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Select Monogram ENERGY STAR® dishwashers go beyond energy and water conservation by reducing the amount of detergent you use by up to half. Compared to hand washing, an automatic dishwasher saves energy — but do paper plates and cups save even more? An efficient dishwasher uses less than 2.5 gallons of water and 1 kWh of electricity to wash a full load of dishes.
An automatic dishwasher uses hot water and electricity, so it makes sense to choose an efficient model.
Does the use of paper plates and paper cups require more or less energy than using china plates and cups?
The definitive research on the first question was performed in 2004 in Bonn, Germany, by researcher Rainer Stamminger. Stamminger found that a dishwasher uses about half the energy and one-sixth the water used by the average hand-washer.
If you are washing dishes by hand, it's extremely hard to do a good job with the same amount of hot water used by an automatic dishwasher. Most environmentalists are scornful of those who use disposable coffee cups or paper plates. Several researchers have published papers that include energy life-cycle analyses of the china vs. Another analysis (“A comparative analysis of the environmental impacts of ceramic plates and biodegradable plates (made of corn starch) using the Life Cycle Assessment tool”) is somewhat more rigorous. One analysis (“Paper Plates?”) concluded that paper plates and bowls make more sense than paper cups and plastic forks: “Disposable cups and cutlery are probably out, but plates and bowls could be an energy and emissions saving option, assuming you compost all the disposable dishes you use.
Another online article (“Coffee Cups: Spilling the Beans,”) cites an analysis made by the Dutch Ministry of Environment.
The article continues, “The efficiency of the dishwasher, and the efficiency of the energy system that powers it, determines how much energy is required for each wash.
Since the energy needed to wash a cup or plate once is less than the energy required to manufacture one disposable cup or plate, using a china cup or plate wins the race, as long as it is used for more times than required to reach the “break even” point.
Some, but not all, of the life-cycle analyses cited above tried to account for the economic and environmental costs of disposing of paper plates and cups. China fails this comparison if your cabinets are full of more china plates and cups than you use regularly. If you are ever berated by an environmentalist for sipping coffee from a paper cup, you might explain the above facts.
And if you keep a ceramic coffee mug on your office desk, and you wash it out in the sink in your office's lunch room — it might be time for you to buy a package of Dixie cups.
If the incoming water temperature is less than 120°F, the dishwashers still work; however, the cycle takes longer, because the dishwasher has to wait until the necessary volumes of water are heated to 140°F. Another online list of energy-efficient dishwashers is maintained by the Consortium for Energy Efficiency (CEE). According to Consumer Reports, the Kenmore Elite 12783 ($1,200) topped their tests for quiet operation and low water use. Thanks Martin, I'm always curious about these studies as most people commonly expect hand washing to be more efficient, and re-usable dishes are always best. To beat a dishwasher, you have to come up with a way to wash and rinse 12 place settings of dishes — 140 individual pieces, including china, glasses, and cutlery — in less than 4 gallons of water. Having a low-flow aerator is irrelevant, because there is no way you can beat the dishwasher if you leave the faucet running. Concerning your habit of washing your mug only after drinking 10 to 20 cups of coffee: as with any energy calculation, your mileage may vary.
The extra step that I take which may make the difference in efficiency is that I pre-rinse or (outright wash if I only have a few dishes) into a dishtub which I then take outside to water parts of my landscape.
This may not literally be the most efficient, since I might be washing dishes twice sometimes, but I think it's still a move in the right direction relative to the average. I am always skeptical when I hear about these dishwasher studies, because so many of them seem to arise from appliance manufactures.
