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Before You Buy a Dishwasher - Dishwasher Buying Tips

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Dishwashers which were once thought to be a luxury appliance have evolved into must-have, time-saving kitchen appliances. Dishwasher prices are mainly affected by capacity and special features, but can also be influenced by certain dishwasher finishes such as stainless steel. Dishwasher models are enhanced by numerous features and energy-saving options, so it's best to have an idea of what these features are, then you can decide what really matters to you when looking for a dishwasher.

Dishwasher Capacity - Standard 24" or 18" Compact Dishwasher Size

The first consideration is dishwasher 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" dishwasher 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" dishwasher is great for a couple or small kitchen and occasional use.

Read Dishwasher 101 - From Buying to Caring for a Dishwasher for more tips on buying a dishwasher.

Type of Dishwashers - Built-in, Portable, Drawer or Countertop Models

Your choice of whether to buy a built-in, portable or countertop dishwasher will depend greatly on whether you are renting or own your home. Each dishwasher model has its own benefits and constraints and What Type of Dishwasher is Right for You will help you to sort through these dishwasher differences. When it comes to price, the most economical are countertop models and some portable units. Prices for built-in's, higher-end portables and drawer dishwashers are influenced by style and features.

Dishwashers & Energy Saving Considerations

A dishwasher that proudly displays the Energy Star symbol will save you energy dollars compared to non-qualified dishwasher models. Today's dishwashers have become much more efficient to operate, but cycles have become longer. Some dishwashers have low water features or 'quick wash' options which are handy if you're on metered water use. Another energy saver is a 'delay start' if your electricity usage is calculated on time-of-use rates - you set the dishwasher to wash later when energy is cheaper. Learn more about a CEE Tier and what it means in terms of energy efficiency.

Garborator or Hard Food Disposal Feature

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, it works to eliminate the food residue and grime so it doesn't return on your clean dishes during the rinse cycle. Some models have self-cleaning filters, while others have filters that must be removed and clean manually - you should confirm the type of filtration system with the dealer so you will know what to expect in way of maintenance.

Dishwasher Washing Cycles

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. Enhanced cycles such as Glass or Stemware, Rinse, Quick Wash, Pots Scrub and Sanitize Wash are features you want to have, but expect to pay more. A stainless steel dishwasher interior is a beautiful feature but will not improve washing performance - it is mainly a style option. However, a stainless steel dishwasher washing arm will not rust and will be more durable.

Dishwasher Performance Features

Performance is influenced by the number of washing levels - how and where the jets of water are distributed during the dishwashing cycle. A three tier system will provide a good washing and more levels will ensure even better coverage, but price will be influenced. A 'quiet' package is also a good feature. Dishwasher detergent and rinse agent dispensers are usually standard features and a detergent dispense system ensures the right amount to clean the load. Electronic dirt sensors are definitely nice-to-have features. A child safety lock is important if you have small children.

Dishwasher Stacking & Racking Features

Standard dishwashers usually have two racks for dishes but some models now have three extending loading options and dishwasher capacity. Special dishwasher features can also include adjustable or removable tines, shelves, racks built to accommodate tall glasses or stemware, odd shaped and tall items, or convertible racks for multi uses. A small closed basket for baby bottles and rings is also available on some dishwasher models.

Dishwasher Cutlery or Flatware Trays

The position of the silverware tray is usually a matter of preference, and is generally not influenced by washing performance. I tend to prefer a compact tray that sits on the bottom rack, and that easily removes for loading and unloading cutlery. Others prefer a model that is attached to the inside of the dishwasher door which may take less room.

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