Older washers use more water. Buying a new one can save gallons.

Photograph by Jiri Hera/Shutterstock

Updated by James Robertson

for National Geographic

Shopping Tips

If your current dishwasher is more than 10 years old, it likely uses between eight and 15 gallons of water per cycle. And depending on your individual habits, hand-washing dishes may use up to 50 percent more water than a new water-saving, energy-efficient dishwasher. A new U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Energy Star-rated model can save you 13 percent on energy and up to 1,200 gallons of water a year. Here's how to choose a good one:

  • Energy Star rating: Energy Star models must use 41 percent less energy than non-qualified models. At the store, compare the energy-consumption costs of various models using the yellow "EnergyGuide" label on the product.
  • Gallons per cycle (gpc): Energy Star doesn’t factor water savings into its dishwasher ratings, but the yellow “EnergyGuide” label will help you calculate the water costs. Find out how much water a new dishwasher uses per load. The average new Energy Star model uses four gallons per cycle (gpc) when set on “normal,” but some models use twice that, depending on their size. Look for models with several cycle selections. If your dishes don't need heavy-duty washing, you can switch to a light or energy-saving cycle to use less water.
  • Capacity: Purchase a washer that fits your needs. Compact models hold eight place settings plus six serving pieces, while standard capacity models hold more. A compact dishwasher will use more energy and water if it's run more frequently to handle multiple loads, but a standard capacity washer wastes water if you run it when it’s not completely full.
  • Drying: Choose a model with an air-dry feature, which cuts down on energy use. You can also save energy by hand-drying your dishes.

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