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Dishwashers all look about the same. Virtually all

models are the standard width of 24 inches. They all
have two racks and a door that makes up the entire
front of the unit. And now almost all have plastic
liners. Porcelain or stainless steel interiors are the
exception. But these similarities do not mean that
there are not significant differences. With prices
ranging from around $200 to over $500, the wise
consumer will do some homework before making the
final decision. The main factors to consider are built-in
or portable, performance, economy of water and
energy usage, and noise.
Built-in Or Portable Built-in Or Portable
Built-in dishwashers fit under the kitchen counter
top, like part of your kitchen cabinetry, and are
permanently attached to the water supply. The
preferable location is next to the kitchen sink. While
you may mourn the cabinet space you lose to a built-in
dishwasher, it far exceeds the portable in
convenience. Portable models are designed to be
rolled to the sink and attached to the faucet and
electricity. Many portable models are called
convertible, since they can be adapted for use as a
Washing Ability/Performance Washing Ability/Performance
Today's dishwashers are designed to provide
clean dishes without excessive use of water or
energy. However, each household has slightly
different needs: you will want a model that allows you
to put all of your household's dishes and eating
utensils in the dishwasher--or as many as reasonably
possible. You may decide not to place fragile items,
sharp knives, wooden items, and other utensils in the
dishwasher. Not all dishwashers accommodate dishes
of the same size, and you may have an extra large
platter or tall plastic tumblers that you use frequently.
You'll need to check that the dishwasher you are
considering will accommodate your unique items.
The internal configuration of a dishwasher
determines the size and types of items you can load.
A washer arm attached to the "ceiling" of the
dishwasher will limit the height of glasses or pots that
you can wash in the top rack. An arm under the top
rack will limit the size of plates or platters that you
can load in the lower rack. Some models use towers
to shoot water to the upper rack; these towers take
up space in the middle of the lower rack and reduce
the space for dinner plates and other items.
Some models offer adjustable upper racks that
can be raised, lowered, or tilted to make space for
taller items in either the top or bottom rack. Racks
may have dividers that fold down. Some top racks
are the same depth all the way across; others are
deeper along the sides, allowing taller items to be
placed in the center of the lower rack and along the
sides of the upper rack.
Dishwashers also offer different cycles. These
may include light, regular, and heavy wash cycles as
well as a rinse/hold or sanitizing cycles. These differ
in the number or length of washes and rinses in the
cycle. A sanitizing cycle will boost the temperature of
the rinse or wash water. Your household size, cooking
style, and consciousness
about energy and water usage will determine which of
these options are important to you.
Performance cannot be accurately assessed in
the showroom, even if you are able to learn about the
number of spray arms, "wash levels", type of filter, and
number of cycles. So, after determining which
washers will accommodate your needs (special dishes,
cycles, etc.), you may wish to examine comparisons of
performance in a publication such as Consumer
Reports. The October 1993 issue noted that
dishwasher performance varies more than does the
performance of other types of major appliances.
Conserving Water And Energy Conserving Water And Energy
Dishwashers vary in the amount of water they use.
To conserve water, you may choose a model that uses
a minimal amount of water per wash or rinse, and a
model that offers a light cycle consisting of fewer
washes and therefore less water usage. A rinse-hold
cycle will also encourage you to run the dishwasher
only when it is full, thereby saving additional water.
These choices will also lower energy consumption by
reducing the amount of water that must be heated.
Choosing "air dry" rather than drying with heated
air also conserves some energy. Dishwashers andBrought to you by the University of Illinois
Cooperative Extension Service Consumer
and Family Economics Educators.
their detergents perform best at water temperatures
higher than those required for other household uses.
Therefore, a dishwasher that includes a heating
element to boost water temperature may allow you to
lower the setting on your hot water heater and re-duce
the energy it consumes.
Noise Noise
While dishwashers as a group have become
quieter over the years, the noise level can still be
distracting. The noise may be a special problem if
your kitchen opens into a family room where your
family watches television or enjoys conversation.
Your visit to the showroom will probably not give
you any information about noise levels. You may want
to check published comparisons of dishwashers for
ratings on noise levels.
Other Options
You may choose models that have manual or
electronic controls. Some models may accept custom
fronts. A delay-start option is another choice that may
appeal to you.
Making The Purchase Making The Purchase
Inquire about delivery fees and installation
charges before making the purchase. Do not be
pushed into buying an extended warranty. Compare
prices between stores before making your decision.
Consumers Union. (1993). Dishwashers,
Consumer Reports, 58(10), 637-641.
Wilson, A., & Morrill, J. (1993).
Consumer guide to home energy savings (3rd
ed.). Washington, D.C.: ACEEE.
Prepared 6/94 By Karen Chan, Consumer & Family
Economics Educator.
The University of Illinois Cooperative Extension Service provides equal
opportunities in programs and employment to all persons regardless of race,
color, sex, creed, national origin, or socio-economic background.

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