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Excerpts from The Difference is in the Details by Tracy DeCarlo.

Believe it or not, a dishwasher uses much less water than washing dishes by hand. In fact, a dishwasher rated by Energy Star can result in an annual savings of 5,000 gallons of water, $40 in utility costs, and 230 hours of time over doing dishes manually. Some functional dishwasher features include:

Stainless Steel Interiors:
Many manufacturers now offer dishwashers with durable, stainless-steel tubs. These models can’t compete in price with those utilizing plastic tubs, but they’re quieter, easier to maintain, and more efficient during drying cycles, since metal reflects heat better than plastic. As a result, they employ a lower wattage heating element for drying, which in turn saves energy and helps protect heat-sensitive items on the lower rack. By combining a stainless-steel interior with good insulation, KitchenAid dishwashers, for example, use a 450 watt element instead of the more common 600 to 750 watt element. Stainless tubs also allow higher water temperature than the typical 140 Fahrenheit suitable for plastic interiors. Though beautiful and functional, stainless steel interiors can become coated with a white, scale-like substance caused by hard water. This is not a pretty sight. A water softening system capable of handing the degree of hardness present in the water can preclude this problem, and it really works. The water softener we installed during construction effectively tamed the hardness of our well water, which has prevented defacing of the stainless dishwasher interior.

Built-In Booster Heater:
Another feature that makes a dishwasher more energy-efficient is a booster heater. This heater increases the temperature of the water entering the appliance to the 140F recommended for cleaning. Some dishwashers have built-in boosters, while others require manual selection before the wash cycle begins. And some activate the booster only during the heavy-duty cycle. Dishwashers with booster heaters typically cost more, but according to the Department of Energy, if you also lower the temperature on your water heater you can recoup the additional cost in about a year.

Cycle Selections:
Hot water usage can be further reduced when the dishwasher offers multiple cycles. Being able to select shorter cycles when appropriate, results in reduced water usage and lower energy bills.

Dishwasher Drawers
Dishwasher drawers are becoming more popular. Although still rather pricey, these appliances can add convenience to your kitchen design. For example, one drawer can be installed on either side of the sink, thus eliminating the need to bend down to fill the dishwasher. You can load glasses and cups in one drawer and plates in the other. If you run out of glasses before plates or vice versa, you can run just one drawer. Each drawer uses about half the water of a conventional dishwasher which equals a saving for you and for the environment.

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