It wasn’t that long ago that a dishwasher was considered a bit of a luxury – but nowadays you’d be hard pressed to find a new kitchen anywhere in Australia that doesn’t incorporate a dishwasher in some form or another.
If you’ve got a big family, or if you like to entertain friends, a dishwasher’s a very worthy investment and will save you an awful lot of tedious sink-time and tearful arguments after dessert.
Even if you live on your own or with one other person and you’re not likely to use it every day, you’re still likely to find that the convenience of having one is something that makes life quite a bit easier.
Types of dishwasher
These days, dishwashers come in many sizes, shapes and configurations – and boast some very impressive features.
For the most part though, dishwashers will fall into one of four types:
- Freestanding: This type of dishwasher is the most popular choice, because it fits into any available slot, provided that you’ve left enough space for it.
- Built-under: These dishwashers slide underneath the benchop, and are often supplied with a fascia.
- Semi-integrated: This type of dishwasher is semi-hidden, but with visible controls.
- Fully-integrated: For the design conscious – fully hidden dishwashers are is concealed behind a fascia that matches the kitchen, with controls built in.
Dishwasher height, width and depth
The standard size for a dishwasher is 600mm wide (the same width as a standard oven), 820mm high and 600mm deep. Having said that, it’s vitally important that you still measure both the space you have available and the dimensions of the dishwasher correctly - particularly if you have a smaller kitchen.
If you’re desperately short on space you can also purchase a slimline model, which is about 450mm wide. Remember that like your fridge, your dishwasher requires ventilation to operate properly. Different dishwashers will have different ventilation requirements. Likewise, you’ll also need to take into account that by law, the power outlet that drives your dishwasher can’t be in the same void as the dishwasher – the cable will have to be run through a hole in the sides of your cabinets.
The capacity of your dishwasher is measured by the amount of ‘place settings’ it can hold. A place setting is considered to be one large and one small plate, a bowl, a cup, a saucer and cutlery for one. The bigger the capacity, the more efficient the dishwasher will be. Measuring capacities in terms of place settings helps to take the confusion out of selecting a capacity.
When choosing, you’ll need to consider how the dishwasher will fit in your kitchen, and whether you want single or dual dish drawers. Likewise, take into account how often per day or week you’ll use the dishwasher – the more it’s used, the more important energy efficiency is likely to be. The capacity of the cutlery holder may also determine how useful the dishwasher is, although in most cases that will be comfortably proportional to the number of place settings that are supported.
Features and options
While all dishwashers from reputable brands should serve their basic purpose perfectly well, there are many other options that you may also find useful or attractive. Good dishwashers these days silent, for example, meaning you can’t even tell they’re on. It’s worth asking the salesman how much noise you can expect from your dishwasher.
Other features might include:
- Adjustable shelves
- Extra/changeable cutlery baskets
- Changeable racks to fit pots and pans
- Metal racks
- Various sensors
- A range of efficiency programs e.g. rinse only, half wash, light wash etc.
- Digital controls (older or cheaper models still have adjustable knobs).
- Hot water connections. This allows you to wash in a hot or cold cycle. Cold water takes longer to wash and wastes more water.
- Special insulation against noise
- Built-in protection against flooding. This requires a safety valve which cuts off the water supply when there is a change in pressure at the top of the inlet hose.
- Child-safe locks.
- Special drying modes or alerts
Energy and water efficiency
All dishwashers sold in Australia come with Water Efficiency Labelling Scheme (WELS) star ratings indicating their relative performance. Likewise, they also feature Minimum Energy Performance Standards (MEPS) star ratings indicating how well they perform in terms of their electrical efficiency. The most efficient dishwashers are rarely the cheapest in the short term, but may save you in the long run – particularly if you’re going to use it fairly often.