When to Run Your Dishwasher

One of your home's biggest money drains can be found in your dishwasher, which accounts for a huge chunk of your home's energy usage. But, if used properly and maintained, your dishwasher can actually save you money.

Consider these tips:

Time It Right
The time of day you use your dishwasher matters. Many utility companies charge higher rates during peak hours, with the heaviest usage at around 2 P.M. Save money by running it over night, between the hours of 7 P.M. and noon the next day. Some units can even be set to start at the time of your choosing.

Pick a Lighter Cycle
Next, choose your cycles carefully. The heavier the cycle the more water and energy you'll use, typically filling and draining your dishwasher four to five times. A normal or light wash usually fills three. "Unless things are a total mess and your dishes are really caked with food a normal or a light cycle is probably going to do the trick, especially if you have a newer machine," says Jacob Gordon of TreeHugger.com.

Also See: Common Money Traps to Avoid

Turn Down the Heat
Speaking of waste, did you know that 80% of the energy used by dishwashers goes into heating the water? Most modern units have "booster heaters" which turn up the temperature of the water, leading to a higher utility bill. Gordon says turning your home hot water heater from the factory default of 140 degrees down to 120 degrees can have a big impact on your entire home's energy savings. If your large appliances are more than 10 years old, run them simultaneously to maximize your hot-water heater's usage.

Also See: When it Pays to Spend More

But then again, a 10-year old machine isn't so efficient. A pre-1994 dishwasher replaced with an Energy Star appliance conserves about 10 gallons of water per cycle and saves $40 a year in energy costs.

"If you're looking to get a new dishwasher take a look at that yellow Energy Star label on the front [of the appliance]. That's going to tell you how much energy that unit's going to use over the course of a year. It's also going to compare it to some similar units on the market so you know how much you're saving," says Gordon. "And as with any appliance try to get the smallest one you can because that's just going to save you more money and more water over the lifetime of the appliance."

Also See: 5 Things You Should Stop Buying

Additionally, Consumer Reports found that "smart" washers with dirt sensors used "significantly more energy for heavily soiled loads than non-sensor models." This extra consumption is not often reflected in the EnergyGuide's sticker rating, so it's advised to skip this fancy feature when shopping for a new machine.

Also See: 6 Tricks to Slash Your Cell Phone Bill by $1,000 a Year

As always, we want to hear from you. What are some ways you save using your large appliances? Connect with me on Twitter @Farnoosh, using the hashtag #FinFit.

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