Tales of the Red Tape #9: Regulators Going Off on Microwave Ovens

Diane Katz /

At the behest of Congress, the Department of Energy (DOE) has “invested” several years and considerable tax dollars in devising restrictions on the amount of electricity it takes to run virtually every household appliance. Alas, a regulator’s work is never done. Having assumed control over the energy we use to cook, clean, light, heat, and cool every room in our homes, the Washington Powermeisters have taken to crafting energy conservation standards for appliances not in use. (That’s not a typo.)

Just last month, for example, the DOE issued an “interim final rule”—i.e., a rule that’s absolutely final until another one comes along—that mandates the test procedures that manufacturers must adopt to measure the minute amount of electricity used by microwave ovens when in “standby mode” and “off mode.”

Dozens of pages of the Federal Register are devoted to delineating just what constitutes each mode, although neither one involves actual cooking. Instead, this particular regulatory initiative, now spanning three years, is focused on such supposedly energy-hogging components as the clock, timer, and indicator light that remain lit when the microwave oven is not in use. (more…)