Twenty years ago, it wasn’t unusual for a dishwasher tested by Consumer Reports to use 10 gallons of water or more for a normal cycle. Today, because of tighter federal efficiency standards, half that amount is common. And this week, Whirlpool introduced a KitchenAid dishwasher that’s even more of a water miser, using up to a third less water with a water-recycling system made available two years ago in Europe.
The AquaSense Recycling system, which will appear first in Whirlpool’s KitchenAid KDTE554CSS, $1,700, filters the water from the last rinse of one load of dishes and uses it to prerinse the next load. It stores the extra water in a slim tank on the side of the dishwasher (at right in photo), which holds a little more than three quarts of water, without the need to enlarge the dishwasher cavity. The rinse water is mostly clean, company representatives said, but contains a residual amount of detergent that makes the water slightly alkaline and discourages mold growth.
And AquaSense has other ways to keep the system clean. If you don’t use your dishwasher again within three days, or if you lose power for a period, the dishwasher drains the holding tank. And every 30 days (or 30 cycles), the unit adds an extra 30 minutes to a cycle to flush out the tank and lines with hot water.
When AquaSense was introduced in Europe, the company received some complaints from owners who thought their dishwashers were broken because they weren’t hearing the usual rush of water at the start of a cycle. To remedy that, the dishwasher starts each cycle with a pint of fresh water and then adds the recycled water. Once the holding tank is empty, the water used for the rest of the cycle is fresh.
The KitchenAid KDTE554CSS is initially rolling out to only a few retailers: Leiberts Royal Green (New York) since late August and, in mid-September, Abt Electronics (Illinois), Albert Lee Appliance (Pacific Northwest), and Bray & Scarff (greater Washington, D.C., area). Whirlpool hopes to expand the system to other models in the spring. In the meantime, we’ll soon be getting the KitchenAid KDTE554CSS in our dishwasher labs for testing.
But you don’t have to spend anywhere near $1,700 for an energy-efficient dishwasher that will get your dishes clean. All of the models on our dishwasher top picks list scored very well to excellent in energy efficiency, including top-performing dishwashers from Kenmore, Bosch, LG, and KitchenAid.