What I have observed is that people don't always run a full load dishes, because it's been a few days and they are tired of looking at crusty dishes, or they've run out of dishes to use. I know in our house (family of five), we only use the dishwasher when we have many people over. I have found that the most efficient way we do dishes at home (or while camping) is to have a pot large enough to let the dishes simply soak in hot water for several minutes, prior to any cleaning. If you want to wash dishes badly by hand, all you have do is wash them the way most people do -- with the faucet running continuously. I would be much more interested in an analysis which was designed around “typical” use, not “optimal” use. Perhaps it’s around the corner, but I would sure appreciate a dishwasher (like many front load washing machines) which “knows” how many dishes are inside it, and adjusts the water accordingly. On the handwashing front: I’d sure love a “thing” over my sink which would begin to shame me for using more water than my dishwasher could have used, to clean the same amount dishes in one standing. Regarding cutlery, note that some modern dishwashers have a third, shallow rack for cutlery (rather than the traditional basket) and have the option to run just that sprayer so as to wash utensils without running a full load.
And here is a list of reasons why paper cups may not be good as assumed: the cups may require more energy to manufacture, or may travel farther, than assumed (as you point out).
The point is not that any of these analyses are (in the phrase made famous by Mona Lisa Vito in "My Cousin Vinny") "dead-on balls accurate." The point is that there is no clear energy advantage to using china plates and cups, and that therefore disposable plates and cups probably don't deserve the scorn of environmentalists. CEE is great - and don't mistake it for "just another energy star list." Although for dishwashers there seems to only be 1 tier, for things like refrigerators, Tier II and Tier III go well beyond energy star - a nice way to sort. We do pre-rinse with a shot of cold (well, really "tepid" water since Florida groundwater is 70*F+) and a swipe with a scrubby sponge to get the scraps off. My wife is masterful at jigsaw puzzles, so she can fit about 200 more utensils and china into the Bosch than I am willing to work through.
I insisted upon a ceiling fan in the kitchen primarily to be able to quickly air dry the clean but wet dishes.
We had an efficient, modern Bosch dishwasher here for about five years that stopped working (still ran, didn't clean the dishes well) and, according the repairman who came out, these dishwashers are only going to last 5-6 years. Curt, you may be assuming too much in proposing that the energy use of your Bosch is less on the 'quick wash' cycle - have you measured it? I haven't measured it per se, but I do have a 4 channel TED system, one of whose channels is the whole house, and my sense (in other words, no hard data) is that the Bosch's heating element is on much of the time during any cycle as evidenced by whole house kW during wash cycles. One very solid data point I can relate is that the dishes come out of the Bosch one heckuva lot hotter after any of the standard long cycles than after quickwash. If I really got into this, I could move a TED channel onto the Bosch and collect data for various cycles. One web page cites data published by Appliance Magazine in 2010, giving the answer as 10 years. A CBS news story cites a study conducted by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and Bank of America ("Study of Life Expectancy of Home Components") that gives the answer as 9 years. We remodel a lot of kitchens and I see a lot of dishwashers and other appliances that are anything from twenty to forty years old and still functioning. Another problem with such studies is that most people wash the dishes before they put them in the dishwasher with the water running full blast the whole time. Matt actually beat me to my question, asking whether the embedded energy and other LCA factors within the dishwasher itself were included in the LCAs for ceramic table ware? Actually we have a set of picnic cups ( the red tacky ones from the grocery store) that get put in the dishwasher after the picnic.

I have been hand-washing all my dishes in tepid (room temperature) water for years, with no ill effects. According to your analysis, when you use the electric-resistance element in the dishwasher to dry the dishes, all of the moisture that is removed from the dishes ends up condensing inside the machine and going down the drain. However, I'm unsure of the percentage of moisture removed by the "hot dry" cycle that goes down the drain, and the percentage that is vented into the kitchen. Although these types of analyses are interesting, they all fall short of being definitive, because every such analysis includes many assumptions that are questionable. When you come right down to it, few GBA readers are going to alter their dishwashing behavior very much, if at all, based on a life cycle analysis. It's possible to use room temperature water to wash dishes, of course, but there are a few downsides.
I think dishwashers can sterilize most dishes, having the advantage of relatively long times at higher temperatures.
Given the interest in these questions, and the number of articles on it that have appeared in many publications over many years, it's surprising that there isn't (Martin couldn't find) a study that measured the variations in human use patterns for dishwashers. While it is certainly true that the majority of the population won't change their behavior easily, I bet that a big portion of the GBA readership would modify what they do, or how they do it, if they had good data on a better way. Commercial kitchens and restaurants use dishwashers with high-temperature (180°F) rinse water. This raises a medical question: is the obsession by some Americans who think that we need to sterilize our environment improving our health or harming it?
