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Conserving Energy While Using Your Dishwasher

When it comes to eco-friendly dishwashing, the question is whether to wash by hand or to use the dishwasher. Surprisingly, for everyday dishes, an Energy Star–rated dishwasher is the choice of the U.S. Department of Energy. An efficient dishwasher saves the average family nearly 5,000 gallons of water a year compared to washing dishes by hand and uses less than half as much energy.

Energy Star models efficiently boost the water temperature to levels that disinfect the dishes, so you may be able to reduce your water heater setting to 120 degrees rather than the 140 degrees required by many older dishwashers.

On the flip side, it takes energy (and therefore carbon emissions) to manufacture the dishwasher, and it’s likely that you’ll have to dispose of it some day. Even though many of its major elements can be recycled, that process requires energy, and some parts inevitably end up in the landfill.

Consider these recommendations to reduce your environmental impact regardless of whether you have an Energy Star dishwasher:

  • Skip the pre-rinse if your dishwasher gets the dishes clean without it. Scrape larger food particles into the trash or compost bucket if they’re compostable.

  • Consult your owner’s manual for the way to place items in the dishwasher for the most efficient cleaning.

    The manufacturer knows how to stack the dishwasher efficiently, so take that advice.
    The manufacturer knows how to stack the dishwasher efficiently, so take that advice.
  • Run the dishwasher only when it’s full.

  • Use the dishwasher’s no-heat air-drying option. If it doesn’t have this option, turn the dishwasher off as soon as it finishes washing, before it starts the drying cycle.

  • Clean out the drain filter monthly both to keep the dishwasher clean and to maintain its efficiency. Many models have some kind of screen at the bottom that lifts up so that you can clear out any large food particles or buildup.

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