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By James Dulley, Published December 18 2009

A new dishwasher will use less energy, water

Dear Jim: I think it is time to replace my old dishwasher. Mine is loud, does not offer many cycle options and uses a lot of hot water. When I compare new models, what are the important efficiency features?

– Rita H.

Dear Rita: Almost any new dishwasher will use less energy and water than your old one does. The vast majority of dishwashers made today meet EnergyStar efficiency standards. Over the life of the new dishwasher, the energy and water savings can easily pay back its initial cost.

Another key advantage of newer dishwashers is they are much quieter than older ones even when they were new. This is accomplished by better motor/pump design and higher levels of insulation. This insulation is around both the pump assembly and the walls of the cabinet and door.

The majority of the cost of using a dishwasher is for the energy to heat the water. If the new dishwasher design consumes less water, less energy is needed to heat the smaller volume of water.

In many areas of the country, the water consumption is as significant an environmental issue as energy consumption. Always compare the overall water consumption specifications for an average load cycle among the models you are considering.

The most important feature is how well it cleans. If it does not clean well, people tend to run it on the heavy cycle when normal will do or they hand rinse the dishes first. Rinsing can use more than 10 extra gallons of water and some people even use hot water. Just hand scraping should be adequate.

The best dishwashers use a two-pump design. One small pump is used for spraying the dishes and another small one is used to drain the unit. Some models still use a single reversing pump that sprays in one rotation and drains in the other. Two smaller pumps require a smaller water reservoir.

Top-of-the-line dishwashers offer many cycle settings to fine-tune the process to the cleaning needs of the specific load. This is a nice feature, but most families can get by with three basic cycles – light, medium, heavy (pots/pans).

Newer electronic controls offer convenience and efficiency. Hidden digital electronic controls look good when the door is closed, but you cannot watch the progress of the cycle. Partially hidden controls are another option. Automatic dirt sensors measure the turbidity (cloudiness) of the water to determine when the dishes are clean and how long to run the cycles.

A filter option strains the water inside the dishwasher to remove food particles. Self-cleaning ones use a grinder, but these may increase the noise level. A rinse-hold feature uses only two gallons of water to rinse the dishes if you do not plan to run the dishwasher for a while.

The following companies offer efficient dishwashers: Asko, (800) 898-1879, www.askousa.com; Bosch Appliances, (800) 944-2904, www.boschappliances.com; Dacor, (800) 793-0093, www.dacor.com; Kitchenaid, (800) 422-1230, www.kitchenaid.com; and Miele Appliances, (800) 843-7231, www.mieleusa.com.


Dear Jim: I have a central air conditioner. Over winter, the outdoor unit gets covered with leaves, twigs and snow.

I was wondering if it makes sense to cover the outdoor unit, and if so, how should I do it? – Shannon D.

Dear Shannon: It generally is not necessary to cover the central air conditioner outdoor condenser unit. The components of the unit are designed to handle bad winter weather conditions. It is the same as heat pumps that must run year-round.

If you have a lot of foliage near it that drop leaves, you may want to cover it so you do not have to clean it out each spring. Use a loose cover just over the top with much ventilation so condensation does not form under it.


Send inquiries to James Dulley, The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, 6906 Royalgreen Drive, Cincinnati, OH 45244, or visit www.dulley.com