If you have a dishwasher in your home, you know how convenient it is. Many don’t consider a dishwasher to be a luxury anymore, but a necessity. (Especially if you have a large family) I happen to know of some homes that now have two dishwashers – one is always full. If you are shopping for a dishwasher, here are a few facts from appliance.net and about.com to consider before you head out to the store.
The first consideration is capacity: An 18″ dishwasher generally is adequate for 2 – 3 persons and can hold up to 6 or 8 standard place settings. A regular 24″ model has a capacity for 12 to 14 standard place settings and is sufficiently family-sized. The number of place settings can be deceiving and for this reason, I would recommend a standard 24″ dishwasher for family use. A compact 18″ unit is great for a couple or small kitchen and occasional use.
Your choice of whether to buy a built-in, portable or countertop model will depend greatly on whether you are renting or own your home. Each model has its own benefits and constraints.
Built-in Under-Counter Dishwashers and Dish Drawers
These built-in installed units provide the best operating convenience, being permanently located for easy access with no need to relocate it to the kitchen sink every time you need to use it. Since there is no hook-up to the faucet, your kitchen sink can be used for other purposes at the same time your dishwasher is running.
These dishwashers do require a plumbing installation to your home’s waterworks, and instructions are usually available with the purchase, or through the manufacturer or dealer.
You will also lose a fair size cupboard for this installation, with the standard width of dishwashers being 24″, and compact ones that have an 18″ width. If you have ample cupboards in your kitchen, the convenience of a built-in dishwasher will quickly outweigh the loss of storage space.
After installation, if perchance you have a 6″ to 8″ width of cupboard space left under-counter, this provides a terrific narrow storage cupboard for cookie sheets, trays and muffin tins and a custom hinged door is easy to cut and hang for this size of cupboard.
Dish drawers are a wonderful dishwasher style providing a very stylish look for any decor with ease of drawer access and increased capacity convenience. However this newer styling comes with a higher price tag, and installation may differ slightly from a regular built-in model.
Keep in mind that if you are planning a move in the future, a permanently installed dishwasher would be expected to remain with the home. For this reason, built-in dishwashers or dish drawers are not advisable for a rental home or apartment.
Portable Free-Standing Dishwashers
Suitable for a family and with no special plumbing installation required, portable dishwashers are a great option for apartment and rental home dwellers. They only require a parking space in your kitchen, and operation requires relocating it and connecting with an adapter to the kitchen hot water faucet when required.
These units generally have the same features and capacity as their built-in counterparts, and they also provide additional counter workspace since most have a butcher block or durable counter top. There is also no storage space sacrificed for these models, but it is advisable to review your kitchen format for the most convenient location for it. At one time these units were higher priced, but now they are comparable in price to built-in models. It’s the capacity and additional features that mostly affect price.
Countertop or Tabletop Dishwashers
These are the most economical of all models and require a counter space to locate them close to the sink. Operating connection is a simple faucet hook-up and units generally run as long as the faucet is turned on. Capacity is usually a place setting for four and cookware or serving pieces would require handwashing. Dishes can either be air or hand dried. However, these are impractical if counter space is at a premium and inadequate for a large family.
A dishwasher that proudly displays the Energy Star symbol will save you energy dollars compared to non-qualified models. Some dishwashers even have low water features or ‘quick wash’ options which will benefit you if you are paying for measured water use. A delay-start timer will start your dishwasher when the energy rates are lower. Read here about Energy Star and how much energy and money you can save.
Another feature you’ll like is a built-in food disposer. It grinds up food particles and flushes them out with the waste water. So they won’t end up re-deposited on your dishes. This is certainly a priority feature if you do not like to scrape, pre-wash or rinse your dishes before loading them into the dishwasher. Installed right in the unit, you wouldn’t even know it’s there. If unsure if this feature is included, don’t hesitate to ask the dealer.
The most important dishwashing cycles are Light, Regular, Pots & Pans and Econo settings. The econo cycle will air dry dishes saving on heating element energy costs. Additional enhanced cycles are Glass or Stemware, Rinse, Quick Wash and Sani Wash, which all add to convenience benefits. Some dishwashers use sensor technology to detect how dirty the dishes are and then adjust the cycle accordingly. You can start the washer with a touch of a button, and this feature prevents water from being wasted. There has been a trend toward stainless steel interiors. Many manufacturers now make–or are introducing–models that have durable stainless-steel tubs. These can’t compete in price with models utilizing plastic tubs, but they are quieter, easier to maintain and more efficient during drying cycles because the metal reflects heat better. They can employ a lower-wattage heating element for drying, which saves energy and helps protect heat-sensitive items on the lower rack. A stainless steel washing arm will not rust and will be more durable.
Performance is influenced by the number of washing levels – how and where the jets of water are distributed during the washing cycle. Check the size of the spray holes on the wash arms. The smaller the holes are, the more scrubbing power they provide your dishwasher. A three tier system will provide a good washing and more levels will ensure even better coverage, but price will be influenced. Detergent and rinse agent dispensers are usually standard features. A child safety lock is important if you have small children.
If you have an open floorplan, and your kitchen connects directly to your family room, or if you plan to entertain in your kitchen, sound will be an important consideration. The amount of insulation around the dishwasher tub reduces the noise, so check to see how thick the insulation is. Thicker insulation will make the dishwasher more quiet.
Standard dishwashers usually have two racks for dishes but some models now have three expanding on loading options and capacity. Special features can also include adjustable shelves, racks built to accommodate tall glasses or stemware, odd shaped and tall items, or convertible racks for multi uses. A small closed rack for baby bottles and rings is also available on some models. The position of the silverware tray is usually a matter of preference, and is generally not influenced by washing performance.
Dishwasher size, type, washing cycles, special features and energy savings are a few things you’ll want to consider before you check out those shiny new dishwashers on the showroom floor.