What You Need to Know when Buying a New Dishwasher

Image: thisreidwrites/Creative CommonsThis past weekend I got a lesson in buying appliances as we were picking out a new refrigerator, range, and dishwasher. Working in the world of design, I consider myself pretty savvy when it comes to the latest and greatest looks in home appliances, but much to my chagrin, I realized that I didn't know all that much about the latest and greatest functions of various models. They've made a lot of progress in the eight years since I last bought appliances for my previous home. But not only was I unsure of all the appliance features, I discovered that in going to three different stores I got very different information about what I should be looking for with each different unit, making me really glad I had dragged my family to so many stores after all. But so that you don't have to do the same with your family, I thought I'd offer a breakdown of the key features to look for when purchasing new appliances, starting with the dishwasher.

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In addition to searching for a look you love from a brand you trust and in the size you need, these are five of the primary things you'll want to consider when buying a new dishwasher.

1. Decibel Level- Anyone who has ever had a noisy dishwasher (which is most of us at one point or another) knows that they can be so loud that you can barely hear anything else going on in the kitchen. The new dishwashers are much quieter, but there is still a difference from one to the next. If you want your dishwasher to be virtually silent, look for one that has a decibel level of 45 or below. For those that fall into a normal quiet mode, look for a decibel level between 46 and 50. Anything above 50 is considered to be a standard sound level.

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2. Tub Material- I never really considered the importance of the tub material in a dishwasher. I've always thought they were all plastic, but now many of them come with stainless steel tubs. At first I thought that it was just a trick to get me to spend more money for an interior that matches the exterior of my appliance (you can get a stainless steel tub with white or black dishwashers too), but there is actually a greater purpose. Stainless steel tubs don't stain like plastic ones, something our current one has been quite susceptible to, and because metal retains heat better than plastic, it stays hot to help aid in the drying of the dishes without having to run the heated dry feature.

3. Adjustable Rack- The first salesman we worked with almost had me completely sold on an expensive dishwasher because it had an adjustable upper rack so that you can load stemmed glasses. But salesman number three pointed out to me that a large number of the dishwashers on the market had that feature and it wasn't just on the one I'd originally seen. That adjustable rack can make a big difference if you like to entertain or are big into cooking and have lots of odd shapes and sizes that you run through the dishwasher.

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4. Cycle Options- While having loads of options for how you run your dishwasher is convenient, the chances that you'll use all of them is slim so it probably doesn't make sense to pay for all of those fancy cycles options. As long as you have a normal cycle, a quick wash for those times when you've got a load of things that need to just be rinsed, and a gentle cycle for washing your china and other delicate items (because you'll never use them if you can't run them through the dishwasher) you should have everything you need on a regular basis.

5. Energy Star Rated- No matter what appliance you are buying, you should always make sure that it is Energy Star rated which means that it meets energy conservation standards and will reduce your electric bill if you're still using one of the old clunkers. It's not only good for your wallet, but it's better for the environment, and oftentimes your electric company will even offer an additional rebate for buying Energy Star rated appliances.

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