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Dishwasher vs Handwashing

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At the conclusion of nearly every meal, people have a choice to make: clean the plates and utensils in the dishwasher or hand wash them. Over the years the capabilities of the dishwasher as an appliance have grown drastically, however some individuals are still unsure of which method is more sensible to rely on. The promise of being able to control all elements of a cleaning can lead to the conclusion that hand washing is the more efficient of the two, both in terms of time required to clean as well as the energy to perform the wash. In reality, a lot goes into this and actually undermines these commonly held beliefs. At the conclusion of your next meal, consider the following before going one way or the other.

At the end of a home meal, people have a choice to make: clean the dirty place settings in the dishwasher or hand wash them. Over the years, the capabilities of dishwashers have grown drastically, however some individuals are still unsure of which method is more sensible to rely on. Being able to actively participate in all parts of the cleaning can lead to the conclusion that hand washing is the more efficient of the two practices, both in terms of time and energy required to clean. However, there are many questions to consider when comparing the two options. For instance, how much water does a dishwasher use and does hand washing use less water? At the conclusion of your next meal, consider the following before going using a dishwasher or washing dishes by hand.

Should You Hand Wash Your Dishes or Put Them in the Dishwasher?

How To Use a Dishwasher

In order to complete a load of dishes, the dishwasher must utilize a number of processes to ensure the remnants of food get removed and that the dishes are thoroughly sanitized. When activated, the dishwasher adds and heats water, applies detergent, utilizes jets to clean dishes, and finally removes the dirty water and gives everything another rinse. Instead of filling completely with water, the dishwasher actually only fills a small portion within the bottom of the appliance. As the entire cleaning is underway, the dishwasher also keeps track of time so that it can properly move along through each phase. On the dishwasher operator side of things, there are some inputs required to clean the dishes such as supplying detergent and providing details about the wash. If you want to save energy while using this large appliance, you can skip the dry cycle phase.

How Much Water Do Dishwashers Use?

The amount of water and energy utilized by dishwashers can vary based upon their overall efficiency. Energy Star, a program within the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency(EPA), certifies certain appliances that are energy-efficient. In addition to saving money for individuals and businesses, this also lends itself towards different levels of water and energy usage. As a result, the average usage for dishwashers comes in the form of the standard versions of the appliance as well as the Energy Star certified ones.

While the average dishwasher uses around 6 gallons of water to complete a cycle, energy-efficient washers can cut that in half and utilize as few as 3 gallons. When it comes to the energy used by a dishwasher, the process of relying on the appliance actually uses about half as much as it takes to wash dishes with your hands. This, in large part, is due to the fact that newer dishwashers do not require the hot water heater to warm things up and instead can utilize internal heaters that do the same job for far less energy. In terms of kilowatt-hours needed, the dishwasher’s energy needs per load can range from .90 kWh to 1.60 kWh.

Shortcomings of Washing Dishes By Hand

An alternative to using a dishwashing machine is hand washing, which comes with its own unique set of benefits and shortcomings. When comparing hand washing to a dishwasher, we can first note that the more hands on method is helpful for cleaning a small number items. While the time saved may seem like a desirable plus, the reality of hand washing is that in order to thoroughly sanitize dishes, the temperature of the water needs to reach upwards of 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Because individuals cannot handle that kind of temperature, it is best to just rely on the dishwasher.

Beyond the heat required to properly clean plates by hand, the amount of energy and water that is wasted during hand washing is quite alarming. It is estimated that individuals use 27 gallons of water per load to clean dishes by hand. On an annual basis, over 6,000 gallons of water are wasted by hand washing per household. In the same wasteful manner, hand washing requires the use of the home’s hot water heater to pump warm water to the sink. In doing this, a considerable amount of energy is used and meant to aid in dishwashing but far too often is lost as people leave the sink running. And in the event the sink is plugged and water recycled, the use of water that becomes dirtied early on after use once again undermines the sanitary element of the cleaning. 

Improving Dishwasher Efficiency 

Though it is the much more efficient option, using the dishwasher can come with its own share of drawbacks. The source of these can be any number of things such as energy usage and cost. In order to cut back on them, there are a few things that can be done. One of the easiest ways to improve efficiency is to make sure the dishwasher is used when there is a full load. This will help to minimize excessive use of detergent as well as water and energy. At the same time, having the appliance filled to the brim can reduce its cleaning effectiveness and hinder the hot water jets, so be mindful of that. For those with older dishwashers, making the switch to a newer energy-efficient one can promise reduced energy usage. 

The time of day that you operate the dishwasher can contribute to how much it will cost you. During peak hours, or periods of high energy usage, service providers face high demand from customers for power. In order to prevent being overwhelmed, many companies will incentivize customers through the use of off-peak hours in which rates are reduced during certain periods of time. If saving money and saving energy is a goal, consider checking if that is something provided by your energy company and take advantage of it.

Utilize Your Dishwasher to Save Money, Energy and Water Today!

It is understandable that hand washing may be appealing to those who do not use a lot of dishes. However, if you utilize the efficiency practices detailed above, you will be able to use less water and energy when you wash your dishes in your dishwasher instead of your sink, ultimately resulting in saved money on your monthly utility bills!

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