how to buy a dishwasher, dishwasher buying guideDishwashers rule for more reasons than getting rid of dishpan hands.

They slash hours off your weekly chores, literally hide your dirty dishes, and, best of all, use less water than hand-washing – 9 gallons versus 20.But should you go for a high-end European unit that will run you $700 or pick up a basic model for under $200? Here’s what to consider:

Is it the right size?

The standard width of a dishwasher is 24 inches, but 18-inch models are also available. If you usually make reservations for dinner, a smaller unit might work for you. Go for a larger washer if you like to cook at home or have big dinner parties.

Can it get into hot water?

The water heaters in most homes are set to 110 degrees. But to get your dishes sparkling clean, a dishwasher needs water heated to 140 degrees. Make sure the unit you buy has a water-heating feature.

Is it eco-friendly?

Approximately 25 percent of dishwashers meet green guidelines set by the Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star program. So be sure to check for the yellow Energy Guide label on machines. The lower the Energy Star number, the more efficient the washer is. This will also translate into a lower overall utility bill!

Does it have all the cycles?

Almost all brands come with the standard light, normal, heavy, and pots/pans settings. But the rinse-and-hold feature is a bonus that removes food from dishes that are going to sit before a full cycle runs — a big plus if you tend to use every last dish in the cabinet before turning on the dishwasher.

Is there already enough noise in the house?

Consider how important a quiet wash cycle is before you commit to a unit. If you usually run your dishwasher at night, look for machines with added insulation and smaller motors.

Are you a control freak?

Smart controls are available on state-of-the-art dishwashers. These use sensors to monitor cleaning during wash cycles and tailor the machine’s effort to meet the load’s requirement.

Plan on moving?

A good dishwasher will last about nine years. So if you’re planning on sticking around your current nest, spend a little more now and spare yourself from prematurely having to buy another dishwasher!

Article by Margaret Winslow

Is Your Dishwasher Quiet Enough?

Ten to 15 years ago, dishwashers whooshed and washed and clunked and clanged with the vigor of a pile driver. It was annoying, but most people didn’t know it was possible to wash any other way. Dishwashers were loud, a Bush or Clinton was running for president, and everyone was excited for the new James Bond and Star Wars films.

Over the past decade or so, things have changed—at least when it comes to dishwashers. While there are certainly some stragglers, most name-brand dishwashers on the market today are quiet enough to run in a library. Typically, they range from 45 to 50 decibels—roughly the noise level of typing on a keyboard, and just below the threshold needed to wake someone up.

Now compare that to dishwashers from the mid-2000s. Those machines averaged about 60 decibels—just below the sound level of a vacuum. So today’s machines are much quieter, but the trend has had an interesting effect on consumers: Shoppers tend to overvalue the significance of the industry standard noise rating—the decibel A-weighting, or dBA.

The dBA rating is complicated, but it basically boils down to this: Compared to straight-up decibels (dB), dBA puts emphasis on noises that we hear most clearly and de-emphasizes sounds that are harder to hear. The result is a rating that should, in theory, give shoppers a better idea of how much their dishwasher will annoy them.

But how did a quiet dishwasher become the envy of homeowners everywhere, and just how quiet is quiet enough?


A Quieter Kitchen

It was actually a German brand, Bosch, that first got Americans thinking about sound back in the early 2000s. The manufacturer already had a line of quiet dishwashers in the European market, so it had a leg up when it came to developing new models for quiet-hungry American buyers.

In short, Bosch anticipated a need that customers didn’t know they had. Americans were starting to spend a lot more time in their kitchens, thanks the rediscovery of cooking via foodie culture and the growth of the “open kitchen” concept. Suddenly, a demand for quieter dishwashers was born.

The German giant met that need by fundamentally redesigning the dishwasher. Bosch engineers first incorporated a solid base made of heavy-duty plastic—the same material used in football helmets. They also installed a sensor-based drain pump that only ran when it detected the presence of water, eliminating much of the loud sucking noise heard during draining. Bosch also redesigned the hydraulic system, introduced a new filtration system to replace the hard waste disposer, and began using two motors instead of one to spread the work load.

(Not long after Bosch revolutionized the industry, a few retailers partnered with a sound lab to develop a standard measurement of dishwasher noise output. That’s the reason for the ubiquitous dBA ratings you’ll see in stores, in ads, and online—we’ll explain those later.)

Dishwashers have gotten so quiet that the differences among them are hardly noticeable.

The result was a line of “SuperSilence” dishwashers that, today, operate in the range of 38-46 dBA. It also led to a race for the lowest possible sound rating. That’s why Bosch’s primary competitor, Miele, pushed hard to hit an impressive 37 dBA with its Futura Diamond model. Using a specific “Extra Quiet” mode, it limits mechanical action and prolongs the length of its wash cycles. In other words, it’ll wash your dishes silently while you sleep, but it may take all night.

“Although there are peaks and valleys in measuring the sound levels during a wash cycle, we have managed to suppress even the portions of the cycle where the pump and drain noises are at their highest, turning them into a low-pitched hum,” said Hiroko Kawaguchi, a product development manager at Miele.

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