If you’ve ever lived in a home without a dishwasher, we don’t need to tell you how great it is to have one. But have you ever considered what’s actually taking place when that handy little lifesaver is getting your pots and pans spick and span?
How many gallons of water does a dishwasher use?
National Energy Awareness Month is approaching, so it's a good time to remember that the energy use for a dishwasher is between 0.87-1.59 kWh per load, and the average dishwasher uses six gallons of water per cycle. More efficient dishwashers, Energy Star-rated dishwashers, use four gallons per cycle.
Most of us use warm water for washing and rinsing our dishes, which means half the water used for a load of dishes needs to be heated. Heating two gallons of water with a hot water heater takes just under 1,000 BTUs. Just like with your bathtub or kitchen sink, the warm-to-hot water in your dishwasher has to be actively pre-heated before it makes it inside the appliance itself.
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Should I hand-wash my dishes?
It may seem reasonable to hand-wash when you have only a small number of dishes to do, but it’s actually extremely wasteful. Obviously you wouldn’t wash an entire load by hand with an empty dishwasher at your disposal, but if you did, you could use more than seven times the amount of water your dishwasher requires.
And contrary to what your mother told you, rinsing each plate before tossing it in the dishwasher really doesn't do much good. The dishwasher simply doesn’t require that sort of preparation, and the water you use to do so is just being wasted. Simply scrape your scraps in the trash and call it good.
How to get the most out of your dishwasher
The most efficient way to use your dishwasher is to maximize your load size. All things being equal, the dishwasher is going to use the same amount of water for a half-full load as it will for the best game of dish Tetris you’ve ever played.
So, if you can stand it, simply continue to add dirty dishes to your dishwasher over the course of a few days and wait to start the load until the dishwasher is full. Depending on the size of your household, you can drastically limit your number of weekly washes to as little as one per week, saving you money on both energy and water consumption and minimizing your environmental footprint.