By LuAnn Brandsen

If you’re in the market to buy a dishwasher that saves water and energy, you’ll want to consider more than the sale price. Look for an energy-efficient dishwasher with features that will rack up ongoing savings with lower utility bills.

Buying Smart

Like all appliances, energy-efficient dishwashers come with various bells and whistles that range from the highly efficient to the luxurious. Shop wisely and you can bring home a stylish design that will save money on utility bills while also keeping your dishes squeaky clean.

Here are 10 notable features to consider:

1. An internal water heater can boost the incoming water temperature in your dishwasher to 140 F or higher, which means you can turn down the thermostat on your household water heater to 120 F.

2. A delayed-start feature on your dishwasher lets you begin the wash cycle when electricity rates are lower. (Many electric companies offer reduced rates for off-peak times, which are generally at night and on weekends. Savings can be as much as 40 percent.)

3. Multiple spray jets or tiers make for more efficient washing, thus requiring less cycle time. Look for energy-saving dishwashers with spray jets that come from various directions, but especially from the bottom, top and beneath the top rack.

4. Wash cycle selections on your dishwasher will let you tailor energy requirements to your needs. Generally you can select a “short wash” or “energy-saving” cycle for all but the dirtiest dishes. (Read the manufacturer’s literature to see total water use with different cycles.)

5. An energy-saving soil sensor can adjust the amount of water and cycle length required to get the job done. This device generally works by examining the soil level in the water via an infrared light beam and customizing the wash cycle to cut dishwasher energy usage by up to 20 percent.

6. Air-drying and condensation-drying are two excellent alternatives to the traditional electric heat-drying element in a dishwasher. Air-drying relies on circulating fans; condensation-drying uses residual heat from warm water inside the tub.

7. An Energy Star dishwasher requires at least 41 percent less energy than the federal minimum standard for energy consumption. And if you’re replacing a pre-1994 dishwasher, an Energy Star model can save you upward of $40 in annual utility costs. (For more information on Energy Star, visit

8. Half-load options are a great solution for homeowners who typically run smaller loads of dishes but prefer the flexibility of a full-sized dishwasher.

9. Adjustable racks and tines let you customize your dish loading to take advantage of every square inch of the dishwasher, thus saving on energy costs all around.

10. Compact-capacity refers to a small dishwasher that uses less water and energy than standard-capacity dishwashers. It is a good choice if you wash infrequently.

The Best Buys

When shopping for an energy-efficient dishwasher, you may be tempted by discount dishwashers -- but it’s not just the price tag that counts: Consider the ongoing utility bills you’ll be paying. EnergyGuide labels let you compare different models to see the amount of energy used annually. The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy suggests that you choose dishwashers that use less than 340 kilowatts a year. You can also check with your local water and electric utilities to see whether they have dishwasher ratings and offer rebates if you purchase particularly efficient models.

LuAnn Brandsen is the former editor of Renovation Style, Country Home, Country Gardens, BHG Beautiful Kitchens and BHG Beautiful Baths magazines. She currently writes about homes, gardens and food while her brand-new energy-efficient dishwasher does all her dirty dishes.

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