Have you decided it is time to replace your failing stand-alone dishwasher? The decision is hard, because we think of dishwashers as so basic, something you just take for granted. But the truth is that dishwashers are one of the most complicated pieces of equipment you own.
There are so many ways to make a good dishwasher, and so many ways to get them wrong. If you want to avoid making mistakes, you need to read this article.
When the kitchen is the heart of the house, the dishwasher is a luxury that should be reserved for weekends and holidays. And even then, it’s best to use it only if you have lots of time on your hands.
A dishwasher is good for many things: it can clean dishes, of course, but also silverware, glasses, flatware and other items that would get scratched up in a traditional sink-and-rinse method. A dishwasher uses heated water to power its cleaning action. But these days large-scale dishwashers are usually fed with natural gas; that keeps down the cost of running those appliances.
And it turns out that you don’t have to run one of those fancy stainless steel ones. You can find perfectly serviceable models made from plastic at very low cost, and they will do everything a high-end unit does. In fact if you must have a dishwasher, it might be worth giving one of those plastic units an extra rinse or two just to be sure you have cleaned every nook and cranny.
The main disadvantage of a stand alone unit is that it takes up valuable cabinet space. (It may also take up valuable counter space.) As you look at your own kitchen and think about how you
A stand alone dishwasher saves space and uses less water than a dishwasher with a built-in water heater. The yield of the average dishwasher is about one meal per week, which means that if you eat at home once a week, the dishes from that one meal will take up the space of an entire stand alone dishwasher. If you eat out once a week, the dishes from that one meal will take up the space of an entire kitchen counter.
Unfortunately, not all stand alone dishwashers are created equal. Some are noisy; some make a lot of noise; some don’t dry very well; some work too hard or don’t work hard enough, and so on. Some are also complicated to install properly, which means they are prone to leaking and other problems.
It’s worthwhile to learn how to buy a stand alone dishwasher. It’s not easy, but you can save big bucks by knowing what questions to ask.
A dishwasher is just a machine, and all machines fail sooner or later. If you are lucky, you will never have to replace yours. But if so, you will probably have no idea how long it lasted.
The standard way of figuring this out is to divide the number of years your dishwasher has been in service by its annual cost (how much you paid for it), plus a safety factor of 1.5 times that number.*
If the result is between 0 and 5, you should replace it before the 5th year.
If the result is between 6 and 10, you can wait until the 10th year.
If the result is between 11 and 15, you can wait until the 15th year before replacing it.
If the result is more than 16, then your dishwasher hasn’t failed yet.
When I was a kid, dishwashers were self-contained units that you loaded with water and detergent and put on the counter. But if the idea of a stand-alone dishwasher makes you shudder, you’re not alone.
The main reason to have one is that automated dishwashing is faster. And because it’s faster, it’s better for your family.
It’s also better for the environment. If you have a self-contained dishwasher, the water comes into contact with every single plate and pot, which eventually leads to more germs in your food.
And there are some other benefits: if you have a stand-alone dishwasher, it doesn’t take up valuable space on the kitchen countertop; and when your kids are smaller, dishes are easier to load into it alone than into a regular one. One of my kids sometimes has trouble loading it by himself, because the door is too heavy for him to open; he can load his siblings’ plates into the machine alone easily enough.
Dishwashers have gotten very good in recent years. They do a much better job than they used to, and they are less messy to use. You can even wash pots and pans in them.
But they haven’t gotten better at being single-purpose machines. They still need to be preheated before they will run, since it takes time to heat up the water and get it circulating through the machine. And they still need to be cleaned out after every use.
Some people have been afraid that their dishwasher is too old not to work properly anymore, but others have been far more cautious about buying one that isn’t very versatile.
If you want a reliable dishwasher, you should probably buy a new one with the features your old one has now. It may help to know that the Consumer Reports survey found that most people who replace their dishwashers get higher ratings for satisfaction from their new machines than from their old ones, but there is no way of knowing how good your old one was in the first place.
Almost everyone in America has a dishwasher. Dishwashers are just about the last appliance you can buy for a house that doesn’t need to be retrofitted with plumbing. That’s still true if you buy a new house, but if you buy an old house—which is what I did recently—you can often find yourself with an old-fashioned dishwasher as well.
Most of the time you have no idea how much use your dishwasher is getting. But here are a few hints:
The first hint is that it isn’t very good at its job. If it wasn’t, then people would have stopped buying them long ago. The second hint is that the more dishes you wash at once, the more energy it uses; and since energy is expensive, the more energy it uses, the less efficient it is.