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Politics

We Fact Checked Everything Trump Has Said About Energy Efficiency Since 2021

Low-flow shower heads have improved since Jerry Seinfeld was on TV.

Donald Trump and appliances.
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

You can take the real estate magnate out of development, but becoming a politician hasn’t made Donald Trump less invested in dishwashers and water flow. Here’s what he’s gotten right and wrong about at-home energy efficiency on the campaign trail.

All I know about magnets is this: Give me a glass of water, let me drop it on the magnets, that’s the end of the magnets.” [Jan. 5, 2024]

Fact check: Trump made this comment while discussing electric catapults and magnetic elevators on aircraft carriers. While there have certainly been problems with the roll-out of these advanced systems on the ships, none involved water-damaged magnets. Magnets are waterproof, and therefore their performance does not suffer from water damage.

“They want to talk about your dishwashers and how much water you’re going to have in your dishwasher, even though they don’t work and all of the other things that you have that were so precious and dear and that you never really appreciated until now because they want to take them away.” [December 2, 2023]

Fact check: As someone who lives in a New York City apartment, I would absolutely describe my dishwasher as “precious and dear,” so that part is true. It is also true that, as I explained last year, rules proposed by the Biden administration call for new dishwashers imported and made in the U.S. to use 34% less water, or no more than 3.3 gallons, during their default cycles by 2027. But it is not true that those dishwashers don’t work.

Energy-efficient dishwashers can take a long time to clean your dishes; many cycles last more than two hours and some up to three. The reason for this is pretty straightforward: In order to achieve the same level of cleanliness as old, water- and energy-inefficient dishwashers, new water- and energy-efficient dishwashers need to swish around longer.

But the “default cycles” are the only dishwasher mode the government restricts; “short cycle” modes, which require more water and take less time, are still allowed on dishwashers sold in the U.S. and aren’t regulated by the new rules. That fast mode just can’t be the default. As Wirecutter writes, “crappy cleaning performance and long cycles aren’t an inevitable outcome of efficiency standards,” and “if your dishwasher is slow and sucks (and a better detergent doesn’t fix the problem), blame the company that built it.”

“Now their new thing is your heating systems in the house. They don’t want you to have a modern-day heating system. They want you to use a heating system that will cost you at least $10,000 to buy and won’t work very well.” [August 24, 2023]

Fact check: It’s really gas furnace systems that are, technically speaking, dated. Gas furnaces were considered state-of-the-art in the 1920s and 1930s, while heat pump technology — which works by transferring, rather than generating, heat from indoors to outdoors and vice versa — took off in the 1970s as a response to surging oil prices. Heat pumps can be up to five times more efficient than fossil-fuel furnaces, according to electrification advocacy group Rewiring America, which means that at least 70% of people could save money on their energy bills by switching from fossil fuel heaters, the group estimates.

The cost of a heat pump itself varies widely depending on size (how much house it has to heat), type (geothermal vs. air source), and efficiency, then when you add in factors like the cost to refit you existing HVAC system and the cost of labor, well, it adds up. While heat pumps aren’t cheap, they do at least serve as both a furnace and an air conditioner, two appliances for the price of one, an investment that can pay back over time, Rewiring America said.

“You want to wash your beautiful hair. And you stand under a shower and the suds never go — the water comes out very slowly. I’m sure you’ve seen this. It usually takes place in new hotels and new homes.” [August 24, 2023]

Fact check: This might have been true when Seinfeld was on the air, but it hasn’t been for quite a while. Modern low-flow shower heads are specifically designed to “push out water that feels like a higher pressure even with a lower flow rate,” U.S. News and World Report writes.

When Trump was on his way out of the White House, his administration reinterpreted a 2013 regulation about how much water can flow out of a showerhead. “Manufacturers [had not demanded] the rollback,” The Washington Post writes. “Instead, the call for more powerful showers came from Trump himself, who complained that the conservation standards led to low water pressure and a dissatisfying shower experience.” With four or five or more nozzles, as Trump had allowed, “you could have 10, 15 gallons per minute powering out of the showerhead, literally probably washing you out of the bathroom,” Andrew deLaski, the executive director of the energy conservation group Appliance Standards Awareness Project, told PBS.

Biden restored the old water flow regulations.

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Jeva Lange profile image

Jeva Lange

Jeva is a founding staff writer at Heatmap. Her writing has also appeared in The Week, where she formerly served as executive editor and culture critic, as well as in The New York Daily News, Vice, and Gothamist, among others. Jeva lives in New York City.

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