Dishwasher Options
Undercounter dishwashers range in price from less than $200 to nearly $1,200, and some European models cost even more. They all clean dishes, but an economy dishwasher —something in the $200 range —is likely to have an on/off switch and not much else. More expensive models clean more thoroughly and efficiently. They offer greater capacity and loading flexibility, more water-temperature options, better filtration systems and advanced electronic sensors. Higher-priced machines also have stainless-steel tubs instead of plastic ones. KitchenAid is typical in its pay-more-get-more approach. It makes five undercounter models, ranging from $549 to $1,149. All of them have stainless-steel tubs, hold 14 place settings and come with nylon-coated racks. The top-of-the-line model offers, among other things, two more wash cycles, more flexible racking and a cycle for sanitizing dishes. Dishwashers are getting quieter, although delay settings on some machines make this issue less important. "The sound game is not over," says David Hoyh, director of Whirlpool's dishwasher line, "but it's almost to the point where the consumer doesn't detect the dishwasher is running." There is, however, no industry standard on noise, so you are left with vague promises implied by model names. Some makers measure dishwasher noise in sones. Unlike the decibel scale, which is an objective measurement of sound pressure, the sone scale reflects the perception of loudness and is intended to gauge the annoyance factor of different types of sound. Not all manufacturers publish a sone rating, but as a point of reference the quietest dishwashers on the market operate at about 4 sones. Machines with the Energy Star label exceed minimum energy standards by at least 25 percent. But don't expect dramatic savings here. The most efficient dishwasher on the Energy Star list uses an estimated 344 kWh of energy per year—roughly half the consumption of the most energy-hungry model. At 8.5 cents per kWh, the savings would amount to about $2.50 per month. On the other hand, if all U.S. homes were to use Energy Star appliances, in 15 years the money saved by decreased energy usage would total $100 billion nationwide. A complete list of Energy Star machines is available at www.energystar.gov.
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