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Saving Energy when Washing Dishes

Are you an energy-conscious consumer that’s looking for new ways to save energy at home? If you’ve already replaced all your incandescent bulbs with CFLs, programmed your thermostat following the EPA guidelines, and weatherproofed the entire home you’re probably looking for your next way to reduce energy use. You’re exactly where you need to be because we’ve got an idea for you.  

You may be running a full load of dishes in the dishwasher, but there’s another way to get significant energy savings while still getting clean dishes you don’t have to wash by hand. Air drying dishes is kind of the equivalent of line-drying your clothes. If you do it right air drying can save substantial amounts of energy.

Why You Want to Air Dry Dishes

The motive behind air-drying dishes is to save energy. But what you may not realize is how much energy it saves. 

Even though dishwashers are one of the least used appliances in the home, it accounts for 1% of annual household energy use. However, that’s a low-ball estimate. The biggest energy hogs are heating the water for cleaning and heating air for drying. The energy needed for heating up the water isn’t included in the estimate and could double the estimated energy use.

The good news is since 2015 at least 85% of new dishwashers meet ENERGY STAR requirements. Using an ENERGY STAR rated dishwasher saves about $1,300 a year compared to hand-washing dishes. 

What Air Drying Dishes Actually Means

When you hear the term “air-drying dishes” you’re probably envisioning a stack of dishes in a rack by the sink. Not only does it look like a cluttered heap, but it’s also adding to your workload. And isn’t the point of a dishwasher to minimize the work?

When we refer to air-drying dishes we’re talking about simply using the dishwasher settings to reduce the energy needed to wick off the water. You don’t automatically have to break out the drying rack to air dry dishes. 

How to Air Dry the Dishes When Using a Dishwasher

Studies have shown that running a dishwasher uses less energy and water than washing dishes by hand. But you can save even more by drying dishes naturally. 

Look for a No-Heat Air Dry Setting 

Using the heat dry setting means that once the dishes are cleaned air is heated up then circulated through the machine. Your dishwasher may also have a no-heat air-dry setting. It allows you to skip the heated air that’s pumped through the dishwasher using up a lot of energy as it dries.

Use the Air-Dry Setting

If you aren’t using the heat dry setting you may be able to opt for air-dry instead. The air-dry setting draws in room temperature air and circulates it around the dishwasher. Energy is still required to move the air around but it requires about 15% less energy compared to heating up the air first. 

Check for an Automatic Air-Dry Setting

Your dishwasher may have an automatic air-dry setting that can be turned on to always use the air-dry option. The automatic air-dry feature may also be a switch that needs to be turned off and on.

If you don’t see any of those settings on your dishwasher there’s still another option. You can choose an express or delicate wash cycle that doesn’t include a full drying session. Once the dishwasher is done simply crack the door open a few inches and let the dishes finish air-drying. It may take a little longer for dishes to dry, but a lot less energy is needed. 

Things to Keep in Mind When Air Drying Dishes

Below are a few more things to look into when you are setting up your dishwasher. 

  • Check to see if the water temperature can be adjusted. If not, at least check your water heater to put it at 120 degrees Fahrenheit, which is more efficient without sacrificing comfort.
  • Skip the rinse hold setting.
  • Use the energy-saving wash cycle if your dishwasher has one.
  • Always fully load the dishwasher before washing. 

You can find more energy-saving tips on the Major Energy blog. Keep reading to learn about the difference between the tank and tankless water heaters, advice on comparing energy plans, and much more.  

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