Choosing a Water & Energy Efficiency Unit
Dishwashers spend most of their energy on heating water.
It's true; using a dishwasher consumes less water and energy than washing dishes by hand and letting the water run. Just be sure you get an energy- and water-efficient dishwasher to be extra safe.
To compare the efficiency of your options, look for the yellow and black EnergyGuide label. In addition to noting the specific model's estimated annual energy usage and estimated annual dollar operating cost, the label also includes low and high estimates for similar appliances.
The energy efficiency of dishwashers is measured by the average number of cycles they go through per kilowatt hour per year. This is called the Energy Factor, or EF, and the higher it is, the more efficient the dishwasher. Per federal appliance standards, a standard dishwasher (one that holds at least eight place settings and six serving pieces) must have an EF of 0.46, while a compact dishwasher must have a 0.62 EF.
Dishwashers that qualify for the Energy Star program-signified by a blue-and-white logo featuring a star-exceed the federal efficiency guidelines by 41 percent, for an EF of 0.65 for standard dishwashers and 0.88 for compact models. The Energy Star Web site, www.energystar.gov, offers more information about home energy efficiency, including special offers or rebates and a list of Energy Star qualified appliances.
A dishwasher's energy is spent mostly on heating up the water. Dishwashers vary in how much water they use, depending both on the model and the cycle selected. The amount ranges from 3 to 15 gallons per load, with an average of about 9 gallons, according to the American Water Works Association. The more water the dishwasher uses, the more energy that is being used.
Features that make a dishwasher more energy efficient include:
- A No Heat drying cycle. Using this setting can reduce a home's energy bill by 1 percent.
- Wash cycle options such as Light, Short or Energy Saver.
- Dirt or soil sensors that adjust the cycle based on the dish load and amount of food particles in the dishwasher.
You also can save energy by:
- Washing full loads.
- Air drying dishes
The Latest Trends and Innovations in Dishwashers
In the last few years, dishwasher manufacturers have refined their wares to provide buyers with more and better choices. What makes this generation of dishwashers different than its predecessors? In addition to being quieter, most dishwashers are more energy efficient, aesthetically pleasing and space-friendly.
Sleek and Seamless
Electronic touch pads or hidden, integrated controls are easy to keep clean. Along with one-piece front panels, they create a sleek, seamless exterior. Stainless steel continues to be popular, as do black and white finishes. Another option is using cabinet panels and trim kits to blend the dishwasher in with the rest of the cabinetry.
Why does the quietness of a dishwasher matter? Ask anyone who has ever tried to carry on a conversation or watch a television program while a loud dishwasher is running. The quietness of a dishwasher depends on where the motor is located: If mounted in the base pan, the dishwasher will be quieter than if it is located in the tub. It will probably be more expensive, too. Extra insulation is another, cheaper, option for dampening sound.
The government sets minimum energy-efficiency standards that all dishwashers must meet-but many models now significantly exceed that standard. They cost a little bit more up front, but you'll save on water and electric bills over the product's lifetime.
In addition to the standard 24-inch under-counter unit, you have the choice of compact under-counter, portable, countertop or drawer dishwashers. These smaller units can be used to conserve space or to make a big kitchen more efficient. Inside, dishwashers have been redesigned with new racks and holders to make room for a variety of dish types and configurations.
Built-In Undercounter Dishwashers
A standard built-in dishwasher is 24 inches wide and has upper and lower racks.
Built-in, undercounter dishwashers fit most households' needs. As the most popular type of dishwasher, they have the most options when it comes to style, wash cycles, tub capacity and features. They're also most likely to have a matching refrigerator and range, so that you can purchase a complete appliance package if you choose.
Most dishwashers are built into your kitchen base cabinets underneath the countertop. They are permanent fixtures with only the front door exposed. Front panels come in a variety of colors: primarily white, black, biscuit or bisque, and stainless steel. A standard or 24-inch dishwasher is typically about 24 inches wide, 24 inches deep and 35 inches high. It can accommodate 12 to 14 place settings in one load.
Another popular option, the compact or 18-inch dishwasher, can be either built-in or portable. It's the same height and depth as a standard dishwasher, but 6 inches narrower. This smaller dishwasher holds up to eight place settings.
