Dishwashers use a lot of energy—to heat water, run the wash cycle, and dry dishes. Most of that energy goes to heating the water to about 140° F. Manufacturers can improve energy efficiency by tweaking any of those factors—but that doesn’t mean you’ll be happy with the results.

For instance, the lowest-scoring model in Consumer Reports’ dishwasher ratings, the Frigidaire FBD2400KS, $250, is one of the worst at cleaning dirty dishes yet aces our energy-efficiency tests.

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“That’s because this particular dishwasher uses only 6 gallons of water yet gets the job done in 90 minutes, which is the fastest of the models in our ratings,” says Larry Ciufo, an engineer who oversees CR’s dishwasher tests. “And it does a poor job drying while saving energy.”

The good news is you don’t have to sacrifice clean, dry dishes for energy efficiency. More than two dozen high-performing dishwashers in our ratings deliver excellent energy efficiency.

The Most Energy-Efficient Dishwashers

The dishwashers listed here (in alphabetical order) scored an Excellent in energy efficiency without sacrificing cleaning. Each has a soil sensor, arguably the most important feature on new dishwashers. It improves cleaning and efficiency by adjusting the cycle time and water use according to the amount of food on the dishes and glasses.

These dishwashers use just 4 to 6 gallons of water to do a full load. They’re the standard 24 inches wide, and from reliable brands.

To find out more about these and other dishwashers that we tested, see our full dishwasher ratings and recommendations and our dishwasher buying guide.

Energy-Saving Dishwasher Tips

Energy Star dishwashers are certified by a third party to be energy efficient and can earn you a rebate from your utility company. But no matter which dishwasher you have, there are ways that you can improve its energy efficiency. Here’s what our experts and the Department of Energy suggest:

• Check the owner's manual for the recommended water temperature. If the dishwasher has a heating element—most do—set your home’s water heater to a lower temperature, say 120° F.

• Run a full load. Even if you have to wait a few days to run the dishwasher, it makes sense to do a full load of dishes. If you're concerned that the dirty dishes will produce a funky odor, use the rinse-and-hold cycle. But the DOE suggests you try to avoid using this option because it uses 3 to 7 gallons of hot water.  

• Don't rinse dishes. Instead, just scrape food from them, then load the dishwasher. For dishwashers with a soil sensor, rinsing dishes can make them come out dirtier. That’s because 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.

• Air-dry dishes. If your dishwasher has a heated-dry option, turn off the feature and let the dishes air-dry. If your dishwasher isn’t drying, find out what the cause might be and check out five ways to improve it.