Ask the Home Team

Does it take less energy to use a dishwasher or wash dishes by hand?

June 29, 2012

You can settle a bet in my household. What uses less energy: A dishwasher or washing dishes by hand?


A dishwasher, typically. An exception might be if you have an aging dishwasher, because older models use more water (and, so, cost more in water heating) than today’s dishwashers. The most efficient dishwashers, however, use less than 3 gallons per load. I can’t imagine being able to wash the amount of dishes, glasses, etc. in a full dishwasher with less than three gallons of water.

Here are some energy-saving tips for those of us who use dishwashers:

  • When it’s time to buy, look for an ENERGY STAR® qualified dishwasher, which uses less water and less electricity.
  • Run only full loads.
  • Instead of paying to have the dishwasher dry your dishes, turn off the drying feature and open the washer after it finishes cleaning. Then, let the air dry your dishes for free.
  • Scrape, don’t rinse. Whether you have a new or old dishwasher, you can get your dishes ready to load with little or no water. A rubber scraper usually does the job.

- Li Ling for Ask The Home Team