These are fast becoming one of life’s essentials. They use less water, take less time and effort than washing up by hand and are improving in efficiency each year. Earlier versions were quite noisy and expensive; today’s models are quieter and more efficient than ever. Their cost will vary considerably depending on the following:
Energy Rating / Cleaning Performance / Drying Performance
All these are usually given in ratings from A to G; A grade being the best. This is a useful guide when shopping for your dishwasher.
Dishwashers are generally plumbed in to your water supply and fitted in under the worktop space (although portable versions are available which can be connected by a hose) A standard model can take up to 12 place settings though smaller compact versions are available, if your space is limited, which can clean 4 to 8 place settings.
They work by means of rotary spray arms that spread hot water and detergent onto your dishes to clean them. Most models have two spray arms but some have three, meaning that the dishes are being soaked from every possible angle. This extra feature is usually only available on the more expensive models.
Some dishwashers are connected to your hot water and take this directly from the hot water supply. Others are connected to the cold and use an element to heat the water to the required temperature. Some models are connected to both, only directly using the hot water on certain cycles (see below)
Most models offer three basic cycles; light, normal and heavily soiled. Which one you choose will determine the temperature of the water, number of washes and rinses the machine will perform. Some also offer an economy setting; this usually means one wash, one rinse and drying by means of “no heat” (see below) saving on electricity. Another feature to look for is a “delicates” setting. This means less rigorous washing and rinsing; perfect for glasses. At the top end of the scale, machines with “sensors” calculate the temperature and amount of washing/ rinsing that’s needed, automatically.
On all models is done my means of “heat” or “no heat”. The first means that air is heated using coils. The second uses the residual heat already created by the wash to achieve the same result; this may be fine for you if you won’t need to use the dishes straight away, and it will use less energy. Models that “heat”dry are generally more expensive than those that don’t although you may consider the extra cost worthwhile if you don’t like using tea towels!
The Filter System
This ensures that the water that’s recycled throughout the wash contains as few particles of food as possible. On most models this will be a manual filter system. It’s worth checking the size of the holes on the filter, as the smaller they are, the more food particles will get filtered out, rather than clogging up the holes on the spray arms. This filter will need to be cleaned regularly so make sure that it is easy to reach and remove. Some models will also contain a self-clean filter which is fitted at the bottom of the dishwasher. This will trap food, grind it down and flush it away into the drainage system. On the most expensive models there can be a food disposal system fitted within the machine. This will deal with almost any kind of obstacle in much the same way, using stainless steel blades to chop up even hard chunks of food, fruit stones etc.and flush them safely away.
Most standard models have two racks, the top one being for lighter dishes, the lower for heavier where the cutlery basket also sits. The basket is removable for easy unloading. Look out for models where the height of the racks can be adjusted to accommodate awkward or bulky shapes as this can be really practical. Some, also, have a further shallow rack for cutlery at the very top of the machine instead of the usual basket as on most models. This means more space on the lower rack for really large items. More options give greater choice but usually mean a higher price tag. Consider this when looking at these various features.
Dishwashers are insulated with fibreglass to reduce noise levels. This may be important to you especially in an open-plan kitchen. If this is a factor in your choice then read the brochures on different models to compare the noise levels (given in decibels). Most modern machines have noise levels of about 42-45 decibels. The lower the decibels, the quieter it will be.
This is always a handy option on appliances allowing you to take advantage of cheaper night time electricity. This is now available on many models.
Most dishwashers have a sensor that will stop the machine working if the door is opened mid-cycle and some have electronic control panels that allow you to “lock” them preventing curious little ones from investigating!
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Dishwashers Buyers Guide
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