Dishwashers
 
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Buying advice 
Models selling for as little as $350 or so can excel at washing dishes, but they may not measure up to costlier models in quietness, water and energy usage, or features
Spend $300 to $400 and you can get a dishwasher that does a good job cleaning dirty dishes without praising, but with a bit of noise. To get the best of everything-cleaning prowess plus the quietest operation, convenience features, water and energy efficiency, and designer styling-you'll have to spend $500 or more.
A dirt sensor, once a premium feature, is now becoming standard, even on lower-priced models. Sensors are designed to adjust the water used and the length of the cycle to the amount of soil on dishes.

WHAT'S AVAILABLE
Frigidaire, GE, Maytag, and Whirlpool make most dishwashers and sell them under their own names, associated brands, and sometimes the Sears Kenmore label. Whirlpool makes high-end KitchenAid, low-end Roper, and many Kenmore models. Maytag makes the high-end Jenn-Air, midpriced Amana, and low-priced Admiral dishwashers. GE offers a wide range of choices under the GE label and also makes the value-priced Hotpoint. Asko, Bosch, and Miele are high-end European brands; Bosch also makes Siemens models. Haier is an import from China; LG and Samsung are Korean brands; Fisher & Paykel is from New Zealand.

Most models fit into a 24-inch-wide space under a kitchen countertop and are attached to a hot-water pipe, drain, and an electrical line. If you have the room, it's now possible to get a wider dishwasher from Electrolux, although you'll pay a hefty premium. Portable models in a finished cabinet can be rolled over to the sink and connected to the faucet. A "dishwasher in a drawer" design from Fisher & Paykel and KitchenAid has two stacked drawers that can be used simultaneously or individually, depending upon the number of dishes you need to wash. KitchenAid also sells a single-drawer dishwasher.

Price range: $200 to $1,300 (domestic brands); $350 to $2,000 (foreign-made brands).


HOW TO CHOOSE

Over the years, most new dishwashers have shown that they  will do a great job cleaning even the dirtiest dishes without wasting lots of water. But they differ in appearance, noise, loading, energy efficiency, and features. Here are points to consider when choosing a dishwasher:
 

Decide how many options you need. Adjustable racks and fold-down tines help dishwashers hold large bowls and other awkward items. But you may want to skip those features and pay less if you don' t cook big meals or entertain often.
 

Also you need to think twice about half-load cycles, which allow you to wash just one rack. Running two half-load cycles can use more water and energy than one normal load. Half-load cycles that use only the top rack also limit your options, since some top racks can't accommodate dinner dishes or silverware.

Check quietness and energy use. New dishwasher models are probably quieter than the one you have now. But you might want the quietest models we tested if you have an open kitchen near a dining or family room, for example. You'll also hear a lot about Energy Star labels, which cite dishwashers that are 25 percent more energy-efficient than minimum government standards. We suggest using the energy scores in our Ratings, which are based on much dirtier loads. Most of the energy a dishwasher uses goes to heating the water. Water usage, and thus the operating costs, vary greatly from model to model. In our recent tests, water usage ranged from about 31/2 to 12 gallons a load. Energy costs to heat the water and run the machine could vary by up to $65 a year for the tested models, depending on rates in your area. Over its lifetime, a more efficient model could be a better buy than a lower-priced model that is less energy-efficient.

Don't get hung up on dirt sensors. Most dishwashers have deleted the bottom panel below the door, adding space for taller items inside and allowing sleeker styling outside. Dirt sensors, which adjust water use and cycle time to the soil on the dishes, are also common. Some sensors don't distinguish well between slightly and very dirty dishes, however, increasing wash time and water use even if the load is lightly soiled.

 You can go basic or pay more for quiet operation, loading flexibility, and styling.

For clean dishes at low cost
Low-priced dishwasher.

Figure on spending Less than $300.
What you’ll get You can get a very good machine if you’re selective, but forget about frills. Most low-priced models have fairly basic styling, with few if any convenience features or loading options. Dishwashers in this price range tend to be louder than more expensive units. Plastic tubs are the norm, and rotary controls are common.


 

For quiet and flexibility
Mid-priced dishwasher.

Figure on spending About $300 to $600.
What you’ll get Excellent washing performance is typical in this price range. Most models have sensors, flexible loading, and more-stylish designs. They’re also likely to be quieter than cheaper dishwashers. Plastic tubs are still most common, but a few models with stainless-steel tubs are now available for less than $600.


 

If you want all that and more
High-priced dishwasher.

Figure on spending More than $600.
What you’ll get As you’d expect, washing is generally excellent. Virtually all higher-priced models have stainless-steel tubs, and most are available with stainless-steel front panels. Hidden controls on some units make for sleek styling. Conveniences such as removable top racks and flatware baskets with utensil slots are the rule.

 

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