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Four years ago, I purchased a new home, which came equipped with Energy Star-compliant appliances. From day one, the dishwasher refused to fully dry the dishes. I put up with that idiosyncrasy until a week ago, when I finally decided to see what the heck was wrong.

At first, I suspected the drying element in the bottom of the washer wasn't working. So, a few minutes of running the dishwasher and then a touch of the finger … Ouch! That's hot! Okay, the heating element is working.

A second check was incoming water temperature. Dishwashers need at least 120-degree water if the dishes are going to be clean and dry. My digital thermometer said that the incoming water temperature was 129-degrees, so the water temperature was okay.

While hating to admit I was unable to solve the problem, clearly it was time to contact the manufacturer. I posed my question to the General Electric (GE) Web site, and within 24 hours I received an answer. The company representative said that in order for the dishwasher to meet EPA Energy Star requirements, the designers were forced to reduce the size (and hence, heat output) of the heating element. In addition, the engineers had to shorten the dry cycle time.

The nice lady at GE said that if I'd just be sure the incoming water temperature was at least 120 degrees and that I used a “proper wetting agent,” the dishes should be “almost dry” when the wash cycle is completed. The result is that while my dishwasher is fully Energy Star-compliant, it doesn't dry the dishes!

I was reminded of my situation while reading an article about the difficulties TV manufacturers are having meeting the new, and even more restrictive, Energy Star 3 requirements. The article claimed that none of today's 37in TVs meet the new Energy Star 3 power-on standard. However, seven out of 10 50in plasma TV sets do meet the power consumption standard. If you're looking for justification to buy a larger TV set, that should be all the excuse you need.

However, the EPA wasn't satisfied with just requiring lower power consumption when a TV is turned on. The agency also is demanding that TV sets consume less than 1W when they are off! Set makers claim that meeting this portion of the Energy Star 3 requirements will be extremely difficult because of the requirement to support instant-on HDMI interface capability.

Could the EPA impose even stricter limitations on electronics? Yes. Your next television set might contain a “feature” that allows the power company to downgrade your set's display quality to “almost HD” to save power. Perhaps the set will shut down heavy CPU image processing or reduce the contrast ratio, which lowers LCD back lighting power requirements.

The bottom line is that government-mandated power limitations, while they may seem worthy, can also limit features and performance and result in a higher-cost product. They are an unwelcome intrusion into one's home.

I can deal with my wet dishes. The solution just requires a towel and time. But when it comes to my home electronics, I'd like to tell EPA where they can stick that Energy Star.

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