A dishwasher was once considered a luxury appliance only found in the homes of the wealthy and most of the population were still stuck washing dishes by hand.
But this was set to change quite drastically, as the percentage of households in the UK owning a dishwasher rose from 18% in 1994 to 49% by the end of 2018. New homes were built with kitchens equipped to house dishwashers as well as the usual washing machine and refrigerator and now many people can’t imagine life without that machine that cleans their dishes while they get on with other daily tasks.
More than half of us now own a dishwasher and enjoy the extra time away from the kitchen sink. While the dishwasher runs, you could use the time to sit down to watch your favourite soap or put the kids to bed, but this time saving does come with a cost. How much do dishwashers actually cost us to run? And with rapidly rising energy bills, do our dishwashers save us money or are we better washing our dishes by hand?
How much electricity does a dishwasher use and how much does it cost?
Dishwashers run on electricity, and an average machine uses around 1.5 kWh to clean a typical load of dishes (around 12 place settings). On an average current electricity rate of around 13.70p a unit, this works out at around 20.55p per load. If an average household uses their dishwasher daily, seven dishwasher loads per week will cost around £1.44.
Energy ratings can have a big impact on how much energy is burnt each time you use your dishwasher. Ratings now go up to A+++, and most modern dishwashers have an energy rating of A or more.
However, there can still be a considerable difference between the efficiency of different machines. Which magazine states that “The most inefficient dishwasher we’ve tested would add £75 to your yearly energy bills, while the best adds just £39” (Source).
In addition to the cost of energy used, other considerations for running a dishwasher include the cost of dishwasher tablets or detergent and water bills.
It’s definitely worth shopping around for your dishwasher tablets, as costs can vary between 10p per wash for a supermarket’s own tablets, to 27p per wash for a well-known brand, and cheaper brands can clean dishes just as effectively as the more expensive ones.
Water usage can vary greatly between different dishwashers, with some models even using double the amount of water as others. This can be a real problem if you have a water meter, and it’s perhaps worth checking the water usage of different dishwasher models if you’re considering buying a new appliance.
Is it cheaper to wash dishes by hand than in a dishwasher?
Many of us assume that washing dishes by hand is much cheaper than running a dishwasher. In the past, dishwashers were certainly less efficient with electricity and water usage; however, modern dishwashers may in fact save us money when compared to washing up by hand.
According to a recent study by Telegraph Money, a single dishwasher cycle uses the same amount of energy and water as heating between four to six washing-up bowls of water in the kitchen sink or running the hot tap continuously for six to nine minutes. So if you typically use more water than six washing-up bowls to wash your dishes in the sink, or spend nine minutes or more washing up by hand, a dishwasher may be a much more cost-efficient method.
Although it’s difficult to make a true comparison – the size of a household, washing up habits and so on can vary considerably – dishwashers are certainly not always the most expensive option for cleaning dishes.
How to save money when running a dishwasher
The way you use your dishwasher can make a big difference in how much it costs to run.
It’s important to make sure your dishwasher is fully loaded each time you run it, reducing the number of times you need to use it each day. However, also be careful not to overload the machine, or you may find that everything doesn’t come out fully clean and you then have to run the cycle again.
Many modern dishwashers now have an eco-program. This setting will typically use around two litres less water than a standard wash, and also washes dishes at a lower temperature, using around 20% less energy than the main program.
Make sure you are filling your dishwasher correctly. The placement of certain items in the drawers is crucial for getting the most effective wash. You don’t want to open up your dishwasher to find that all of the bottom drawer crockeries still have food debris stuck all over them… as this would require another wash, adding to the cost per dish.
Take a look at this video which perfectly demonstrated the best way to load a dishwasher for maximum cleaning potential:
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