Why Do Energy-Efficient Dishwashers Take So Long?

The main reason why energy-efficient dishwashers take so long is that they use less water and energy than conventional dishwashers, and therefore need more time to clean the dishes properly. This is a trade-off between saving resources and saving time, and it has implications for both consumers and the environment. In this article, we will explore the factors that affect the duration of dishwasher cycles, the benefits and drawbacks of energy-efficient dishwashers, and some tips on how to optimize your dishwasher performance.

How Long Does a Dishwasher Cycle Take?

The duration of a dishwasher cycle depends on several factors, such as the type and model of the dishwasher, the cycle settings, the load size and soil level, the water temperature and pressure, and the detergent used. According to Consumer Reports, the average cycle time for a normal cycle in a conventional dishwasher is around one hour, while the average cycle time for an Energy Star certified dishwasher is around two hours or more. However, some models can take up to three or four hours to complete a normal cycle.

Why Do Energy-Efficient Dishwashers Take Longer?

Energy-efficient dishwashers are designed to meet the standards set by the Energy Star program, which is a voluntary certification program that aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and energy consumption by promoting energy-efficient products and practices. To qualify for the Energy Star label, dishwashers must use no more than 4.25 gallons of water per cycle and no more than 295 kWh of electricity per year, assuming a usage of four times a week. These limits are lower than the federal standards, which allow dishwashers to use up to 5 gallons of water per cycle and up to 307 kWh of electricity per year.

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To achieve these lower water and energy usage levels, energy-efficient dishwashers use different strategies, such as:

  • Using high-efficiency motors and pumps that consume less electricity and generate less heat and noise.
  • Using advanced sensors and controls that adjust the water level, temperature, and pressure according to the load size and soil level.
  • Using improved spray arms and rack designs that distribute the water more evenly and reach all the corners and crevices of the dishes.
  • Using longer and more frequent pauses and rinses to soak and loosen the dirt and grease from the dishes.
  • Using less or no heated drying, which is the most energy-intensive part of the cycle, and relying on natural or fan-assisted drying instead.

These strategies help reduce the amount of water and energy needed to clean the dishes, but they also increase the cycle time, as the dishwasher needs to spray less water for longer periods, pause more often, and dry more slowly. This is a trade-off that consumers have to consider when choosing an energy-efficient dishwasher.

What Are the Benefits and Drawbacks of Energy-Efficient Dishwashers?

Energy-efficient dishwashers have several benefits and drawbacks, both for consumers and the environment. Here are some of them:


  • They save water and energy, which lowers the utility bills and reduces the environmental impact. According to Energy Star, an energy-efficient dishwasher can save up to 3,870 gallons of water and $35 per year in energy costs over its lifetime, compared to a standard dishwasher. This also translates into less greenhouse gas emissions and less water pollution.
  • They clean better, as they use more advanced technology and features to remove the dirt and grease from the dishes. According to Consumer Reports, most of the top-rated dishwashers in their tests are energy-efficient models, and they perform well in terms of cleaning, drying, and noise.
  • They are quieter, as they use less powerful motors and pumps, and have more insulation and sound-absorbing materials. According to Energy Star, an energy-efficient dishwasher can be as much as 12 decibels quieter than a standard dishwasher, which is equivalent to the difference between a whisper and a normal conversation.
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  • They take longer, which can be inconvenient and frustrating for some consumers, especially those who have large families or busy schedules. According to a survey by Bosch, a maker of high-end dishwashers, 40% of consumers said that cycle time was the most important factor when choosing a dishwasher, and 25% said that they would hand wash smaller loads when faced with long cycle times.
  • They require more maintenance, as they are more prone to clogging and odor issues due to the lower water and energy usage. According to Consumer Reports, energy-efficient dishwashers need to be cleaned and descaled more often, and the filters and spray arms need to be checked and cleared regularly. Moreover, consumers need to use the right type and amount of detergent, rinse aid, and water softener to prevent residue and mineral buildup.
  • They cost more, as they are more expensive to buy and install than conventional dishwashers. According to Energy Star, the average price of an energy-efficient dishwasher is $550, while the average price of a standard dishwasher is $450. However, the higher upfront cost can be offset by the lower operating costs over time.

How To Optimize Your Dishwasher Performance?

Whether you have an energy-efficient dishwasher or not, there are some tips you can follow to optimize your dishwasher performance and save water and energy. Here are some of them:

  • Choose the right cycle and settings for your load size and soil level. Don’t use the normal cycle for lightly soiled dishes, or the heavy cycle for moderately soiled dishes. Use the eco or energy-saving mode if available, and avoid the heated dry option if possible.
  • Load your dishwasher properly and efficiently. Don’t overload or underload your dishwasher, and make sure to place the dishes in the right position and direction. Don’t block the spray arms or the detergent dispenser, and leave some space between the dishes for better water circulation.
  • Scrape off the food scraps from your dishes, but don’t pre-rinse them. Pre-rinsing wastes water and energy, and can reduce the cleaning performance of your dishwasher, as the detergent needs some dirt and grease to work effectively. Just scrape off the large and hard food particles, and let the dishwasher do the rest.
  • Use the right type and amount of detergent, rinse aid, and water softener. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions and recommendations, and adjust the dosage according to the water hardness and soil level. Don’t use too much or too little detergent, as this can affect the cleaning and drying results, and cause residue and mineral buildup.
  • Clean and maintain your dishwasher regularly. Check and clean the filters, spray arms, and seals at least once a month, and descale and sanitize your dishwasher at least once a year. Use a commercial dishwasher cleaner or a natural solution of vinegar and baking soda to remove the dirt and odor from your dishwasher.
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Energy-efficient dishwashers take longer than conventional dishwashers because they use less water and energy to clean the dishes. This is a trade-off between saving resources and saving time, and it has benefits and drawbacks for both consumers and the environment. To optimize your dishwasher performance and save water and energy, you need to choose the right cycle and settings, load your dishwasher properly, scrape off the food scraps, use the right products, and clean and maintain your dishwasher regularly.