Appliances that don't do the job

A colleague of mine recently pointed out your editorial (“Washing machines that don't wash,” July/August). I had a an encounter with a non-working appliance a few years ago when replacing my dishwasher. I selected a model that Consumer Reports hailed as the second-best residential dishwasher available. The best was the same machine but with a somewhat better silverware rack. By settling for an inferior silverware accommodation, I saved $150.

This unit, which is Energy Star rated — and for which I, therefore, received a $50 Oregon Tax Credit - does a nice job of cleaning, but it just won't dry. Even when you select the “heated-dry” setting, you still need to towel-dry the dishes before putting them away. The service tech said it is performing normally and that no Energy Star rated dishwasher adequately dries the dishes. It's not possible to do so with the amount of energy allowed by Energy Star.

My plan is to “hack” it, to modify the unit's firmware to extend the drying time.

I see a market for this type of work-around, just as there is a market for “performance chips” for cars that change the way the computer runs the engine. Such chips let you sacrifice fuel efficiency or emissions to gain performance. If the truth be told, automobile manufacturers design engine control modules to make this rather easy to do. They even slip the necessary technical documents “under the table” to shops that specialize in creating these aftermarket chips.

So, I predict a growing market for appliance “performance chips” for dishwashers and laundry machines, a market which will be helped by the appliance manufacturers themselves.
Chuck Gollnick

Smart meter = Dumb idea

A recent article talked about several myths surrounding smart meters (“Lighten up,” July/August) My residential service had a meter installed a few months ago and yesterday a replacement meter was installed as the old one indicated an error. Reliability is a big question that remains to be answered. The smart meters are correctly named, as the customer is forced to have one and is charged a monthly fee for the next three years for the unit. The last item, Myth #5, says the meters were “invented by electric companies to get more money from customers” is only half of the story. Those companies may not have invented the units, but they are using them to extract more money from customers. The next step will be to introduce demand billing for residential customers.

Electric companies have better things to do. For example, they keep adding new customers but have not added enough generating capacity to be able to handle the load in peak times.

By the way, I'm a long-time customer of Reliant Energy (formerly Houston Light and Power), the source for all those mistaken myth corrections.
J.R. Williams

Another reader had a similar reaction to the smart-meter myths and we've included his remarks in this issue's Lighten Up section. -Editor

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