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Using Your New Dishwasher

Now may be a good time to replace your old dishwasher.

Technological advantages of new dishwashers include sensors that adjust the cycle to the food debris on dishes, improved filtration that removes food from wash water, more efficient water jets, and better dish rack designs.

The federal ENERGY STAR program, which rates energy-efficient consumer products, raised the standards for dishwashers in August 2009. To earn an ENERGY STAR label today, a standard-size dishwasher must use no more than 324 kilowatt-hours per year and 5.8 gallons of water per cycle.

Be aware that an older “last year’s model” on sale may not meet ENERGY STAR standards or qualify for rebates. Check before purchasing. The site can usually clear up any confusion over whether a model that met the old standard also meets the new one.

To find the most water-efficient models, check manufacturers’ literature as well as ENERGY STAR. The American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy says some ENERGY STAR models use half as much water as others. Models that use less water use less energy.

Be alert to fire risk

In June, Whirlpool and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission recalled 1.7 million dishwashers, citing an electrical failure in a heating element that had led to 12 fires.

No injuries were reported in those fires, but some fires started by dishwashers have proved deadly.

According to an August 2009 report by the National Fire Protection Association, from 2003-2006 dishwashers were involved in an estimated 1,200 home fires per year. In an average year, those fires killed four civilians (nonfirefighters) and injured 30 others.

Get the most from your new machine

If your dishwasher has a booster heater, use it. Most dishwashers will boost water temperature to at least 140 degrees, which allows for optimal cleaning. You can then turn your water heater thermostat down to 120 degrees.

Use the no-heat air dry feature if available. If your dishwasher lacks this option, air dry dishes by opening the door after the final rinse cycle.

Don’t pre-rinse dishes. Just scrape off food and empty liquids.

Wash only full loads. Follow load instructions and allow for proper water circulation.

Don’t try to save energy by hand-washing. ENERGY STAR estimates a modern, efficient machine saves you nearly 5,000 gallons of water, $40 in utility costs, and more than 230 hours in personal time annually.

Choose a dishwasher with several wash cycle options. Use the ones that will use the least energy needed to get your dishes clean.

Choose the right size dishwasher for your home. Don’t assume a compact model will save energy if you will have to run it a lot to clean all your dishes.

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