Dept. of Energy Announces Costly New Rules for Air Conditioners and Clothes Washers

Dept. of Energy Announces Costly New Rules for Air Conditioners and Clothes Washers

A Bad Deal For American Consumers
October 05, 2000

Washington, DC, October 5, 2000 –  The Department of Energy (DOE) today announced new energy efficiency standards for central air conditioners and heat pumps, and proposed a new standard for clothes washers.  DOE estimates that the new rules will add $274 to the price of a new residential air conditioning system, and $486 to a heat pump. The proposed washing machine rule would cost consumers as much as $240. The efficiency standards call for energy use reductions ranging from 20 to 35 percent for these appliances, to take effect over the over the next six years.

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“These costly rules will not only raise costs, but will restrict consumer choice and may adversely affect product performance,” says Ben Lieberman, policy analyst with the Competitive Enterprise Institute. Air conditioners with the highest efficiency ratings have proven less reliable than mid-range efficiency models, according to Consumer Reports, and the clothes washer rule would likely result in a market dominated by front-loading washers, rather than the more popular and inexpensive top-loading models.      


DOE claims that the higher purchase prices of these appliances will be earned back through lower utility bills, but the agency admits that payback periods stretch out for many years, and that some consumers will never see a net benefit. “Spending a lot to save a little in energy is often a losing proposition,” adds Lieberman. 


One-size-fits-all standards also fail to account for individual differences. For example, a more efficient but costlier central air-conditioning system may make sense for a family in Miami where it will be used throughout the year, but not in Washington, DC where it will be used only in the summer. “The decision as to what kind of home appliance to buy should rest with the individual consumer, not the federal government,” adds Lieberman.



CEI, a non-profit, non-partisan public policy group founded in 1984, is dedicated to the principles of free enterprise and limited government. For more information, please contact Emily McGee, director of media relations, at 202-331-1010, ext. 209.