Almost undoubtedly, Americans use their dishwashers in a way that requires more water and more energy than assumed by researcher Rainer Stamminger in Germany. On the other hand, 140 degrees F is the temperature of pasteurization, which has been used for more than a century to kill sufficient bacteria that it substantially improves food storage and public health (although some people argue about that latter). So while dishwashers certainly don't do anything like thorough sterilization, the do kill some types of bacteria important to food-borne health problems, and substantially decrease the quantities of other important ones. It's interesting to me that when I lived in Europe in the 80s, many European washing machines had a maximum temperature option of 90 or 95 degrees C, for the apparently large segment of the population who wanted to largely sterilize their clothes. I've been doing some research on countertop dishwashers to see just how they compare to full-sized units. This type of device is worth considering for some people, but your review isn't too encouraging: "I have a portable unit that I've had for more than 5 years. Please register to participate in our discussions with 1.5 million other members - it's free and quick! Current kitchen in small house has big double sink, it takes up too much counter space IMHO. Wish I had a picture of my Johnstown, CO kitchen - under-counter Sub-Zero fridge, dishwasher, glass-fronted cabinets. If you had to remove the DW feet then you installed your cabinets first and then a thick tile or wood floor. Has anyone seen a problem with the drying dishwasher rotting the formica countertop and cabinets to either side of the dishwasher or did I just screw up my installation? The rotting laminate top as well as the sides of the cabinet is due to the drying steam that is leaking from the DW gasket.
Innovative bulk-dispense technology automatically releases the right amount of detergent throughout the wash cycle to deliver exceptionally clean results, without excess soap deposits that can leave a film on dishes or possibly pollute waterways.
Such people take pride in the fact that they always use a china coffee cup at the office (washing it out in the sink, of course, when necessary). That report concluded, “The minimum number of reuses of the ceramic plate to make the associated environmental impact equal to or smaller than that associated with the single-use biodegradable plate was found to be 50. Taking all the plates and bowls out of your dishwasher could reduce the number of loads you do by, say, 40%. Disposable Cups,” an article published by the Institute of Lifecycle Energy Analysis in Seattle, “This classic life-cycle energy analysis was performed [in 1994] by University of Victoria professor of chemistry Martin B. The article notes, “The results are extremely sensitive to the amount of energy the dishwasher requires for cleaning each cup.
The most efficient models of standard-sized dishwashers are manufactured by Asko (the Asko D5894A) and Bosch (the Bosch 800 Plus). However, the runner-up from Bosch (the Bosch Ascenta SHX3AR7[5]US), came close in performance to the top-rated Kenmore, and was a bargain at $700.
Consumer Reports recommends Cascade Complete with Dawn ActionPacs, Cascade Complete All-in-1 Powder, or Walmart’s Great Value Powder Pacs. It's just barely possible, but it's hard to do; and if the dishes are soiled heavily, the wash water will look pretty disgusting at the end of the job. The only way to have any hope of beating the dishwasher is to wash dishes the way your grandmother did: with two dishpans, one with soapy water for washing and one with clear water for rinsing. The mug next to my monitor may get washed once every 3-5 days, but gets filled 3-4x every day, so you're looking at something on the order of a dozen fills per wash. During the summer, most of the hot water is heated by my two solar thermal collectors; the solar hot water system has a DC pump that is energized by a dedicated PV panel. Although we have an Energy Star dishwasher, we are not impressed with it's performance whatsoever (a Kitchenaid drawer style). If you have a dishwasher, you can wash dishes badly by using lots of running hot water to pre-rinse the dishes, by always running the appliance when it is only half full, and by insisting on using the electric drying function every time you use the machine. What I have witnessed in the world outside of the laboratory is; people are not fully loading their dishwasher most of the time. So then one would need to use the dishwasher to clean cutlery only, which seems pretty wasteful.
