With Thanksgiving just around the corner, we are all probably filled with expectation of the wonderful meal that awaits us. After which we will all probably just be filled. Period. One thing we’re likely NOT looking forward to, though, is the cleanup after the cooking and eating — hors d’oeuvres, main course, dessert (and a second dessert) — dishes, dishes and more dishes. Which could place us in a predicament: What’s better, washing dishes by hand or by dishwasher? Nobody likes dishpan hands; it will likely take several loads to accomplish clean plates Nirvana. And, most importantly to us here at NPPD, which method of making dishes shine is most energy efficient? It’s more complicated than you think. Here from our EnergyWiseSM friend, York Program Manager-Energy Efficiency Cory Fuehrer, is some unbiased information about washing dishes that we might keep in mind as we face that mountain of turkey bones and food-smeared porcelain late in the evening of the fourth Thursday in November.
When it comes to doing dishes, after a big Thanksgiving meal, for example, which uses more energy: a dishwasher or hand washing?
Believe it or not, there have actually been studies performed to find the answer to this troubling question. And the answer is, “It depends (on a lot of different variables)!” Which is really not much of an answer. But let’s keep going.
In a 2011 study at the University of Bonn, Germany, 81 hand washers were pitted against new residential model electric dish washers in cleaning a 12-place setting. Initial results revealed the electric dishwashers used only half the energy, only 13 percent of the water and less soap than the hand washers with the following averaged results:
|Hand washing||Electric Dish Washer|
|Water used – 37.0 gallons||Water used – 4.8 gallons|
|Energy used – 3.5 kilowatt-hours||Energy used – 1.6 kilowatt-hours|
|Time spent – 71 minutes||Time spent loading and unloading – 9 minutes|
Closer examination of individual results exposed interesting details. First, many of the hand washing test subjects ran hot water continuously. Some even left the tap on as they dried the dishes! While most people would ask why the water was running when it is not needed, the reality is that many Americans hand wash their dishes this way.
Can the conscientious hand washer beat the electric dishwasher standard of five gallons or less? I say, “Yes!”
Energy-saving tips for handwashing:
- Take the “two sinks” strategy and the “tub within the sink” approach, both of which use one basin of hot, soapy water and one cold water rinsing bath.
- Scrape off every bit of leftover food you can from dishware and into the compost.
- Wash dishes before food has a chance to congeal.
- Pre-soak heavily soiled dishes with dried-on food in a bowl as opposed to rinsing them for a long time under the tap.
According to the Consortium for Energy Efficiency, electric dishwashers account for 2.5 percent of the energy used in a typical household. If your home is one of the more than 60 percent of American kitchens that have a dishwasher, there are several things you can do to minimize water and energy use while saving time.
Energy-saving tips for electric dishwashers:
- Choose a dishwasher with an EnergyStar® rating to assure it uses at least 25 percent less energy than the mandated minimum.
- Wait until the dishwasher is fully loaded before running. Skip pre-rinsing. Most dishwashers today are powerful enough to get the all the gunk off without it.
- Turn your home’s water heater down to 120°F. Most modern dishwashers have booster heaters to increase their wash water to 140°F.
- Open the door at the end of the washing cycle and let dishes air dry.
- Install your dishwasher away from your refrigerator. The dishwasher’s heat and moisture increase your refrigerator’s energy consumption. If you have to put them next to each other, place a sheet of foam insulation between them.
Your local electric utility and Nebraska Public Power District want to help customers make the most of every dollar spent on energy. That includes saving time and energy while “doing” the dishes. Contact your local utility or visit www.nppd.com to find out more ways to save and if you qualify for EnergyWiseSM incentives to help offset costs of improving energy efficiency.
Now, go sit down, rest and let that Thanksgiving turkey and digest. You’ve earned a break.