As with other kitchen appliances, dishwashers continue to become more "professional" or "commercial" in appearance and performance. Stainless steel exteriors and interiors have been growing in popularity. The subtleness of streamlined handles, integrated controls and one-piece doors, however, makes the dishwasher look less machine-like and more sculptural.
Raising the dishwasher off the floor is a popular design trend that makes loading the dishwasher less of a chore because you don't have to bend over. If you're right-handed, consider placing the dishwasher to the left of the sink. That way, if you hold the plate in your left hand while you scrape the food off with your right, you won't have to switch hands to load it.
Dishwashers on the Move
Homeowners and renters who would like a dishwasher, but don't want to (or can't) install it as a permanent fixture, should consider a portable or countertop dishwasher.
A portable dishwasher usually comes with a butcher-block top, casters on the bottom and water hook-ups for your kitchen sink. Typically a compact size of 18 inches wide, portable dishwashers can be rolled out of the kitchen and stored elsewhere when not in use;a definite perk. On the other hand, they must be connected to both an electrical outlet and a water source to work and can be cumbersome in a small kitchen.
Some portable models are also convertiblel; that is, by removing the casters, the top and possibly the side panels they can be permanently installed under the counter using a conversion kit.
Price: $350 to $500. The more expensive models have more cycles, more color choices and hard-food disposers.
Smaller than a portable dishwasher, a countertop dishwasher is similar in size to a microwave oven. These 18-inch square units sit on the counter while in use and hold about four place settings. Similar to a portable or full-size dishwasher, they must be hooked up to a water source and electrical outlet to work.
Price: $150 to $200.
Courtesy of Dacor
Dacor offers dishwashers in both the standard 24-inch width (right) and oversize 30-inch width (left).
Most homeowners are probably buying a new standard-size under-counter dishwasher to replace an existing one, and putting it into the same space. Even so, take precise measurements of height, width and depth before going shopping: While the standard size dishwasher is about 24 inches wide, 24 inches deep and 35 inches high (with adjustable-height legs), those are approximate dimensions. Some are a little narrower, a little shallower or a little shorter, which can make a difference during installation.
In an older home the actual height from the floor to the counter could turn out to be different than expected once the old dishwasher is removed-for example, if the current flooring was laid down over existing flooring, it may not extend under the dishwasher and the cabinets. Also, if you have a countertop made of granite or other natural stone, the dishwasher will need to be installed with side brackets that attach to the cabinet rather than the counter.
A standard-size built-in dishwasher with a tall tub will fit in the same space but has a larger interior and holds more dishes. A double-drawer dishwasher is slightly shorter than a traditional dishwasher, but still will fit in the same space. This type will probably hold fewer dishes than a dishwasher with one tub, but has the advantage of being able to run each drawer separately.
If you're remodeling your kitchen or building a new home, you have the option of making space for the 30-inch extra wide dishwasher made by Dacor. Ideal for big families or big kitchens, the 30-inch dishwasher holds up to 20 place settings at a time.
In an apartment, condominium, town home or other small residence where a standard or oversize dishwasher takes up too much room, you have several alternative options:
W: 18 inches, H: 35 inches, D: 24 inches
6 to 8
H, W and D: 18 to 22 inches each
In-sink (Briva by KitchenAid)
W: 36 or 42 inches (including sink); H: 21 inches, D: 22 inches
Inside second bowl of special deep sink
W: 18 inches, H: 36 to 37 inches, D: 24 inches
6 to 8
W: 24 inches, H: 16 to 17 inches; D: 24 inches
Under-sink (SpaceMaker by GE)
W: 24 inches, H: 34 inches, D: 24 inches; top is "cut out" to make room for sink
8 to 10
Requires special shallow sink
Compact dishwashers make sense for singles or couples with small kitchens who want a built-in dishwasher but can't give up enough cabinet space for a standard dishwasher. An under-the-sink dishwasher is another option in a small space-but keep in mind, only GE makes them, so you won't have much choice of models, and you'll need a shallow sink to go along with it.
Portable and countertop dishwashers are good choices for renters who aren't allowed to remodel or homeowners who don't dirty many dishes and would prefer to avoid the cost of installation.
