Pick efficient appliances

Dear Jim: I am looking for a new dishwasher. My very old one is noisy, has only two cycle settings and does not clean well. What features should I look for in a new efficient model? – Kathy K.

Dear Kathy: Even the least expensive new dishwasher will be more efficient and quieter than your old one. 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.

Your old dishwasher with few cycle options may use as much as 10 gallons of water per cycle, much of it from your water heater. New models can use less than three gallons of water for a normal eight-place-setting load. Not counting the energy used, just your water savings alone may cover the cost of the dishwasher detergent.

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.

The most important criterion for a dishwasher is how well it cleans dishes. If you have to do much prerinsing or extra hand washing of some dishes, any savings from an efficient model will be lost.

Some 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 which reverses for draining.

The two smaller pumps often require a smaller reservoir in the tank bottom so less water is needed.