The Trump administration has advanced easier dishwasher regulations that exempt fast-cleaning machines from decades-old rules, a rollback lauded by the president at a recent Nevada campaign rally.
The Department of Energy final rule creates a separate “product class” for dishwashers with a short cycle, classifying that setting as the “normal” cycle and setting no limit on energy or water use.
Critics of the change said the regulatory shift will do nothing to improve today’s machines, which perform far more effectively than older models even while using less energy and water.
“I called up a great dishwasher company from Ohio — that we saved, by the way. I said, ‘What’s the problem with your dishwasher?’” the president told a Nevada crowd during a campaign stop this month. “‘Well, they don’t give us any water… It’d be nice to be able to get enough water.’”
“President Trump has once again made good on his promise to free Americans from ludicrous government regulations — this time bringing a common-sense reform to dishwashers,” Russ Vought, the director of the Office of Management and Budget, told Real Clear Politics.
The administration cited data on dishwasher cycle times, compiled by the Competitive Enterprise Institute, showing that the average wash time had risen from just under an hour to nearly three hours by 2018, with the increase in time due to diminished water use in cleaning cycles.
But some consumer groups felt differently.
“The president and the Department of Energy have given two completely different reasons for why this rule is needed, and neither makes sense,” said Steven Nadel, executive director of the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy.
“President Trump says dishwashers don’t work as well as they used to, yet tests find that today’s models clean far better than the old ones,” Nadel said. “The Department of Energy says consumers need options for quick cycles, but those are already ubiquitous. In the end, this rule will neither make dishwashers perform better nor offer quicker cycles.”
Dishwasher water and energy use have declined by more than 50% over the past three decades because of federal standards and manufacturer innovations. Congress set the first energy efficiency standard for dishwashers in 1987; the governing body has updated it once and the Department of Energy has updated it twice since then, most recently in 2012.
Cleaning performance has improved in the same period. Product reviewers at Consumer Reports said in 2018 that “[n]ew models clean better and more quietly” and “already do such a good job at cleaning that new features don’t often change our test results much.”
The new product class could encourage new dishwashers with short “normal” cycles that use far higher amounts of energy and water but don’t make dishes any cleaner.
“They’re declaring a fix to a problem that never existed,” said Andrew deLaski, executive director of the Appliance Standards Awareness Project.
“And while the Department has been wasting time and taxpayer money making pointless and illegal rule changes, it’s been flouting the law by missing one legal deadline after another for reviewing and updating other efficiency standards,” he said. “Energy Department officials keep telling Congress that they’re focused on meeting legal deadlines and prioritizing standards that will save the most energy, but this dishwasher rule does neither.”
DOE issued a similar proposal in August that would eliminate existing standards for clothes washers and dryers with a short cycle as the “normal” cycle. Both the just-announced rule and the proposal for washers and dryers would violate the appliance standards law’s “anti-backsliding” provision prohibiting DOE from weakening standards, American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy said.
The administration has also taken steps to allow for stronger water flow from shower heads, with Trump in August saying from the White House grounds that increased pressure is key for his own hair needs.