DOE Issues Needless Efficiency “Rules” That Will Waste Water and Energy

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Energy today needlessly established new classes of household washers and dryers that would not be subject to any water or energy efficiency standards, and also separately issued a new definition of showerheads to skirt their water and energy efficiency rules.  

The Department of Energy (DOE) called the rules “quality of life” improvements. However, they could lead to higher water and energy bills for consumers and additional carbon emissions, which will especially harm low-income people and communities of color that already experience significantly higher burdens when it comes to utility bills and pollution. The rules also come at a time when areas of the country are increasingly subject to extended droughts and cannot afford to waste water through such unnecessary regulatory loopholes.

Following is a statement from Noah Horowitz, director of the Center for Energy Efficiency Standards at NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council): 

“It’s ridiculous for the Department of Energy to call these ‘quality of life’ improvements when they’ll actually harm America’s quality of life by needlessly increasing consumer water and energy bills and climate-warming carbon pollution while exacerbating water shortages.

“These actions reverse decades of progress in increasing the efficiency of America’s washers and dryers and showerheads,” Horowitz added. “It’s outrageous that DOE is finalizing these rules while ignoring legal deadlines for reviewing and updating energy-saving standards for 25 other types of appliances and equipment in U.S. homes and businesses. We will not let this stand.”

Under the rule announced today, there will be no limits on energy or water use for new washers and dryers with short cycle times in their “normal” setting. It applies to top-loading washers with normal cycle times of less than 30 minutes, front-loading washers with less than 45 minutes, and clothes dryers with normal cycle times of less than 30 minutes. Millions of washers and dryers are sold in the U.S. annually.

Separately, DOE revised the definition of a showerhead so that multiple nozzles attached to a single supply would each be considered a separate showerhead, allowing each nozzle to use 2.5 gallons per minute, even if they operate simultaneously. That will let new showerheads use double, triple, or even quadruple the maximum amount of energy and water allowed for the last 25 years. With roughly 200 million showers taken every day in the U.S., the financial and environmental impacts could be significant.

In October, DOE exempted dishwashers that wash and dry dishes in one-hour or less from efficiency standards, a proposal opposed by environmental groups and manufacturers as most dishwashers on the market already offer quick cycles. The dishwasher rule was not the first time DOE has violated the law in neglecting or attempting to weaken efficiency standards. NRDC, joined by consumer and low-income consumer advocates as well as a number of states, recently sued the agency over its inaction on 25 standards that would save households and businesses at least $22 billion annually on their utility bills. Lawsuits also have been filed over DOE’s rollbacks of light bulb standards, changes to its efficiency standards process that will slow down—and create hurdles to—future standards, and its failure to finalize four standards issued under the Obama administration. 

Ed Osann, NRDC’s director of national water efficiency, has posted a blog on today’s washers and dryers action here and will post a blog on the showerheads change here.  

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The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 3 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City; Washington, D.C.; Los Angeles; San Francisco; Chicago; Bozeman, Montana; and Beijing. Visit us at and follow us on Twitter @NRDC  

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