule would allow for a new class of top-loading clothes washers and drying machines that would offer a “short” cycle time as the “normal” cycle.

“Consumers didn’t ask for this and consumers won’t benefit from it, in part because washing machines already have quick cycles,” says David Friedman, Vice President of Advocacy at Consumer Reports, and a former acting assistant secretary for the Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. “This will undermine the existing rules by creating new classes of clothes washers and dryers, especially since DOE is not even setting standards for the new classes.”

Consumer Reports testing finds that top-loading washers, to which this new rule change applies, typically have shorter cycle times than other washer types. However, they also tend to be worse at cleaning than front-loading washers, according to CR’s testing, and usually use more energy and water.  The top nine performing front-loading washing machines, on the other hand, not only received excellent scores for washing performance, but also scored excellent in water and energy efficiency.

Since 1987, when federal standards were first set, new clothes washers use 70% less energy, while average capacity increased by 33%.

Clothes washer performance has also improved, showing better washing performance, becoming gentler on clothes, and having higher capacity. In fact, Consumer Reports has increased the difficulty of washing performance tests to differentiate products.

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

“Appliance makers are innovating in ways that help consumers thanks in part to steadily improving federal guidelines over the past three decades,” says Friedman, who testified on Capitol Hill in 2019 in support of stronger appliance efficiency measures. “The goal of appliance standards is to help consumers save money by reducing energy costs while meeting their needs, but these latest rollbacks and rule changes by the Department of Energy run counter to that mission.”

CR responded to the new DOE showerhead rule when it was proposed earlier this year.

CR also criticized a similar rule change for dishwashers when DOE finalized it earlier this year.

Adam Winer