Dear Jim: I am looking for a new dishwasher. My very old one is noisy, has only two cycle settings and does not clean well. What features should I look for in a new efficient model? —Kathy K.
Dear Kathy: Even the least expensive new dishwasher will be more efficient and quieter than your old one. As with most appliances, if you do not want to do much research on a product, just select one which meets EnergyStar standards (www.energystar.gov) and it will be reasonably efficient.
Your old dishwasher with few cycle options may use as much as 10 gallons of water per cycle, much of it from your water heater. New models can use less than three gallons of water for a normal eight-place-setting load. Not counting the energy used, just your water savings alone may cover the cost of the dishwasher detergent.
Most of the dishwasher operating cost is for the energy used to heat the water. This is particularly true if you have an electric water heater. Water consumption is also becoming a concern for many areas of the country. Use the water consumption specifications for a standard size, normal cycle setting when comparing dishwashers.
New dishwashers are very quiet. In order to improve the energy efficiency, heavy insulation is used in the cabinet, the door and around the pump/motor assembly to keep the water hot. A secondary benefit is much lower sound levels.
The most important criterion for a dishwasher is how well it cleans dishes. If you have to do much prerinsing or extra hand washing of some dishes, any savings from an efficient model will be lost.
Some models use two small pumps. One is for high pressure spraying and the other is for draining the tank. Other models use a single larger pump which reverses for draining. The two smaller pumps often require a smaller reservoir in the tank bottom so less water is needed.
Consider several features which can improve the cleaning without sacrificing energy and water efficiency. Soil sensors test the turbidity (cloudiness) of the water to determine when the dishes are clean. This adjusts the length of the cycle for each unique load to achieve optimum cleaning with minimum water and energy use.
An optional filter removes food particles from the wash water inside the dishwasher so the dishes are not constantly getting covered with very dirty water. Convenient self-cleaning filters use a grinder, but this can create more noise than ones that require manual cleaning. There also should be an internal water heating element.
A rinse-hold feature is helpful if you do not always run the dishwasher immediately after putting dishes in it. This typically uses less than two gallons of water and provides better dish cleaning when you actually run the regular cleaning cycle.
The most expensive dishwashers have many cycle settings for just about every dishwashing need. Actually, most people end up using the three basic cycles — light, medium, pots and pans. If you are on a budget, a model with three cycles is adequate.
All new models will have electronic controls with some able to be controlled remotely with a cell phone. Completely hidden controls look good for a built-in appearance. Partially hidden ones don’t look bad and allow you to monitor the progress of the cycle.
The following companies offer super-efficient dishwashers: Kenmore, (888) 536-6673, http://www.kenmore.com; Kitchenaid, (800) 541-6390, http://www.kitchenaid.com; and Miele Appliances, (800) 999-1360, http://www.mieleusa.com: Viking Range, (888) 845-4641, http://www.vikingrange.com; and Whirlpool, (866) 698-2538, http://www.whirlpool.com.
Dear Jim: Without changing the thermostat setting, the temperature in my house seems to vary excessively. What could be causing this and do thermostats wear out over time? —Frank N.
Dear Frank: Thermostats are reliable and generally do not wear out. First try cleaning it. Carefully, snap off the cover and clean off any dust with a fine brush. Just a fine layer of dust can insulate it and reduce sensitivity.
If you have remodeled your house or now keep some doors closed, air flow patterns may have changed. This can create stagnant air pockets or drafts across the thermostat. Reroute the low-voltage thermostat wire to a better thermostat location.
Send inquiries to James Dulley, Going Green, 6906 Royalgreen Dr., Cincinnati, OH 45244 or visit http://www.dulley.com.