NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

An Annoying Regulation for Every Room in the House

September 29, 2010

Washington is attempting to redesign home appliances, but if past experience is any guide, these regulations will raise the purchase price of appliances -- in some cases more than is ever likely to be earned back in the form of energy savings.  Worse, several may adversely impact product performance and reliability, says Ben Lieberman, an associate fellow in environmental policy at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

The bathroom.

  • The same 1992 law that gave us those awful low-flush toilets also restricted the amount of water showerheads could use to 2.5 gallons per minute.
  • Some consumers thought the flow from these showers too weak, and opted for models with two or more showerheads, each of which contributed 2.5 gallons per minute.
  • But the Department of Energy recently eliminated this option by reinterpreting the law to require that the total flow must comply with the limit.

The kitchen.

  • There are pending regulations for refrigerators, dishwashers, conventional ovens and microwaves.
  • With refrigerators, it's a clear case of regulatory overkill -- they have already been subject to multiple rounds of increasingly tighter standards, with each new rule saving less energy than the last while adding to performance and reliability issues.

The bedroom, living room (or any air conditioned room).

  • Both central air conditioners and window units are scheduled for new regulations.
  • Even the Department of Energy conceded when rolling out its last round of central air conditioner standards in January 2001 that many homeowners would never recoup the additional up-front cost of compliant models.

New standards are also in the works for water heaters, furnaces, and clothes washers and dryers.  In the case of water heaters, the Department of Energy estimates price increases ranging from $67 to $974 depending on size and type.

Source: Ben Lieberman, "An Annoying Regulation for Every Room in the House," Competitive Enterprise Institute, September 24, 2010.

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