Home Energy Savings | August 26, 2016

How to Shop for a Dishwasher

People obviously can get by without dishwashers, but let’s be honest — who wants to? Not many of us, apparently. In the U.S., two-thirds of all households have a dishwasher.

The question is how to choose a dishwasher. Assuming you’re replacing an existing dishwasher, you already know the dishwasher size and maybe even the dishwasher color. Those are the easy choices. From there the questions about how to choose a dishwasher, though, expand exponentially. Here are some tips to help you get started.

ENERGY STAR® dishwasher benefits & savings

The dishwashers of yesteryear, i.e. those produced before 1994, use a lot more water, making them far less efficient than today’s models for dishwasher water usage alone. Dishwashers made before 1994 cost an extra $35 a year on utility bills, as compared to a new ENERGY STAR dishwasher, for instance. An ENERGY STAR dishwasher saves an average of 1,600 gallons of water over its lifetime.

What you need to know when buying a dishwasher is more than simply looking for an energy-saving dishwasher and calling it a day. Dishwasher water usage and the cost of running a dishwasher are among the details you’ll need to consider when looking to replace your old dishwasher with an improved energy-saving dishwasher.

Before you head to the nearest appliance store, however, it’s good to do a little math. Sometimes, it might make more financial sense to wait until an appliance actually dies before you replace it with an energy-saving dishwasher.

Bankrate.com offers this formula to answer this important first question: Do I need a new dishwasher? In other words, should you head to appliance store now, or should you wait:

Do I need a new dishwasher?

  1. Estimate your dishwasher’s daily run time. If you run your dishwasher seven times a week and its cycle is an hour, for example, the estimated daily run time is one hour a day.
  2. Find the wattage of your dishwasher. You can often find this information on the label or stamp. The owners’ manual — we all keep these, right? — or an internet search with the model number can also provide this information. Thank goodness for Google.
  3. Calculate your dishwasher’s daily energy consumption. Multiply your dishwasher wattage by the hours it’s used per day. Divide that answer by 1,000.
  4. Calculate your dishwasher’s annual use. Multiply the dishwasher’s daily energy consumption by the number of days the dishwasher is used per year. Multiply this number by your energy cost. (Your energy cost is your kWh per hour charge and can be found on your energy bill.) This gives your current annual cost of running a dishwasher.
  5. Analyze the cost of running a dishwasher. If the cost of running a dishwasher is more than the estimated cost of running a new energy-saving dishwasher (found on the product labels), then it’s probably the right time to put your money toward a new machine rather than a repair. If the cost of running your current dishwasher is close, you might want to wait a bit longer.

Okay, you’ve made the decision to shop for an energy-saving dishwasher, here’s what you need to know when buying a dishwasher. The following are good points to consider when shopping for an energy-saving dishwasher. Most of the information is available on the dishwasher product label:

Dishwasher water usage
How to shop for a dishwasher

  1. Figure out your utility cost. Estimated costs of running a dishwasher are usually found on the product labels.
  2. Determine your dishwasher water usage. Home Water Works says older dishwashers use 10-15 gallons per load. A family of four typically generates an average of 150 loads per year, consuming about 1,800 gallons of water annually. In contrast, a new ENERGY STAR dishwasher will use 5.5 gallons per load. That could yield, Home Water Works says, an annual dishwasher water usage reduction of nearly 1,000 gallons annually. Additional energy cost savings would come from heating less water as well.
  3. Look at dishwasher technology options. Today’s dishwashers have improved beyond their dishwasher water usage. The technology in many of today’s energy-saving dishwashers also helps make them more energy efficient. Soil sensors, for instance, test how dirty the dishes are throughout the cycle, ENERGYSTAR.gov says. The result is clean dishes with minimum water and energy use. Water filtration has improved as well. This is what removes food from the wash water, which in turn enables more efficient use of water and detergent during a cycle. More efficient dishwasher jets, meanwhile, mean today’s energy-saving dishwashers spray detergent and water more accurately, helping to lower overall dishwasher water usage. Improved dish rack designs ensure that dishes can be placed for maximum efficiency cleaning.

Owning an energy-saving dishwasher is just the first step toward potentially lowering your cost of running a dishwasher. Following these tips can help you potentially lower your energy costs further.

Energy-saving dishwasher tips

  • Run full loads only.
  • Don’t rinse dishes. Today’s energy-saving dishwashers don’t require pre-rinsing so you can save on water use before you even load the dishwasher by avoiding this unnecessary task. Simply scrape food off and you’re good to go.
  • Consider air-drying rather than running the heat cycle on your dishwasher. Let Mother Nature do some of the work for you.
  • Load the dishwasher correctly. Yes, there is a proper way to load a dishwasher to ensure maximum efficiency. Your owners’ manual will show you the best practices for your particular machine.

Want to test your knowledge of the energy efficiency of other common household appliances? Take our energy efficiency quiz. You might be surprised!

Comments ( 6 )

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Carl D. Petersen - 8/31/2016

This is a well written, well thought out approach. As an older person I know that what i want and what I need are two entirely different things. I am gratified there are still people around who consider the possibility that a purchase can be put off (and in some cases avoided entirely. Remember, however, that washing dishes by hand is by far the most energy efficient and the most efficient overall as well. It is also good exercise for older folks and something they often can still do. And it provides a good learning experience for youngsters as well. (How long has it been since you heard that word, if ever?) Thanks for this very good guidance.

    Constellation Community Team - 10/11/2016

    Hi, Carl:

    Thank you for your comments! Choosing to wash dishes by hand or use a dishwasher is definitely a personal choice. Whether or not it’s more energy-efficient probably depends on how many dishes you’re washing at a time and the temperature of the water. But, if you enjoy doing it, by all means, go for it! Thanks, again, for sharing your thoughts!

John Herbster - 8/30/2016

Thanks for beginning your article by figuring costs. So many of these “how to buy” advice articles peddle nonsense. Is sanitizing or sterilizing dishes important? I don’t know. If it is important, how important is it and how much of a kWh does it cost?

    Constellation Community Team - 10/11/2016

    Hi, John: I’m glad this was helpful to you. Chances are that it is not necessary to sterilize or sanitize dishes. The default heat settings on your dishwasher should be plenty to get your dishes clean. If you have more questions, please let me know any time!

Joe - 8/30/2016

Useful info, thanks

    Constellation Community Team - 10/11/2016

    Hi, Joe! Thanks for commenting. So glad it was helpful. Please check back with us soon; there’s always more information to come!

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