If any of the assumptions in an energy life-cycle analysis are not quite right, the conclusions can certainly be different. Of course, if the Bosch is that full, it needs the turbo-galactic-flamethrower-cosmic-pots-and-pans-wash cycle to get everything clean. Plastic has low mass and heat capacity, so even if heated during final cycle, it has poor ability to evaporate remaining water - we have a lot of plasticware; kids school lunch containers and leftover tins.
If I remember to run water into sink long enough to bring up hot water as Bosch starts, cycle time for a quick wash is about 5 minutes less.
So, given that and given the embedded energy in the manufacture and shipping of such an appliance, how would that factor into the equation? The high efficiency dishwashers generally achieve their performance by allowing the contents to soak for considerable periods during the wash cycle, thus requiring less energy to blast the debris off with the jets during the active part of the cycle. The Bosch has no direct air heating element, rather it heats the heck out of wash water so as to warm the dishes for better air drying. People want to upgrade before they fail mechanically for a variety of reasons: dated look, too noisy, rusted (though still functional) interior, and more admirably, to reduce energy and water use. If I need a new $1,000 dishwasher every 10 years -- golly, that's a lot of economic activity to bake into the equation.
But it's certainly possible for a homeowner who uses a dishwasher to use more energy and water than a frugal hand-washer -- especially if that homeowner uses a lot of running hot water to rinse the dirty dishes before placing them in a dishwasher.
I don't think so, although some of the energy life cycle analyses I referred to were only available in summary form, so I'm not entirely sure of the answer. Many analyses assume that most Americans are going to want to have a dishwasher in the kitchen, at least for special occasions, and so the analysts may have felt justified in ignoring the embodied energy in the appliance. They don't impart any off flavors to your beverages, and they don't break when you drop them. Room temperature water is less effective at removing greasy residues from plates and cooking utensils.

As far as I know, residential dishwashers do not use 180°F rinse water -- nor do they have to. Evidence is increasing that when babies and toddlers are allowed to have contact with germs, dirt, and farm animals, they grow up healthier and with fewer allergies than children who are raised in an over-clean environment.
It's not been cleaning the dishes very well lately and even though I have cleaned the dishwasher itself, I am wondering just how long it's going to last. Again, I don't think there is any evidence that home kitchens need to worry about sterilizing dishes; in fact, an overemphasis on sterilization and antibacterial products may be injuring human health.
The Frigidaire FMB330RGS, a built-in dishwasher model, has this space-saving frame hugging a stainless steel interior and several beneficial features.
Depending on where you live, an ENERGY STAR® dishwasher may make you eligible for a utility rebate. This would save around 9000 kWh, which converts to a savings of 5470 kg of carbon emissions from not using the dishwasher, while requiring less than 2000 kWh and 250 kg of carbon to produce the disposable plates and bowls you would use over 15 years.
You would have to use (and wash) a ceramic cup 1,006 times to break even with the energy used to manufacture 1,006 polystyrene cups, but you would only have to use a ceramic cup 39 times to break even with the energy used to make 39 paper cups.
If your dishwasher offers it, select unheated air drying, or just open the door when the dishes are still hot from the rinse cycle, to allow the dishes to dry into the room. During the winter, most of the hot water is heated by a stainless-steel coil in my wood stove that circulates water to a tank on the second floor of my house by thermosyphon. My problem with these tests has always been that they are designed around the dishwahser: fully loaded and at at it's optimal efficiency. That said, even the most frugal dishwashers would be hard pressed to wash and rinse 140 items -- that's 12 place settings, or a full Thanksgiving dinner with all the aunts and uncles, and both sets of grandparents -- with 4 gallons of hot water. Here is a list of reasons why china might not come out as well as assumed: many china coffee mugs never get used 30 times -- they just sit on the shelf. Some people may use twice as many paper plates or paper cups as necessary, because they always double-up the plates to counteract their flimsiness. It is advantageous to do this since our main hot water comes from a heat pump; much more efficient than resistive heat, so it pays to preheat the pipes bringing hot water to the Bosch. The quick wash will certainly not use a third of the energy of the full wash and may in fact use more. This is like the great hybrid car debate - do we make do with the old clunker until it dies, in the grand old Yankee tradition, or buy the newest high-mpg model? I'm not sure that the dishwasher compartment is completely airtight during the drying cycle; it's certainly possible that some or all of the moisture is vented into the kitchen.
