Leave nothing to chance: go dishwasher shopping with this handy guide to ensure you get the best dishwasher for you.
As modern appliances go, dishwashers have to be one of the most indispensable. Hygienic and convenient, a good dishwasher saves time, energy, and maybe even a relationship or two.
However necessary they are, a whitegoods purchase should never be rushed. Let’s face it: they are expensive. And if you end up buying one that fails to meet your needs, you’re going to be stuck with a big, bulky kitchen appliance that you don’t even want.
That’s why we have put together this helpful guide.
Whether you are looking for something small and compact, or one that's energy-efficient, or a model that's budget-friendly, it makes sense to do your dishwasher research before you make a purchase. Shoppers are spoiled for choice when it comes to dishwasher options and features, which certainly has advantages. However, it also means you should be well-informed on the models and options available on the market before you hit the store.
Consult this guide for the best advice on how to choose best energy-efficient, budget-friendly, or full-featured dishwashers, or skip ahead for our top dishwasher picks.
How to choose the best dishwasher
How to tell which dishwasher is the most energy efficient
- Star ratings
- What is a place setting?
- What is a kWh?
- What does WELS mean?
- How to use kWh to calculate your energy bill
How to choose the best dishwasher
If you are in the market for a new dishwasher, the first thing you should do is think about what kind of features you need, and what your space limitations are.
Take stock of your kitchen structure. If you are making a dishwasher purchase as part of a kitchen renovation then your decision will be much easier, but if you are going to be installing your new dishwasher into your pre-existing furniture, then you need to think about space.
Freestanding or integrated?
Whether you choose a freestanding or an integrated dishwasher will be an aesthetic decision – there are plenty of fantastic options in integrated or freestanding models. (see section below).
If you haven’t been dishwasher shopping for a while, you might be surprised at the enormous range of features found in modern dishwashers.
What kinds of features do you need?
Most dishwashers offer a drying function these days, but not all are created equal. If you are looking for a drying option in your new dishwasher, you should be familiar with these terms:
- Residual heat drying. Residual heat drying is an energy efficient option because it does not use any additional energy. However, it can be less effective, especially if you put in a full load.
- Fan and heated air drying. Many models offer a fan assisted or heated air drying function, and they are very effective, producing clean and dry load after a drying cycle of a few minutes. However they tend to be less energy efficient, as the drying cycle is an additional program.
- Zeolite drying. Zeolite drying and other specialised drying modes use crystals to absorb moisture and radiate heat to produce first-results without any external energy. They are the best drying option, but tend to come with a higher price tag to match.
It seems like a standard feature but good-quality adjustable upper racks are too important to overlook. Make sure the racks are height-adjustable with quick-release clips on either side of the rack that make it easy to use – as versatile, sturdy and useful as possible.
A large spray head is essential to thoroughly clean dirty plates and pots and really greasy items such as oven trays.
Most new dishwashers will come with a delay timer which lets you set the start time of the dishwasher – a great way to save energy by running the program when power prices are lowest.
This functions detects water at the base of the machine and interrupts the program when it detects something is wrong.
This is an auto function that measures how dirty the dishes are and adjusts the temperature of the water and the length of the cycle accordingly. This is a great feature found on the higher end model that will have a price tag to match.
Built in Wi-Fi means you can pair your machine to your phone and control the program remotely.
How to tell which dishwasher is the most energy efficient
First things first: before you can go dishwasher shopping you need to know what the symbols on the side of dishwashers mean.
The number of stars represents the machine's energy efficiency. The more stars on the side, the more energy efficient your dishwasher will be.
For example, 10 place setting dishwasher with 5 stars will be more energy efficient than a 10 place setting dishwasher with 3 stars.
The trick is that this easy star rating only applies to dishwashers that have the same capacity, so it wouldn’t be as accurate to compare the energy efficiency of an 8 place setting dishwasher with a 10 place dishwasher by just the star rating.
A place setting is the standard consumer measurement for capacity, ie how big the dishwasher is and how much tableware and kitchenware it will be able to wash at once.
How big a capacity dishwasher you need is up to you. If you regularly host dinner parties you might need a larger dishwasher with more capacity, but if you have limited kitchen space, a compact or tabletop dishwasher, with a smaller capacity, might be a better choice (see section below). There are lots of excellent options across all dishwasher categories.
However, if you aren’t sure which you will buy yet, or it’s a toss-up between two different sizes or styles based on the features, then it’s important to understand how to calculate the energy efficiency using both the star rating and the kilowatt-hour (kWh).
The kilowatt-hour (abbreviated to kWh on the side of the appliance) is a unit measurement of energy equal to one kilowatt expended for one hour of time. It is the accepted form of energy measurement in electrical devices.
So, if you are looking at two dishwashers that have equal star ratings, but different place settings, look at kWh number to determine the best, most energy-efficient choice.
A lower kWh number is a more energy-efficient choice.
The WELS indicates the water efficiency of your dishwasher. It simply means how much water the appliance uses. It uses a star rating to indicate its efficiency, so the more stars a dishwasher has, the less water it uses.
If you know how much your electricity costs per kWh, you can also estimate how much your new appliance will cost to run.
Simply multiply the cost of your energy with the kWh. So, if your energy costs $0.30 / kWh and your dishwasher uses 245 kWh, your new dishwasher will cost $73.50 to run per year.
You can do the same to calculate your water bill. Simply multiply the WELS with the kWh figure.
An efficiency tip: Look for a dishwasher with a delay timer to run it for cheaper. Setting a timer so your dishwasher turns on and runs through its cycle during the night, when electricity is cheaper, will lower your electric bill.
Smeg is a leading appliance producer and this model is its most water-efficient. The price tag is what you would expect for a top-of-the-line model, but it's worth the investment.
Bosch is an internationally-trusted electric manufacturer. This is an energy efficient model, free-standing, 15 place setting dishwasher that features an auto sensor. It might be too bulky for some kitchens, but if you have the space, it gives you plenty of bang for your buck.
This Dishlex model ticks every box. It’s not too bulky but can do the heavy lifting when you have guests around. It’s water- and energy-efficient, has a pretty good selection of features, and costs less than $1,000.
Slimline dishwashers have a more narrow or slimmer design, making them a good choice for kitchens with limited space. Slimline dishwashers come in all varieties, from budget- friendly to top of the line. However, they lack the capacity to do all the dishes and pots from a dinner party.
Integrated dishwashers are machines that are built into your kitchen cupboards creating a seamless look that blends perfectly with your kitchen aesthetic. Again, this is a style choice. Integrated dishwashers come with a range of different feature selections. There are two types available:
- Semi-integrated dishwashers are installed into your kitchen cupboards but leave the top control panel visible. The front doors and sides will match the rest of your kitchen.
- Fully-integrated dishwashers are completely installed into your kitchen furniture. A small strip can be left at the top so you can see the control panel or just visible on a lip so when the door is closed it’s completely hidden.
This Miele is a pricy, but top-of-the-line integrated dishwasher model. If your budget stretches this far, this sturdy, top rated, efficient and full-featured machine is well worth it.
Drawer dishwashers are compact dishwasher models that are reasonably new on the market. As the name suggests they are dishwashers that are built into a small space in your kitchen furniture, and slide out like a drawer to load. If you have a small kitchen, they are a great option.