Tips for greener dishwashing

By Ray FordRay Ford

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Lighten the load on your well and septic—not to mention your power bill—with these ideas for the resource-conserving cottager.

Doing the dishes

  • When washing by hand, use the two-bath method for best water and energy conservation: wash in one tub of hot water and detergent, rinse another tub of cold. Don’t let the water run.
  • Consider investing in a resource-friendly dishwasher. Research has shown that they use up to 10 times less the amount of water and energy as washing by hand.
  • Whichever way you wash them, use detergent free of chlorine and phosphates to protect your septic and the lake. The best way to be sure is to choose products marked with the EcoLogo symbol.
  • Scrape your dishes, don’t rinse them. Soaking dishes is usually not necessary, unless food is caked or burned on. Never let food dry on your dishes.
  • Use energy-saving cycles. Your washer’s manual will have hints on running it at maximum efficiency.
  • Regularly clean the food gunk out of the filter at the bottom of your dishwasher.
  • Only run the dishwasher when full.
  • Use the air-dry setting instead of the heat-drying cycle, as it consumes between 15 and 50 per cent less energy. If you don’t have that option, simply open the door after the last rinse cycle to let the dishes air-dry with no energy use.
  • If you are using an older, less-efficient machine, the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy recommends hand-washing for the smaller jobs and saving the dishwasher for after you’ve fed a crowd.

Choosing and installing an energy-efficient dishwasher

  • Today’s dishwashers use about 95% less energy than those built in the early 1970s. Replacing your old clunker with an Energy Star-qualified dishwasher will help cut back your water and energy usage.
  • Read and compare EnerGuide labels and look for models with energy-saving features (such as short, light, or economy cycles).
  • The delayed-start feature allows you to run the dishwasher at off-peak hours when energy demand is low.
  • Some washers have sensors that minimize waste by reading how dirty the dishes are and gauging the amount of washing necessary.
  • Dishwasher capacities are classified as either compact or standard. Choose the one that best suits your family’s usage patterns. The compact models use less energy to run, but also hold fewer dishes. Having to run your compact dishwasher more frequently may amount to greater energy and water use.
  • Once you have it at the cottage, install your dishwasher (and your stove, by the way) away from the refrigerator (the fridge has to work harder with a hot and steamy neighbour).
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