Replacing a 10-year old dishwasher with an EnergyStar-qualified model can save you more than $30 a year in energy costs!

The most important feature to look for in a new dishwasher is a booster water heater. Models with these built-in heaters bring the water temperature to the 140-160 degrees recommended by manufacturers. This allows you to keep your primary water heater at an energy-saving 120 degrees and still get your dishes sparkling clean.

Another new technology available from many brands is "smart sensors" that detect the amount of food left on the dishes. The sensors automatically program the dishwasher to run the most appropriate cycle, eliminating the need for pre-rinsing. This can save most users another gallon or two of water per load.

Other available features include:

  • A built-in food disposer and secondary water filter to prevent food particles from re-depositing on dishes.
  • A built-in rinse aid dispenser - some models even come with a small window on the dispenser so you can easily see when a refill is needed.
  • Nylon-covered racks and extra padding on the tips of the tines.
  • A delayed-start feature to run the dishwasher at night when hot water isn't needed for showers, laundry, etc.
  • A "sanitizing" cycle that kills germs and bacteria with super-heated water.
  • Sound-insulated models that are up to 75 percent quieter.

If you have a tiny kitchen, or if you have a wet bar, butler's pantry or even an RV, take a look at countertop dishwashers. These units plug into a standard outlet and hook up to a standard faucet. Most styles are about two feet wide and two feet high, and can hold two or three place settings or up to 24 glasses.

For an upscale kitchen, dish drawers might fit in nicely. Instead of one large door that opens from the top, dish drawers slide in and out just like a standard drawer - and they're energy-efficient. You can choose from one or two drawers; each drawer will hold about 30 percent more than a standard dishwasher rack. If you choose two drawers, you can run one at a time or both simultaneously.

Easy energy savers

  • If your dishwasher has a "booster" water heater, use it; this will heat the water to the 140 degrees recommended by manufacturers, while maintaining an energy-saving 120 degrees on your primary water heater.
  • Run the dishwasher only with full loads.
  • Use the air-dry cycle whenever possible.

Maintaining your dishwasher

  • If mineral deposits are building up inside your dishwasher, place a small container with one cup of vinegar in each rack. Doing this once a month will help dissolve existing deposits and prevent future build-up.
  • Cover any damaged tines with rubber tips (available from a home center or appliance dealer).
  • Check the rubber water supply hoses once a year. If they're cracked or starting to harden, replace them with new ones (available at most home centers and hardware stores).

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