How to select an quiet, efficient dishwasher
Q: My old dishwasher is noisy and has only two cleaning cycles. Which options and features are important when selecting a modern, more efficient dishwasher?
A: Today, even the lowest-cost new dishwasher will be much more efficient and quiet than your old one. Selecting one with the proper features for your specific needs can yield significant savings. As with most appliances, if you do not want to do much research on a product, just select one which meets EnergyStar standards (www.energystar.gov) and it will be reasonably efficient.
An old dishwasher with just a few cycle options may use as much as 10 gallons of water per cycle, much of it from your hot water heater. Some new models can use less than three gallons of water for a normal eight-place-setting load. Just your savings on water bills can easily pay for all the dishwasher detergent you purchase.
Most of the dishwasher operating cost is for the energy used to heat the water. This is particularly true if you have an electric water heater. Water consumption is also becoming a concern for many areas of the country. Use the water consumption specifications for a standard size, normal cycle setting when comparing dishwashers.
New dishwashers are very quiet. In order to improve the energy efficiency, heavy insulation is used in the cabinet, the door and around the pump/motor assembly to keep the water hot. A secondary benefit is much lower sound levels. Also, the pumps, motors and bearings are all new and this further reduces noise.
The most important criterion for a new dishwasher is how well it cleans dishes and the shorter, more efficient cleaning cycles. If you have to do much prerinsing or extra hand washing of some dishes, any savings from a new efficient model will be negated.
Many of the most efficient models use two small pumps. One is for high-pressure spraying and the other is for draining the tank. Other models use a single larger pump that reverses for draining. The two smaller pumps often require a smaller water reservoir in the tank bottom so less hot and cold water are needed per cycle.
Consider several features that can improve the cleaning without sacrificing energy and water efficiency. Soil sensors test the turbidity (cloudiness) of the water to determine when the dishes are clean. This automatically adjusts the length of the cycle for each unique load to achieve optimum cleaning with minimum water and energy use.
An optional filter removes food particles from the wash water inside the dishwasher so the dishes are not constantly getting covered with very dirty water. Convenient self-cleaning filters use a grinder, but this can create more noise than ones that require manual cleaning.
The dishwasher also should include an internal water heating element to get the water hot enough (usually 140 degrees or higher) for effective cleaning. This allows you to set your hot water temperature lower to reduce overall water heating costs. A temperature of 115 degrees is adequate for most household uses.
A rinse-hold feature is helpful if you do not always run the dishwasher immediately after putting dishes in it. This typically uses less than two gallons of water and provides better dish cleaning when you actually run the regular cleaning cycle. This feature also eliminates hand prerinsing.
The most expensive dishwashers have many cycle settings for just about every dishwashing need. Actually, most people end up using the a few basic cycles -- light, medium, regular, and pots and pans. If you are on a tight budget, a model with just three cycles should be adequate.
All new models will have electronic controls with some able to be controlled remotely with a cellphone. Completely hidden controls look good for a built-in appearance. Partially hidden ones don't look bad and allow you to monitor the progress of the cycle.
The following companies offer super-efficient dishwashers: Kenmore, (888) 536-6673, www.kenmore.com; KitchenAid, (800) 541-6390, www.kitchenaid.com; and Miele Appliances, (800) 999-1360, www.mieleusa.com: Viking Range, (888) 845-4641, www.vikingrange.com; and Whirlpool, (866) 698-2538, www.whirlpool.com.
Q: Without changing the thermostat setting, the temperature in my house seems to vary excessively. What could be causing this and do thermostats wear out over time?
A: Thermostats are reliable and generally do not wear out. First try cleaning it. Carefully, snap off the cover and clean off any dust with a fine brush. Just a fine layer of dust can insulate it and reduce sensitivity.
If you have remodeled your house or now keep some doors closed, air flow patterns may have changed. This can create stagnant air pockets or drafts across the thermostat. Reroute the low-voltage thermostat wire to a better thermostat location.
• Write to James Dulley at 6906 Royalgreen Drive, Cincinnati, OH 45244 or visit dulley.com.