While both the in-sink dishwasher and the single-drawer dishwasher make a nice fit for a small kitchen, either one can be a strain on the wallet. Single-drawer models run from around $750 to $950, while the in-sink version is about $1,800. These are both most likely to work for a larger household or one that entertains frequently, where a small dishwasher is required in an island, bar, butler's pantry or other secondary location.
Noise Reduction, Safety, And More
Noise reduction and child safety locks are just two of the extra features worth considering.
Dishwashers don't just stop at size, capacity, cycle variation and energy efficiency. You can also find features that do everything but take out the garbage.
- Hard food disposals grind solid foods into pieces small enough to fit through the filter. This is a good feature if you don't like rinsing off dishes before putting them in the dishwasher. They add some noise, but they also have self-cleaning filters.
- Anyone with children in the home knows how important it is to have child safety features. Some dishwashers include child safety locks that stop children from starting the dishwasher or opening its door.
- Noise reduction or sound insulation packages are an added cost but should be considered under the following conditions: the dishwasher is going into an island or on a peninsula with no wall to absorb sound, the kitchen is near a bedroom or home office, or you live in a condo or townhouse with thin walls and floors. To reduce a lot of the noise, dishwashers are insulated with fiberglass on three sides and on the top. Some also have a layer of foil over the tub, or insulation on the door panel and kickplate to reduce noise even more.
- A self-cleaning filter is a consideration if you use your dishwasher frequently. The dishwasher filter helps keep the wash water free and keeps food particles off of your dishes. Many dishwashers have them, but they do add noise.
Things to Think About When Selecting Dishwashers
Before purchasing a new dishwasher, read through these questions to make sure you've thought of everything you need and want. You can print out the PDF and refer to it as you do your research and go shopping.
Do I want my dishwasher to look streamlined, with a single-panel front and hidden controls?
Do I want a dishwasher with a trim kit that allows me to attach panels that match my cabinetry to the front door?
What are the dimensions of my current dishwasher? Does the new one have to fit in the same place, or do I have the option of moving it?
If adding or moving a dishwasher, will the new placement allow the door to open fully? What about the doors of adjacent cabinets or appliances? Where will the plumbing connection go?
Is my available space so small that I should consider a compact, under-sink, drawer, portable or countertop dishwasher?
Is it important to have a quiet dishwasher to avoid disturbing neighbors or sleeping family members?
Do I need a sanitizing wash cycle for baby bottles, heavily soiled dishes or family members with allergies? Do I need a hard food disposer and tough scrub cycle to avoid pre-cleaning dishes?
Are environmental considerations such as energy and water savings important to me? Will money saved on utility bills make up for added costs?
Do I want my dishwasher raised so that I don't have to bend down to load and unload it? Should I consider a drawer dishwasher for the same reason?
Do I need a tall tub or extra-wide dishwasher or even multiple dishwashers to handle regular large loads of dishes? Or should I consider a single drawer or compact dishwasher to do smaller, more frequent loads?
The Basics of Drawer Dishwashers
Courtesy of Kenmore Elite
With a double drawer dishwasher, drawers can be used separately or together.
The next generation of dishwashers has become unhinged, making their home in drawers that slide in and out rather than in boxes with doors that open downward. Because of their small size, powerful punch and convenience, drawer dishwashers are quickly gaining ground in today's kitchens.
Like a standard under-counter dishwasher, drawer dishwashers are about 24 inches wide and 24 inches deep. Single drawers are only between 16 and 17 inches high, while a double-drawer configuration is about 33 inches high. Each drawer holds about five place settings, and you can choose single or double-drawer configurations.
Both small and big kitchens can reap the benefits of the drawer dishwasher. In a small kitchen, a single drawer can be installed near the kitchen sink in a space normally reserved for a cabinet drawer. For a bigger kitchen, you may want a standard or two-drawer dishwasher near your sink and range, and a single drawer on the island or in the butler's pantry.
Drawer dishwashers have also caught on in popularity because the drawers can be used separately or in concert with each other. On weekends or small loads, use only the top drawer; for larger family events or parties, wash the wine glasses and dessert plates in one drawer, and the pots and pans in another. The ability to separate different types of dishes also makes drawer dishwashers popular in kosher kitchens.
