- - Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Be prepared to work harder at home. The era of affordable labor-saving devices is threatened by rising appliance costs due to federal energy regulations.

Washing clothes by hand sounds Third World to Americans, but how else does a limited budget handle the sticker shock from such as washing machines and dryers commonly priced at $600 to $1,000? That’s for separate units, not both together.

Nobody saves money by buying more expensive products when the claimed energy savings don’t materialize. That’s because we commonly don’t keep appliances and electronics long enough to close the cost gap.

Even stricter federal energy regulations are in the pipeline not only for washers and dryers but also for refrigerators, freezers, all types of lamps and lights, dishwashers, ice makers, air conditioners, furnaces, space heaters, ovens, stoves and lots more, including chargers and power supplies for cellphones and other personal electronics.

Each product gets its own vast, dizzying array of proposed mind-numbing new standards on power consumption, design and labeling, with details for each variation in which they are sold.

How would you like being told that there’s even more “in Appendix Z to subpart B of 10 CFR Part 430,” as one edict says? Any time your appendices climb to Z, you’re way past being reasonable.

Manufacturers such as General Electric, Panasonic, Sub-Zero and others are petitioning the Department of Energy for relief from the tedious new power-use testing requirements that are the prelude to an avalanche of more regulations.

The mantra from the green energy crowd is that we should ignore higher purchase prices, because we’ll eventually get it back from savings on our electric bills.

But the feds often calculate supposed savings over a 30-year span (sometimes only 9 years) on products that we’re unlikely to keep that long. They wear out, break down or become obsolete. Even The New York Times published a report that the fuel savings from more miles per gallon won’t offset higher auto prices unless people start keeping their autos twice as long as we typically do.

The Consumer Electronics Association told regulators that it’s nonsense to project 30 years of supposed savings when consumers may use an item for only a few months. CEA proposes the industry develop its standards rather than be buried under government dictates. The Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers touts the improvements already made, such as success in doubling energy efficiency of dishwashers since 1980.

Nothing is ever enough for the green crowd, however.

How about the most common personal appliance: the cellphone?

The common turnover rate for cellphones is every two years, which includes a new charger each time. Bureaucrats claim the industry should standardize chargers for the 200-million-plus cellphones they sell each year. Then people could keep their old chargers when they get a new phone. They have a point there. Lots of us wish that power supplies were standardized, just like electric outlets, regardless of the brand or the product. Industry steps toward that would be surefire winners.

The Department of Energy claims its regulation on power supplies would cost consumers $143 million a year but save us $293 million. Of course, their claimed “savings” include speculative benefits from reducing carbon footprints.

And the chargers are small stuff compared to the requirements for larger appliances like refrigerators and stoves.

Even states are getting in on the act. The Institute for Energy Research reports that 11 states already have appliance standards going even farther than the feds.

Creature comforts like coffee makers, CD and MP3 players, electric blankets and even electric foot massagers may not be as common in the near future, simply because so many people won’t be able to afford the little luxuries of life.

Pick which ones you want and do without the rest. Rediscover the manual toothbrush even though the electric version plus a Waterpik protect your teeth better. Pile up the quilts on your bed. Use a hand egg beater.

The extra costs being added to each item may seem minor, but they add up to a major impact on our quality of life.

It’s not the end of the world, but is this interference with our choices really what our government should be doing? No, it is not.

Be prepared for a possible future of solar-powered clothes dryers. We used to call them clotheslines.

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