If you're in the market for a new dishwasher, you should know what you want before you go to the store. In addition to the amount of space that you have for a dishwasher, you should consider how you would use the dishwasher, your budget, and what specialty features, if any, that you want. Knowledge will save you money and time at the store.
Built-in dishwashers are standard in a lot of households. These models occupy a permanent space in your kitchen, usually under your countertop nearby your sink, and have a hinged door that drops down. Most standard-sized models cost anywhere from $250 to $1,600, depending on the features that you seek.
Compact dishwashers offer the same features as a built-in model without the size. They are great for homes with limited cabinet space, and will usually cost around $350.
Drawer dishwashers fit inside your sink. They wash small loads quickly, and are perfect for small jobs, like washing glasses during a cocktail party. They feature either one or two drawers, and can coast anywhere from $700 to $1,800.
Portable dishwashers come in compact and standard sizes, but they do not occupy a permanent space in your kitchen. They are great for individuals who rent their home or apartment, or for those without space for a built-in model. Portable dishwashers cost anywhere between $400 and $600.
The basic features of your dishwasher are the most important. You can pay well over a thousand dollars for dishwashers that have hidden controls and grime-fighting cycles, but you can find quality performance in models that cost below $500.
Look first at the dishwasher's water temperature. The key to cleaning dishes is using very hot water. Certain models of dishwashers actually have a feature that will heat the water that comes out of your water heater. The interior of the dishwasher can be made from a variety of materials, including plastic and stainless steel. Stainless steel will reduce the appearance of stains and the presence of odors, and promotes faster drying. Plastic tubs are usually found on more affordable dishwashers and are very durable.
How much noise your dishwasher makes depends on its insulation. To determine sound levels, check its decibel rating. Dishwashers with a decibel level of between 41 and 52 are very quiet, and a decibel level over 60 is likely to interrupt kitchen conversation.
How your dishwasher disposes of food is another important feature. Built-in food disposers grind up food particles and flush them with the wastewater so that they don't get re-deposited on your dishes. If you look at the size of the dishwasher's spray holes on the wash arms, you can get an idea of how well the dishwasher will clean your dishes; smaller holes provide more scrubbing power. Also, the more holes from which water is sprayed inside the dishwasher, the cleaner dishes will get. At the very least, you will want to find a dishwasher that sprays from the bottom, the top, and under the top rack. Some cheaper dishwashers spray only from the bottom; this will not clean your dishes effectively or efficiently.
Depending on how often and for what you use your dishwasher, you will want to consider its cycles. If you will use your dishwasher infrequently, say once every two or three days, then you will want a dishwasher that has a "rinse and hold" cycle to help prevent buildup. A "quick wash" cycle can wash a load of dishes in about 30 minutes. If you have children or live in a household with individuals with weak immune systems, consider a dishwasher with a sanitizing rinse cycle; this cycle kills 99.9 percent of all bacteria. Some dishwashers feature a cycle that uses steam and a high-temperature rinse to remove spots safely and kill bacteria.
The overall construction of the dishwasher matters, too. Ensure that the layout of the racks will make it easy for you to load dishes. Some dishwashers have fold-down shelving that gives you more flexibility. Dishwashers will adjustable upper racks make it easier to load larger dishes and pans into the bottom rack.
There are other features that you can get for your dishwasher, if you and your budget have room. Some dishwashers have digital displays that show you how long a cycle takes and how much time is left for a current cycle. Some dishwashers offer a delayed start option; this will allow you to load the dishwasher and set it to run when no one is home.
If you are worried about your small child or children, some dishwashers have child locks for the door, to ensure that you child cannot open the door and crawl inside.
Even fancier options include sensors that detect the "soil levels" of the dishes. Some sensors measure the temperature of the water and the proper amount of detergent.
If you want to save water and electricity, look for dishwashers that are certified by Energy Star, a government agency that tests appliances for energy efficiency. Energy Star dishwashers typically use four or fewer gallons of water per cycle (versus about six per cycle in non-Energy Star dishwashers) and 40 percent less energy than non-Energy Star dishwashers.