Style at Home

Thanks to major advances in technology, the dishwasher is not the beast it once was. Clearly more sophisticated, today's dishwashers benefit from several innovations that have translated into improved performance, a more aesthetic design and greater versatility. The most recent models on the market provide the following leading-edge features.

Design and materials
Built-in, portable or compact, the latest models feature a highly attractive design. As well, almost all are automated and equipped with an LCD (liquid crystal display) screen, which highlights their minimalist style. A few models have original features, like two independent drawers. And while black and white remain classics and stainless steel is still very much in demand, we're now seeing an increasing number of dishwashers in various colours, particularly blue and red. One way or the other, consumers intent on matching their dishwasher with their kitchen cupboards can now choose a model with a made-to-measure front panel. It's also important to consider how the inside of the dishwasher is organized.

Most new models feature spaces specially designed for small plates and for pot and pans. Adjustable racks are also a practical option, as they can be modified to suit your needs. The dishwasher tub is available in stainless steel or polypropylene. And while the tub material has no impact on the dishwasher's performance, the stainless steel tub is more robust offering the best stain and odour resistance.

Format and capacity
Formats vary from one model to the next, depending on the capacity. More often than not, capacity is designated by the number of place settings, with one place setting the equivalent of approximately 10 items. Thus, a compact dishwasher with a capacity of four place settings will be perfectly suited to one or two people, while a capacity of 12 place settings will meet the needs of four to six people. For large families, some models can handle up to 16 place settings, or 180 to 195 items. What makes these machines appealing is that even though they provide superior capacity, they are the same width (61 cm) as models with a capacity of 12 place settings. Compact dishwashers, for their part, measure 45 or 46 centimetres in width.

Cycles
Many machines have three or four wash cycles, including the “econo” cycle (from 45° to 55°C) for slightly soiled dishes, the normal cycle (from 55° to 65°C) and the heavyduty cycle (from 65° to 75°C). The latest models to hit the market offer ten or more cycles, some of which are highly precise, such as “delicate dishes,” “pots & pans” or “express cycle,” which reduces the wash time by half. Some of the newer models are equipped with a “bio protect” system that runs automatically regardless of the cycle chosen. This system involves the release of an antibacterial solution, which mixes into the water during the wash and is meant to totally eliminate bacteria. However, this level of sterility may not really be necessary!

Other options
Manufacturers now offer machines with an increasing array of options, some quite practical, others less so. Most dishwashers now have “anti-overflow” and “anti-leak” options. At the first sign of malfunction, these systems automatically cut the water supply. The majority are also equipped with a “delay start” function, and certain models can be programmed up to 24 hours in advance. Some of the new models also come with an optical sensor that measures the level of dirt in the water during pre-washing and rinsing; when necessary, the water is automatically changed. Others are equipped with an automatic washing programme that selects the wash settings based on the level of dirt, also using an optical sensor. More often than not, the optical sensor does its work before the start of the wash cycle, though with some models the optical reading is done during the wash cycle. The result: The wash cycle is automatically adjusted!

Finally, certain models will even detect the type of soiling (grease, food) on dishes and adjust the wash cycle accordingly. Others memorize the programme used most frequently and suggest it for each new wash. It's up to you to determine what your needs are.

Energy
The past few years have witnessed the emergence of an increasing number of dishwashers labelled Energy Star. These machines are at least 25 percent more energy-efficient thanmodels that comply with minimum Canadian standards. As well as carry the label, a machine equipped with a sensor that calculates the length of wash cycles and the temperature and quantity of water will provide even greater savings. Other models come with an “air drying” (i.e. no heat) cycle, and some can be hooked up to cold water only. These are important features considering that 80 percent of the energy consumed by a dishwasher goes toward heating the water. A word to the wise: If you choose a model that does not have these features, at least opt for a model with an “econo” or “express cycle” for lightly soiled dishes, or a “half-load” option for when the dishwasher isn't filled to capacity. For additional savings, allow your dishes to air dry.

Noise
This is an important point to consider when making your purchase. That's because the noise from a dishwasher can reach 45 to 60 decibels! Of course, a machine with the lowest possible decibel output is preferable, but remember that the materials that make up your kitchen can also be a factor. On a ceramic floor, for example, the dishwasher will make more noise than it will on a wooden floor. The dimensions of the room also bear consideration: In a larger room with a minimal amount of furniture, the noise from the dishwasher will tend to resonate more. If noise is an important criterion, you might want to consider European machines (like Bosch, Miele). Unlike other models, European dishwashers are not equipped with a food grinder, the dishwasher's noisiest component.

Price and guarantee
Obviously, the more bells and whistles a dishwasher has, the more expensive it will be. Built-in models range from $500 to $2,500, and approximately $100 can be added to this figure for an equivalent portable unit. Bear in mind, however, that there are fewer choices when it comes to portable models. People looking for a compact model will find that the choices are even more limited, with high-quality recent models selling for roughly $2,000. For those on a tighter budget, machines on the lower end of the scale are available for roughly $300. Warranties are generally for one or two years and cover parts and labour; some manufacturers offer a 20-year or lifetime warranty on the tub, but don't be fooled: It's the motor that runs the risk of breaking!

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