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Dishwashers Guide

Find out what to look for when picking out this vital kitchen appliance.

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You want more from your dishwasher than just cleaning plates. I'm Lacey Howard. Today's dishwashers are neither seen nor heard. Let me show you what to look for when you're shopping for this vital appliance. Your first decision is the type of dishwasher. You have three basic choices. Undercounter dishwashers are the most popular and most common. Most are 24 inches wide but compact models can be as slim as 18 inches. Drawer dishwashers are available in single and double units. You can incorporate these appliances just like a deep cabinet drawer anywhere in your kitchen providing you have the plumbing available. After you know the type of dishwasher you want, focus on the tub which is the container inside the dishwasher. Tubs can hold up to 16 plate settings. You'll pay more for a tub with more capacity. Choose your tub size based on your family's current and future needs. Pay attention to the material the tub is made of. Stainless steel is durable, stain resistant and relatively quiet. It's also the most expensive option. High-temperature plastic is most affordable and readily available. However, it can discolor over time. The insulation that surrounds the tub directly affects the noise level. Ask your contractor to add extra insulation during installation. Look for decibel ratings on every model. The lower the number, the quieter the dishwasher and the more you'll spend. A tub typically has 2 racks. A dish rack on bottom and a glass rack on top. But the number and types of racks vary greatly by brand. Racks are usually heavy-duty wire covered in durable, water-resistant material that holds your dishes in place safely. The top sometimes typically wear out first. Check that these are well coated or even padded. You'll find racks with many options. Some of the most used include silverware baskets, fold down sections for versatility, special sections for delicate stemware, built-in clips for lightweight items. Even basic dishwashers have several cycle options. Some of the most popular and useful cycles include pots and pans for extra scrubbing, china crystal for a gentler wash. Fast wash for a shorter wash and rinse. Sanitizing which takes the water to a temperature that kills most germs. Air dry which takes longer but saves energy. And auto-wash which sets the appropriate wash time and temperature. When shopping pay attention to the spray arms. They direct water and help get dishes clean. Basic models have one arm, more expensive ones feature 2 to 4. More arms mean more thorough cleaning. Like all appliances, the dishwasher affects your utility bill. In fact the dishwasher heats and uses 4 to 7 gallons of water per cycle. If you choose a dishwasher that uses less water you'll save money. Dishwashers with the energy star seal are at least 41% more energy efficient than minimum federal standards for energy and water efficiency. Also a dishwasher with a food waste disposer is more energy efficient. The disposer breaks up and filters food which keeps the wash water cleaner longer. Sensor devices evaluate the size and condition of each load and determine the optimal wash time and temperature, usually saving you money. Many dishwashers come with slide out front panels so you can change the look of your dishwasher to blend with your kitchen. Dishwashers with stainless steel fronts are popular. Or you can also work with a carpenter to add a front panel that matches your cabinetry. And here's one more thing to think about, if you have a large family or like to entertain you may like to have two dishwashers instead of just one.