For anyone who has ever taken a timed shower or gone to a laundromat to cut down on their household utilities bills, it should not come as a surprise that an efficient showerhead is an easy way to cut costs. Likewise, luxury shower and bath lovers might consider the extra energy cost of multiple showerheads to be a worthy sacrifice for the daily spa experience. Either way, the choice is a personal one made based on preference or financial constraints.
Or is it?
Of the many microscopic issues in which the Department of Energy (DOE) involves itself, one of the most ridiculous could be showerhead flow-capacity limits. In the name of conservation, a federal law limits the amount of water that can pass through a nozzle to 2.5 gallons per minute. The law was designed to limit both water and energy use related to pumping the water.
Until recently, a loophole that allowed multi-nozzled showerheads (with each individual nozzle meeting the flow-capacity limit) put this personal choice where it belongs: in the hands of consumers. Showerheads with three or even eight nozzles could be purchased by homebuilders to equip luxury bathrooms as long as the per-nozzle water-flow limit was followed. Regrettably, the DOE decided that alternatives to the standard showerhead could no longer be allowed and, in May, sought to close the legal gap. A redefinition of showerheads is expected.
Dictating the amount of water that is to be used in a shower has little bearing on energy policy and opens the door to far more invasive measures. If the DOE can limit the energy used in showering, it could just as easily involve itself in legislating how much energy any appliance can use, how long it can be used each day, or what kind of electronics can be sold.
This may already be a reality in some states. For example, the California Energy Commission adopted a law last November that makes more than three-fourths of televisions illegal for exceeding stringent energy use standards. The list of appliances that are currently under national or state energy standards includes microwaves, clothes dryers, audio systems—even dehumidifiers.
In involving itself so closely in the American household, the DOE has overstepped its bounds. Showerheads simply don’t fit under electricity, fuel, or energy on a national scale. Which showerhead to use should be a personal choice made by individual households, not by a commission or national organization.
Kelsey Huber is currently a member of the Young Leaders Program at the Heritage Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, please visit: http://www.heritage.org/about/departments/ylp.cfm