Thanks to smart federal standards, consumers have access to many appliances that not only score well on Consumer Reports tests and achieve high levels of customer satisfaction, but also save consumers money by reducing energy and water consumption.
Unfortunately, the Department of Energy (DOE) is close to changing some rules that could threaten product quality as well as consumer savings.
One of those changes is to the rules for dishwashers.
- About the rule: The new rule would create a new product class of dishwashers in which the cycle time for the “Normal” cycle would be less than 1 hour from washing through drying.
- What CR has said: When DOE first announced in 2018 that it would consider the new product class back, CR submitted public comments saying that such a change was, at best, unnecessary, because the current standard do not preclude any dishwasher from having more than one cycle, including a “quick cycle” of one hour or less. “In fact, most dishwashers on the market today already have at least three cycles for the consumer to choose from, including a quick cycle,” CR pointed out.
- CR dishwasher testing: 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. The two highest-rated dishwashers tested by CR not only got the highest marks in consumer satisfaction, but both have 95-minute wash cycles, and cost significantly less than some competitors. “Manufacturers are constantly trying to improve these appliances,” said Larry Ciufo, the engineer who oversaw CR’s dishwasher tests in 2019, “but they already do such a good job at cleaning that new features don’t often change our test results much.”
- Consumer savings: 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%.
- What consumers say: Consumers are generally not concerned about the length of their dishwasher’s run time because most people run their dishwashers overnight, according to a CR survey published in 2017. In addition, only 6% of survey respondents reported that their most frequently used cycle was the Quick/Express/1-hour cycle.
Another DOE rule change is expected for showerheads. The new rule could redefine the word “showerhead.” Reinterpreting the current definition could allow manufacturers to sidestep the maximum 2.5 gallons-per-minute flow rate standards. Consumer Reports believes a rule change is not in order, because consumers have a wide variety of high performing showerhead options that meet the federal standards across a range of price points. For instance, the second-highest rated showerhead in CR testing costs only $20 and meets federal standards for water usage. In addition, two high efficiency showerheads that meet EPA’s “Watersense” requirements received the CR “recommended” rating while achieving very good ratings for shower feel, and both can be purchased for $50 or less. In 2016, CR testers said, “The best models we tested provide a strong flow and steady temperature, and some have adjustable settings for spray patterns ranging from a gentle mist to a forceful massage.”