Even if it could be demonstrated that washing by hand saves energy, few Americans would switch to hand washing.
If you aren't using hot water, you end up needing to use more detergent and more elbow grease -- and sometimes more frequent changes of wash water -- to achieve the same effect.
If you are working in a medical laboratory or a hospital operating room, you have to worry about sterilization.
Instead of removing any of the old stuff, they just install the backer board and tiles on top of the old flooring. I have just like you seen where people put in new floors as you described and later had to replace the DW but the damn thing was basicly sitting down in a hole now never to come out unless they tore out the countertop. On the back wall there needed to be a boxout for pipes, heating, traps, etc and then a stove, dishwasher and fridge. Counter lip gets a hickory trim piece to prevent water from draining down there and rotting out counter. This translates to a savings of 5 [metric] tonnes of carbon over 15 years… It looks like there is an argument for biodegradable plates and bowls, but not cups or cutlery. Hermelink — have written an interesting paper that discusses the energy ramifications of the electric-resistance water heaters in dishwashers. Also, throw in some cooking pots and pans as well to the test for some real world comparison.
Because people are more inclined to run the dishwasher daily to not have dirty dishes sitting around, or they are simply afraid to “overfill” the dishwasher for fear that it will fail to clean all the dishes properly.
Many dishwashers are operated when half full, so it takes more energy to wash the china cups than assumed. Depending on how the machine is programmed, omitting the lengthy soak cycle may require even more extensive use of the jets.
In fact, quickwash is the only cycle whose temperature won't warp PET plastic bottles and jars.
If you just open the dishwasher and hit the sack, all that hot moisture has to be dealt with by the AC system. Secondly, I'm not sure that dishwasher manufacturers provide a cold surface during the drying cycle to encourage condensation -- something that would be necessary for your theory to hold.
Families living without a dishwasher avoid all of the embodied energy in the machine itself, which is clearly a good thing. Similarly, even if an analysis proved that paper cups and plates save energy, few Americans are going to abandon china. It is also possible there is a crack in the outer casing near the top of the dryer but I more suspect the gasket.
There is no information on how much hot water is required for each wash load, so energy required for heating water was omitted.” OK — we can throw that analysis out the window. Many china cups are broken before they are used 3,000 times (the presumed life span of a china cup, according to one analysis). If you leave it closed, with the heated dry off, the AC only has to deal with the heat, slowly released into the kitchen -- the moisture drains as it condenses.
Hospitals use autoclaves to sterilize some instruments, at temperatures above boiling and atmospheric pressure. Real support for the counter is a cleat in the back that it hangs off, about like some sinks, some thin legs in the front do the rest of the trick. Somewhat surprisingly, the embodied energy of a polystyrene cup is only 0.20 MJ — less than that of a paper cup. What really is needed is an outside vent to exhaust the hot moist air during the drying cycle. Sorry, just the use of a ceramic cup totals more than the entire life cycle water consumption of the other two.” Nevertheless, the article concluded, “In this story the ‘good guy’ ceramic cup wins hands down in the functional use category. This is a function of draw amount, length of plumbing to dishwasher, pipe insulation, temperature differences, and time between dishwasher fills within a cycle. Conisering the past, no surprise the Germans picked perfect and then disparage results that get the job done good enough but not perfectly. Some of the water drawn per cycle has been heated by the water heater, only to cool in piping, and then to be reheated by the dishwasher – inherently inefficient. Also, in cooling dominated climates, much of the residual heat in the pipes is lost to the interior, becoming internal gains that must be removed by the cooling system. People have been known to learn things, although how to make money from that is the tricky part. Cold water connection may use the least combined water heater and dishwasher energy since the dishwasher heats its own water only for the parts of the cycle where hot water is needed, but the energy (in the form of electricity) generally costs more.

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