What’s better than devouring a home-cooked meal? Not having to do the dishes afterwards. This guide will help you determine the best dishwasher to buy, whether you’re a renter in search of a portable dishwasher or a homeowner looking for a permanent fixture.
What’s the Best Dishwasher to Buy?
It’s hard to pick a dishwasher based on brand name and model number alone, and in-store displays doesn’t always tell you what you need to know. Along with the benefits and drawbacks of different types of dishwasher (built-in, portable, or counter-top) the best dishwasher to buy for your home will depend on:
- How many dishes you wash on a regular basis
- Whether energy efficiency is a concern
- Filtration needs (yes, dishwashers have filters!)
- Preference for certain cycles
- Extra features
What Are the Different Types of Dishwasher?
There are three main types of dishwasher used in Canada and the United States: built-in, counter-top, and portable dishwashers.
All have their advantages, and the best choice will depend both on your lifestyle and space needs.
- Built-in dishwashers (also known as traditional dishwashers) are the most popular choice for homeowners who plan to stay in their home for some time. These dishwashers are designed to fit beneath most standard kitchen counter-tops and require a permanent plumbing connection. Built-in dishwashers tend to boast the most features and largest capacity of different types of dishwasher, though compact build-in dishwasher models are available.
- Portable dishwashers are a happy compromise between built-in and counter-top models. Depending on the size, they can have as much dish-washing capacity as a built-in model, but don’t require permanent plumbing to run. Portable dishwashers are convenient for renters or homeowners who may move out within a few years (potential home buyers will expect a built-in dishwasher to come with the house.)
- Counter-top dishwashers are the most economical choice, requiring no installation and the least amount of water and electricity to run. The great thing about counter-top dishwashers is that they can be easily stowed when not in use, freeing up valuable counter space. They’re a great option for singles or couples who only use a dishwasher occasionally, such as when there are guests over.
Standard Dishwasher Capacity
Once you’ve decided on whether to opt for a built-in or portable dishwasher model, the next thing to consider is capacity.
Usually, appliance manufacturers illustrate a dishwasher’s capacity in terms of how many place settings it can handle at once. What’s a standard place setting? According to the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers, a single place setting consists of:
- Large dinner plate
- Small snack plate
- Coffee cup
- Drinking glass
- Two teaspoons
- Dinner fork
- Salad/dessert fork
With that in mind, a standard-size dishwasher is 24 inches wide and has a capacity of 12 to 14 place settings. Compact dishwashers tend to be 18 inches wide and hold 6 to 8 place settings.
Beyond sheer size, it’s important to consider whether a dishwasher’s racking and stacking features fit your needs. If you’re a frequent baker, for instance, you’ll want room to wash several mixing bowls and bakeware at once. Parents of young children will need space for baby bottles and rings. Many dishwashers now come with adjustable racks and tines, which helps to make up for a smaller capacity.
Dishwasher Energy Efficiency
Dishwashers don’t use much electricity (washing a load of dishes costs about as much as blow-drying your hair.), and they have become very economical in water usage when compared to older models.
In fact, in most cases, using a dishwasher consumes less energy than washing dishes by hand.
The most energy-efficient dishwasher models are those with ENERGY STAR certification, which are at least 12% more efficient than non-certified models. The ENERGY STAR benchmark for standard dishwashers is 270 kWh of electricity usage per year and 3.5 gallons of water per cycle, while the benchmark for compact models is 203 kWh of electricity annually and 3.1 gallons per cycle.
Today, most dishwasher models come with at least a few cycle options. The different brands have different names for their cycles, but most will come with the same basic functions:
- Normal (default) cycle meant for a full load of dishes with an average amount leftover food
- Express cycle for lightly-soiled dishes or small loads
- Heavy cycle for big dishes like pots or pans, or heavily-soiled dishes
- Gentle setting for fine china and other fragile dishes
- Efficient cycle that uses less water
- Auto cycle that uses sensors to adapt based on the fullness of the dishwasher and the soil level of dishes
These options won’t matter if you always use the default setting, but they are worth considering with higher-end models.
Most modern dishwashers come with a filter instead of a proper food disposal system, which allows them to operate much quieter and more efficiently. However, it also means you may have to clean out the filter periodically. Check the manufacturer’s recommendation on how often the filter needs cleaning before you buy.
Extra Dishwasher Features
Beyond the basic cycles, many dishwashers come with other useful features.
Parents will be thankful for a child safety lock, which keeps curious hands from prying the dishwasher door open mid-cycle. A delay start feature is one you’ll find useful if you live somewhere electricity usage is calculated on a time-of-use rate, since you can load up the dishwasher and have it start later to take advantage of lower rates.
Now, the easy part: choosing a dishwasher with a finish that matches your style. Stainless steel has proven itself a timeless classic that fits just about any type of décor, while matte black and white finishes are easier to keep clean and smudge-free.