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How to Buy a Dishwasher

There are many types of dishwashers on the market. The most common is the built-in dishwasher that fits under a counter. Compact dishwashers are similar to built-in dishwashers but take up less space. Other high-end options include in-sink dishwashers, drawer dishwashers, and portable dishwashers, each of which have a smaller capacity but can take up much less space than traditional options.

Modern dishwashers offer many different cycles and special features. Some dishwashers offer ultra hot or sanitizing cycles that claim to clean better or kill germs. Many dishwashers use sensors to determine water usage and maximize efficiency or to dispense just enough detergent to clean the dishes actually present in each load. Some dishwashers even include small food disposers that collect scraps of food so they don't float around the washbasin during the washing process. Not pre-washing food off of dishes can save up to 20 gallons of water per load.

Options and Features

Dishwasher disguised as a Cabinet

Non-traditional rack configurations are also available. Some dishwashers have foldable racks to provide easier access or accommodate larger dishes. Some have a small third rack just for cups or offer special cutlery trays that save space or increase the load capacity of single loads.

Many dishwashers also include hidden controls or front panels designed to look like cabinetry. Homeowners can match their dishwasher to the surrounding cabinets for a more uniform kitchen look if desired. Electronic controls can also improve the look of a dishwasher although they're functionally identical to traditional mechanical controls.

Homeowners who tend to use small quantities of dishes and run small loads may look for dishwashers with half-load options which save money, water, and energy. Alternately, some of the newer in-sink or drawer models may also be a good choice. In-sink dishwashers are only viable in kitchens with a double sink as one tub will be filled with the dishwasher. These models are much quieter, faster, and energy efficient than traditional dishwashers.

Drawer Dishwashers

As their name suggests, drawer dishwashers replace one or two drawers in a kitchen with a compact dishwashing system. A two-drawer model may be the same size as a traditional washing machine, but each drawer operates separately resulting in smaller loads that use less water and energy. A single drawer model has the same benefits but doesn't provide the ability to clean a larger load of dishes by using both drawers. Drawer dishwashers are now sold by several manufacturers including KitchenAid and Fisher& Paykel. Many include the same special features as newer built-in dishwashers.

According to Adrienne Smith of Sozio Appliances in Cambridge, Massachusetts, "Energy efficiency is the biggest factor for most customers. They also care about noise and ease of loading." She suggests giving some thought to usage patterns to determine the best combination of these and other features for specific needs.

Dishwasher Warranties

Dishwasher warranties vary greatly from manufacturer to manufacturer. For example, Maytag offers a one-year warranty on the entire dishwasher while Bosch offers a one year warranty covering parts and labor with an additional year of parts only coverage, a five year warranty on all dish racks, and a lifetime warranty on all stainless steel tubs and doors.