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Does it save energy to hand wash or use a dishwasher?

No doubt the subject of many heated arguments is the ‘dishwasher versus washing up by hand debate’.  In the dishwasher’s favour, research carried out by Bonn University in 2003, demonstrated that, when used efficiently i.e. run fully loaded, they can actually use up to a third less water than hand washing the equivalent amount.  The research was based on a 12 place setting or 140 items soiled with a interesting array of eggs, oatmeal and mince to reflect the average domestic washing up scenario.  Winning the argument on the energy-efficiency of dishwashers is a bit trickier, given 75 % of UK homes use gas to heat their water, which is more efficient and produces less CO2 than the electricity used to heat cold water in dishwashers. However, add PV solar panels into the equation, and use your dishwasher during the day and it’s a much more economical story.

Dishwashing habits, both by hand and using a machine can vary; as the German research showed – nationalities differ in their habits too. I always twitch when I see cutlery being washed under a running hot tap, and we all know of the super quick ‘washer upper’ who fails to clean things properly!  And that’s another reason for choosing a dishwasher; hygiene – even the most diligent pot washer with asbestos hands and good pair of marigolds, can’t compete with the bacteria busting 60-65?C dishwasher programme.  So our tips on using your dishwasher most efficiently are: run only full loads; scrape your plates first – but don’t be tempted rinse them under the tap; choose an eco-setting if available and doesn’t take hours to complete; if you’ve solar panels use your dishwasher during the day; and, of course, when it comes to buying a new dishwasher look for the most energy-efficient model available.  Dishwashers have improved in energy-efficiency in the last 15 years and dramatically reduced their water consumption too.

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