Energy Department Fixes Loophole for Wasteful Showerheads

Contact: Ben Somberg, 202-658-8129, bsomberg@aceee.org

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Washington, DC—The Department of Energy (DOE) finalized a rule today ensuring that showerheads do not needlessly use more water than Congress directed nearly three decades ago, undoing a loophole created by the previous administration. To date, few manufacturers have chosen to produce products that exploit the loophole, but such showerheads could waste water and the energy used to heat it.

“This was a silly loophole from the beginning and the department was right to fix it. The good news is there was no clamoring for products that took advantage of this, and we can put this whole episode in the past,” said Andrew deLaski, executive director of the Appliance Standards Awareness Project. “The energy department has reversed another of the Trump-era rollbacks and roadblocks, but there is much more to do to clear the path for new efficiency standards.”

Congress set a standard in 1992 limiting showerheads to spraying 2.5 gallons of water per minute, helping reduce the strain on water supplies and cut energy use from water heating. Manufacturers subsequently improved their models; today’s highest-rated fixtures use significantly less water than the standard allows, and researchers have found no significant impact on user satisfaction from some models that do so (ten states and Washington, DC have adopted standards that are stronger than the 1992 standard).

But in December 2020, following comments by the then-president concerning showerheads, DOE issued a final rule allowing models with an unlimited number of nozzles that each could use 2.5 gallons of water per minute. Only a handful of models available for sale today through major online retailers appear to potentially exploit the current loophole and feature multiple nozzles that together may exceed 2.5-gallons-per-minute.

Separately, DOE still needs to finalize a proposal to undo a rule that effectively blocks the department from setting strong standards for gas furnaces, water heaters, and boilers in homes and commercial buildings, as well as a second rule undoing Trump-era process hurdles (it recently finalized a rule undoing several of these hurdles). And it needs to take final action to undo Trump-era rollbacks on standards for light bulbs, clothes washers and dryers, and dishwashers.

President Biden directed agencies in a January 20 executive order to identify Trump-era actions that merited “suspending, revising, or rescinding,” and to complete action doing so by the end of 2021. DOE identified each of the Trump rollbacks and roadblocks in its memo.

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The Appliance Standards Awareness Project (ASAP) organizes and leads a broad-based coalition effort that works to advance, win and defend new appliance, equipment and lighting standards which deliver large energy and water savings, monetary savings and environmental benefits.