We recently considered the post-holiday dinner mess in our kitchens and wondered if tossing that mountain of food-glooped dishes in the trash might not be more energy-efficient than actually washing them. Of course, that was the lazy princess in us, not the green warrior hostesses that we really are. But we wondered: How does one tackle this scenario in the most eco-friendly manner? Hand wash or dishwasher? Rinse or just scrape? Overload or stack neatly?
Fortunately, we came across this article written by Melissa Breyer, Producer of the Care2 Green Living website. She quotes from a book entitled Consumer Guide to Home Energy Savings
(New Society Publishers, 2007), which promises to save us money while saving the earth. Here is the book’s authoritative and accessible advice for “Using a Dishwasher for Maximum Energy Savings:”
Dishwashing Vs. Hand-Washing
Which method uses less energy? It depends on the age of your dishwasher, what settings you use, and how you would wash the dishes by hand. Studies show that, when used to maximize energy-saving features, modern dishwashers outperform all but the most frugal
If you wash dishes by hand and fill sinks or plastic tubs with water, it’s easy to determine if you would use less water with a dishwasher. Just measure how much water it takes to fill the wash and rinse containers. If you wash dishes by hand two or three times a day, you might be surprised to find out how much water you’re currently using. Newer dishwashers use only 3 to 10 gallons per cycle.
Scrape, Don’t Rinse
Most people pre-rinse dishes before loading the dishwasher. Modern dishwashers—those purchased within the last 5 to 10 years—do a superb job of cleaning even heavily soiled dishes. Don’t be tempted to pre-rinse dishes before loading; simply scrape, empty liquids, and let the dishwasher do the rest. This saves time as well as water and energy. If you must rinse first, use cold water.
When Filling the Dishwasher
Load dishes according to manufacturer’s instructions. Completely fill the racks to optimize water and energy use, but allow proper water circulation for adequate cleaning.
Wash only FULL loads.
Dishwashers use the same amount of water whether half-full or completely full. Putting dishes in the dishwasher throughout the day and running it once in the evening uses less water and energy than washing dishes by hand throughout the day. If it takes a day or two to get a full load, use the rinse and hold feature common on newer models. This prevents build-up of dried-on food while saving time and water, as compared to pre-rinsing each item. (The rinse feature typically uses only 1 to 2 gallons of water.)
Use Energy-Saving Options
Pay attention to your dishwasher cycle options and select the cycle requiring the least amount of energy. Use the no-heat air-dry feature on your dishwasher if it has one. If you have an older dishwasher that doesn’t include this feature, you can turn off the dishwasher after the final rinse cycle is completed and open the door to air dry. Using this feature or opening the door and air-drying dishes will increase the drying time, and it could lead to increased spotting. But try it to see how well it works for your machine.
Lower Your Water Heater Temperature
Since the early 1990s, most U.S. dishwashers come with built-in heaters to boost water temperature to 140º-145º F, the temperature manufacturers recommend for optimum dishwashing performance. The advantage to the booster heater: you can lower your water heater thermostat, significantly reducing heating costs. Resetting your heater to 120 degrees Fahrenheit (typically halfway between the “medium” and “low” settings) will provide adequate hot water for your household needs.
Contribute to the Cook'n Club!
DVO would love to publish your article, prose, photography and art as well as your cooking, kitchen and nutrition tips, tricks and secrets. Visit the Newsletter Submission / Win Win for All section in our Forum for more information and details.