Once upon a time, having a dishwasher in your house was a luxury. Being able to load up a day's worth of dirty dishes into the dishwasher instead of having to repeatedly fill the sink with hot water and soap was a timesaver for many families. While not everyone has a dishwasher these days, they have become pretty mainstream and are considered a common appliance in most homes. Many people are still conflicted about using their dishwasher, wondering if it's a more 'green' option than handwashing their dishes, assuming that washing dishes in the sink is the more ecologically friendly option. Research shows however that running your dishwasher is actually the more 'green' of the two options, given that you follow a few basic rules. So don't feel bad about skipping the dishes and loading up the dishwasher because it's actually better for the environment.
Fill the Dishwasher
Experts agree that for a dishwasher to be more energy-efficient and have a smaller environmental impact than handwashing, you have to run your dishwasher when it's full. Throwing a few dishes in there and running a full load is definitely not energy efficient, nor is rinsing your dishes before loading the dishwasher. John Morril, of the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, told ThoughtCo that dishwashers are definitely the most energy-efficient option only when you follow two rules. "Run a dishwasher only when it’s full, and don’t rinse your dishes before putting them in the dishwasher," he advises.
Many people still think they need to pre-rinse their dishes before placing them in the dishwasher, but you really shouldn't be doing this. Dishwashers are more energy-efficient and environmentally friendly than handwashing unless you're using a running stream of hot water to pre-rinse your dishes first. Steven Nadel, the executive director of the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy explained to The Washington Post that if you have a relatively new dishwasher, pre-rinsing is totally unnecessary. "Old dishwashers, to generalize, didn't get dishes very clean unless you pre-washed," he said. "The new dishwashers, that is not an issue. Almost all of them have what's called soil sensors. Depending on how dirty the dishes are, they will wash more or less. They will get the dishes clean." He went on to add that, "the worst approach for the environment - and energy and water bills - is pre-washing dishes in constantly running hot water and then running them in an ancient dishwasher that was not built to modern standards."
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Skip The Dry Cycle
While it's tempting to turn on the dry cycle on your dishwasher, experts suggest that it's unnecessary and a waste of energy. Since dishwashers use very hot water, if you open the door after the rinse cycle is complete and allow the water to evaporate, you shouldn't need to use the dry cycle at all.
Buy Energy Efficient
Green Choices has some advice for those in the market for a new dishwasher. To ensure your new machine is as energy efficient as possible, look for an "energy star" rating on the product before purchasing. Appliances with the energy star logo are tested to ensure that they aren't only a quality product but they are offering the best in energy savings and environmental protection. In fact, Energy Star has worked out that the average family can save up to $40 a year just by using an energy star rated dishwasher. On top of the cost savings, you'll also save time and energy. Using an energy star rated dishwasher instead of handwashing can save up to 5000 gallons of water a year and as much as 230 hours of personal time, the equivalent of almost 10 days!
Many people still have a hard time believing that a dishwasher will use less water and be a more environmentally sound option over handwashing. The reason is that new, energy star certified dishwashers will not only save water over the life of the appliance, but it also uses less energy to run. The energy used to heat the water to hand wash dishes is greater than the energy used to heat the water in a dishwasher. "ENERGY STAR certified dishwashers use less energy than conventional models, helping reduce air pollution and protecting the climate," the website states. "By reducing water consumption, ENERGY STAR certified dishwashers also help protect our lakes, streams, and oceans."
The Guardian notes the following carbon footprint for various methods of dishwashing;
Almost zero CO2e: by hand in cold water (but the plates aren't clean)540g CO2e: by hand, using water sparingly and not too hot770g CO2e: in a dishwasher at 55°C990g CO2e: in a dishwasher at 65°C8000g CO2e: by hand, with extravagant use of water
The Guardian also points out that most people aren't careful when washing dishes by hand and often leave the hot water running as they rinse and repeat.
Tips To Make The Most Out Of Your Dishwasher
Sure, it can feel like a massive use of water and electricity when using your dishwasher, but it's really not, especially if you follow these tips you can follow to get the most out of your dishwasher when using it. As mentioned above, experts suggest only running your dishwasher when it's completely full. Avoid using features like the pre-rinse cycles and heat dry, and opt for an economy setting if you have it. The Guardian also suggests using a timer if your machine has one to let it run during the nighttime hours when there is less energy demand, therefore using more energy-efficient sources and reducing the carbon footprint. Make sure you're taking care when loading the dishwasher as well to ensure the dishes will be cleaned properly, because if not you may end of up having to wash them twice.
If you've been on the fence about replacing your old dishwasher, now may be the time to do it. Newer models that have the energy star rating will save you water, money and time while being a greener solution for your home.