Liberate Dishwashers from Federal Efficiency Mandates


Thirty-five years ago, dishwashers cleaned dishes in about an hour. Sadly today, due to federal government regulations, there are no dishwashers that do so. This isn’t progress—it’s the failure of government to allow consumer choice. The Competitive Enterprise Institute this week petitioned the Department of Energy (DOE) to fix the problem.

Federal regulators have been so focused on forcing people to decrease energy usage that they have lost sight of the other features that consumers value. Even the DOE now recognizes that, because of their regulations, manufacturers “typically increase the cycle time.” The DOE is required by law to make sure that such features continue to be options for consumers, but has failed to do so.

Due to the increase in cycle times many consumers have complained. Here are just a few examples:

  • “The cycles run FOREVER – Plan on letting it run all afternoon before your dishes are ready so you can use them for dinner!!”
  • “It doesn’t clean well, but has a very long cycle, well over two hours.”
  • One consumer described a cycle time of one and a half hours as “extremely long,” but sadly this is the shortest cycle time on the market.
  • “The cycle time is way too long, running for 4 hours and still not cleaning the dishes. I am currently in the process of hand washing a number of dishes that did not clean in last night’s 4-hour cycle.”
  • “It spontaneously starts beeping, non-stop, the cycle takes FOREVER. I hate it, I hate it, I hate it.”
  • When one consumer called a technician to complain of a 4.5 hour cycle time, she was told that the new machines just take longer than the old ones.

Dishwashers are just one of many consumer appliances harmed by federal regulations. Traditional incandescent light bulbs are banned by federal regulations in favor of compact fluorescent bulbs that contain mercury, have worse color rendering, and cost three to ten times as much. Traditional top-loading clothes washers with a central agitator are banned in favor of front-loading washers that cost twice as much and some of which, according to Consumer Reports, leave clothes “nearly as dirty as they were before washing.”

It is time to stop these irresponsible actions and restore the quality of dishwashers that have been harmed by federal regulations. That is why the Competitive Enterprise Institute has asked the DOE to establish a new category of fast dishwashers. This new category would take no more than an hour to complete cleaning and drying dishes.

The statute allows the DOE to set a new energy standard for a product which has a “performance-related feature” which justifies a lower standard based on the “utility to the consumer of such a feature.” As the consumer complaints above, and an 11,000 person survey demonstrate, a dishwasher’s cycle time is a very important feature with high utility to the consumer.

Our petition would restore choice to the American consumer to allow them to buy the product they choose. Those that like their dishwasher as it is will continue to be able to purchase them. But those that do not like to waste time and still get their dishes clean will have another choice.

It is time to start reversing the damage that federal regulations have done.