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Dishwasher Buying Guide

The Different Types Of Dishwashers

  • Freestanding: Slots into any available space and can be used as additional bench area in smaller kitchens.
  • Built-under: Slides under the kitchen bench-top and is usually supplied with a fascia.
  • Semi-integrated: Partially hidden, with the control panel visible and within easy reach.
  • Fully-integrated: Completely concealed behind a matching fascia for a seamless appearance in the kitchen.

Capacity And Size Are Key

A dishwasher's capacity is measured by the number of "place settings" it can wash; a place setting is made up of a large and small plate, bowl, cup, saucer, and the cutlery one person would use in a meal. Dishwashers accommodating more place settings are more efficient, as they use less water per item. Even if you don't have a large family, consider a larger capacity dishwasher and load it until it's full.
The standard size for a dishwasher is 60cm wide, 82cm high and 60cm deep. Slimline models are usually around 45cm wide and take nine place settings.
Measure the available space in your kitchen, and allow some room around the dishwasher for ventilation.

Shelves And Baskets Add Flexibility

Choose a dishwasher that can adapt to your needs. Look for height adjustable shelves, baskets for cutlery, plus racks which protect glasses and can be re-arranged to hold big pots.
Check that the racks are made of metal.

Programs Take Out The Guesswork

A number of dishwashers have sensors that recognise how full they are, what type of items are in them and how dirty they are, before adapting a program to the load. Programs will vary depending on the manufacturer, but generally you can choose from:

  • Economy: For normal washes.
  • Light/delicates: For fine china, etc.
  • Glasses: For cups and mugs.
  • Rinse and hold: For very heavy soiling.
  • Rinse-only: For cleaning food leftovers.
  • Half-load: For an economical wash (adjusts the water and program times for a less-than-full load).

Stay In Control

Make sure the controls on your dishwasher are easy to read and reach. Budget models may have mechanical knobs, while newer ones will have digital buttons and display screens.
Many machines also have additive indicators on the control panel which will show you when you need to refill the salt or rinse aid reservoirs.

Consider The Noise Level

Consider how close your kitchen is to living areas, and how quiet the dishwasher needs to be. If possible, find out how loud it is before you buy. At the very least, look for a dishwasher with built-in noise insulation.

The Methods Of Drying

There are several ways in which dishwashers can dry dishes:

  • Residual heat (heat created from the washing process).
  • Heated air.
  • Fan assistance (removes condensation from inside the dishwasher).

Water And Energy Efficiency Saves You Money

WELS (Australia's Water Efficiency Labelling Scheme) rates dishwashers depending on how much water they use. The label shows a zero to six star rating; the more stars, the more water efficient the product. It also displays the water consumption flow (litres per wash) of the product.
The Energy Star Rating label gives a star rating (out of six) of the model's energy efficiency. It also states energy consumption (usually kilowatt hours per year) to provide an estimate of the annual energy consumption.
Some dishwashers have energy-saving features; for example, a time delay function allows you to set the machine to switch itself on during the night to take advantage of cheaper electricity rates (check with your power company for special rates to see if applicable).

Proper Maintenance Is Important

  • Load your dishwasher properly to get the best wash. Generally, the top basket is for smaller, less soiled items and the bottom basket for larger, dirtier pieces.
  • Dishwashers have a filter where food debris gets caught and this should be cleaned regularly. Check how easy it is to reach and remove the filter.
  • Some dishwashers require you to use dishwasher salt (to soften the water); rinse aid (to reduce drying time and leave a smear-free finish); and detergent in powder, tablet or liquid form.
  • Use a dishwasher cleaner regularly to degrease and freshen.

Play It Safe

Choose a dishwasher with built-in protection against flooding; some top-of-the-range machines will detect changes in water pressure at the top of the inlet hose, and a safety valve will cut off the water supply. Child-safe door locks are a good idea, too.

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