Which Style of Dishwasher Is Right for You?

Built in dishwasher

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Dishwashers are a tremendous convenience not only as time-saving appliances, but also to help sanitize dishes and reduce the risk of illness from bacteria and germs.

There are dishwashers on the market to suit every lifestyle, with varying degrees of portability and installation requirements. So before you start shopping, learn what your dishwasher options are based on your installation constraints and whether you own or rent your home. You'll want to buy the dishwasher that best suits your needs and space.

Dishwashers have become very economical to purchase and are more energy-wise to operate than they used to be, making them a valuable time-saving and must-have kitchen appliance.

Traditional Built-Ins

These built-in installed units provide the best operating convenience, being permanently located for easy access with no need to relocate it to the kitchen sink every time you need to use it. Since there is no hook-up to the faucet, your kitchen sink can be used for other purposes at the same time your dishwasher is running.

A built-in dishwasher does require a plumbing installation to your home's waterworks and detailed instructions are usually available for your chosen model, either from the manufacturer or dealer where it was purchased.

You will also lose a fair size cupboard for this installation, with the standard width of the dishwasher being 24 inches. For compact kitchens, there are 18" wide dishwasher units, which are also often adequate for a couple's dishes. If you have ample cupboards in your kitchen, the convenience of a built-in dishwasher will quickly outweigh the loss of storage space.

After installation, if you have a 6- to 8-inch width of cupboard space left under-counter, this provides a terrific narrow storage cupboard for cookie sheets, baking trays, and muffin tins. A custom hinged door is easy to cut and hang for this size of the cupboard if you like a simple DIY project.

Keep in mind that if you are planning a move in the future, a permanently installed dishwasher would be expected to remain with the home. For this reason, built-in dishwashers or dish drawers are not advisable for a rental home or apartment.

Drawer Dishwashers

Also called dish drawers, these non-traditional dishwasher units are pricey but if you can afford one, you'll find it most convenient. First introduced by Fisher & Paykel, there are only a few brands and models on the market, which accounts for the non-competitive pricing. Drawer dishwashers come in two styles: double drawers or a single drawer unit. They require the same type of permanent installation as a traditional dishwasher.

The biggest benefit is convenience. You can run one or both of the double drawers—each is independent of the other. You can even use different wash cycles. They are also the best when it comes to saving energy because you can run energy-efficient smaller loads when you need to.

The single units are ideal for singles or couples with fewer dishes to wash and loading requires no bending. As for features, you'll find similar frills and wash cycles, as you would with most high-end dishwashers. A dish drawer can certainly enhance the overall kitchen decor and efficiency.

Portable Free-Standing Units

Suitable for a family and with no special plumbing installation required except the correct faucet adapter, portable dishwashers are a great option for apartment dwellers or for those who relocate often. They only require a parking space in your kitchen and operation is simple. When you need to run it, wheel it to the kitchen sink, connect with an adapter to the hot water faucet, load and operate as you would a built-in model.

These units generally have the same features and capacity as their built-in 24-inch-wide counterparts. They also provide additional counter workspace, since most have a butcher block or durable countertop. There is also no storage space sacrificed for these models, but it is advisable to review your kitchen format for the most convenient location for it. At one time these units were higher priced, but now they are comparable in price to built-in models. It's the capacity and additional features that mostly affect the price.

Countertop Dishwashers

These are the most economical of all models and require a counter or stable cart to locate them close to the sink. To operate, you need a connection or adapter to attach to the faucet (as with a full-size portable unit) and they generally run as long as the faucet is turned on. Small families may find a countertop dishwasher suits their needs, as long as dishes are rinsed or food residue removed before loading, and the unit is operated immediately after a meal.

The capacity is usually a place setting for four, though there are larger models, and cookware or serving pieces might require handwashing. Dishes can either be heat-, air-, or hand-dried. Newer models now have some enhanced washing cycles and heated drying. However, these are impractical if counter space is at a premium and inadequate for a large family.