Top-Notch Energy-Efficient Dishwashers

CR's tests show that you can save energy and have clean plates, too

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Inside a dishwasher while it cleans Photo: iStock

Today’s dishwashers use about half the water and energy that dishwashers used 20 years ago. Thanks to tougher federal efficiency standards, water usage is down to about 4 to 6 gallons per load—and less water means less energy required to heat it.

That explains why many dishwashers in CR’s ratings earn an Excellent rating for energy efficiency. But the improvements didn't come without some compromise.

“When manufacturers reduced the water use to meet the standard, they had to extend wash times and recirculate the water so that dishes would still get clean,” says Larry Ciufo, an engineer who oversees CR’s dishwasher tests. The ones in our ratings take anywhere from 90 minutes to more than 3 hours to do a full load using the normal cycle or its equivalent.

MORE ON DISHWASHERS

To help fine-tune the cleaning process, manufacturers added soil sensors—which detect how messy dishes are—to most machines. “Soil sensors adjust the amount of water and cycle time needed to get plates clean,” Ciufo says. “That improves water and energy efficiency.”

While most of the models in our dishwasher ratings earn an Excellent rating for energy efficiency, only a handful also get a Very Good (or better) score in our washing test and at least a Very Good score on our drying tests.

CR members with digital access can read on for ratings and reviews of five such dishwashers, listed in alphabetical order. We calculate the annual energy cost for each model based on the national average electricity rate and running the dishwasher once a day. The annual cost for each of the listed models is $45 or less.

Make Your Dishwasher Even More Efficient

There are a few ways you can improve any dishwasher's efficiency. Here are some tips from CR experts and the Department of Energy:

Run a full load. Even if you have to wait a few days to run the dishwasher, it makes sense to hold off on cleaning a load until it’s a full one. If you’re concerned that the dirty dishes will produce a funky odor, use the rinse-and-hold cycle. Learn more about loading a dishwasher.

Don’t prerinse dishes. Prerinsing uses up to 20 gallons of water, according to Energy Star, plus the energy required to heat it. And if your dishwasher has a soil sensor, rinsing dishes can actually work against you. If the sensor detects that the load is fairly clean, the dishwasher will run a light wash, which can leave pieces of food stuck on bowls and plates. A better strategy? Just scrape food from plates before loading them.

Air-dry dishes. If your dishwasher has a heated-dry option, experiment with skipping it. Turn off the option before you press start. At the end of the cycle, crack the dishwasher door open so that the moist air escapes and dishes can air-dry. If your dishwasher isn’t great at drying, check out these ways to improve drying.

How to Wash Your Dishwasher

Want to keep your household appliances in tiptop shape? On the “Consumer 101” TV show, Consumer Reports expert Sara Morrow explains the most important thing you can do to keep these machines working properly.


Headshot of Perry Santanachote, editor with the Home editorial team at Consumer Reports

Perry Santanachote

I cover the intersection of people, products, and sustainability, and try to provide humorous but useful advice for everyday living. I love to dive deep into how things work, and debunking myths might be my favorite pastime. But what I aim to be above all else is a guiding voice while you're shopping, telling you what's a value, what's a ripoff, and what's just right for you and your family.

Headshot of CRO Home Editor Tanya Christian

Tanya A. Christian

I've spent more than a decade covering lifestyle, news, and policy. At Consumer Reports, I'm happy to sit at the intersection of these specialties, writing about appliances, product safety and advocacy, consumer fairness, and the best tools and products to help you spruce up your home. When I'm not putting pen to paper, I'm exploring new cultures through travel and taking on home makeover projects, one room at a time.