If you have a bad back or are designing a kitchen with universal design principles in mind, a drawer dishwasher is an ideal solution, as it doesn't require bending over to remove or load dishes.
Price: A double drawer dishwasher will likely cost around $1,100 to $1,400; a single drawer, $700 to $1,000.
Tub Capacity and Materials
Courtesy of GE Profile
A stainless steel dishwasher tub is durable and stain-resistant.
When it comes to performance, the dishwasher's interior should be tops on your list. There are several options to consider when purchasing a dishwasher.
Choosing the size that best fits your needs will save you money in the long run.
- A standard tub in a 24-inch dishwasher should fit about 10 or 12 place settings in one load, or eight place settings and six serving pieces.
- A super-capacity or tall tub in a 24-inch dishwasher should fit 14 or even 16 place settings in one load. A tall tub dishwasher fits in the same space as a standard tub model even though its interior is larger top to bottom. The extra room allows it to hold dishes and pots in a wider range of sizes and shapes.
- A compact tub typically fits eight place settings.
Tubs, regardless of their size, typically come in one of two materials:
- Stainless Steel: The more expensive of the two, stainless steel is more durable, doesn't spot or stain, resists hard water and retains heat better than conventional materials.
- Plastic: The cheaper choice, plastic is more common and still quite durable.
Stacks and Racks
The new generation of dishwashers has a multitude of configurations designed for different dishwashing needs:
- Adjustable or removable racks and shelves can be rearranged to accommodate large or unusual-shaped items: tall stemware, baby bottles and sippy cups, cookie sheets or tall pots and pans. In most instances, the tines can be lowered or removed to allow for more flexibility.
- Cutlery baskets are fairly common. They are used to hold most kitchen utensils, sit in the bottom rack and can be moved as necessary.
- Stemholders can be added as an extra line of protection when washing wine glasses.
- Some manufacturers are adding a third rack to the dishwasher. The third rack can be used for anything from cutlery to an extra set of dishes.
Today's Dishwashers Offer More than Just Wash & Dry Cycles
The integrated controls on this dishwasher show its cycles: baked-on cookware, normal, light/china, quick clean up and rinse only.
A standard dishwasher will offer at least three wash cycles in its repertoire: light, normal and heavy (or pots and pans). Each cycle is different in speed, water temperature and pressure, and the number of washes and rinses it emits. The lighter the cycle, the lighter the wash.
Most dishwashers boast a soil, dirt or clean sensor, which monitors the wash and rinse cycles and the level of dirt in the water, adjusting the cycle until the dishes are clean. Often these sensors are automatic, but some dishwashers require the user to select selected upon starting a cycle.
You'll pay more to get multiple wash arms or jets placed strategically around the dishwasher's interior. The cheaper models have a central wash tower that leaves less space for dishes.
For many people, three cycles are enough. However, parents with young children, large households, wine aficionados, frequent hosts and other folks might have a need for special cycles, including:
- Auto clean: An electronic sensor automatically adjusts the cycle depending on how dirty the dishes are.
- China/crystal: a light wash and rinse and not-too-hot drying cycle won't chip and crack your kitchen delicates.
- Delay wash: a feature that allows you to delay the start of the preferred cycle. This setting can be used to wash dishes once you are away from the kitchen or have gone off to bed (electricity rates are often cheaper at night).
- Half load: This allows you to wash just one rack at a time.
- Quick wash: For those dishes you've pre-rinsed, but need a hot wash before you can call them clean.
- Rinse/hold: This allows you to rinse your dirty dishes if you don't have a full load and aren't ready to run a full dishwasher cycle.
- Plate warmer: Once your dishes are clean, this setting will warm your dishes to a perfect temperature right before you serve your food.
- Power wash: This cycle uses a concentrated jet of hot water to clean off caked-on foods.
- Sanitize: In this cycle, the dishwasher warms the water as high as 140 or 150 degrees Fahrenheit to kill any bacteria that may be present. Most cycles only heat up to 120 degrees.
Rinse-aid dispensers come with many dishwashers and are a must if you have hard water and want to avoid calcium deposits on your dishes. A high-heat wash cycle also helps.
If you like to monitor the dishwasher's progress, avoid integrated controls-you won't be able to look without interrupting the cycle.