Compare popular brands of home dishwashers

Owning a dishwasher isn't just an excuse to get out of doing the dirty work by hand. Dishwashers are affordable and efficient appliances that can help you free up time and even cut back on water costs. Although formerly considered luxury appliances, first-rate dishwashers with all the trappings are now available for every lifestyle and living space without the luxury price tag.

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Types of Dishwashers

Depending on the kitchen space you have, dishwashers can be built-in, portable or countertop models. Built-in dishwashers require a plumbing hookup and can be installed permanently under a counter or as a pull-out dish drawer unit. Standard built-in dishwashers have a 24-inch width and a capacity of 12 to 14 place settings, which is sufficient for the average family.

For renters or homeowners who want the option of moving appliances to another home, freestanding portable dishwashers are a smart option. Most portable dishwashers are electric, supported by wheels or casters and must be connected to a faucet. While some models are more expensive than their built-in counterparts, portable dishwashers increase counter space and can be stored in another room when not in use.

For occasional use or a very small household, countertop dishwashers can be hooked up to a faucet and hold two to four, or sometimes 6, place settings. Since these dishwashers require manual prewashing and lack the embellishments of larger models, they are the most cost-effective. However, if you prefer to be less hands-on or don't have the counter space to spare, countertop dishwashers are not the best choice. Countertop units are offered by familiar brands such as Maytag, Haier and Danby.

Dishwasher Features

Ongoing improvements have been made to increase the energy efficiency, sanitation and convenience of dishwashers. Standard dishwasher features include three to four different wash cycles (including energy-saving settings), two spraying arms, food filters and two racks with separate baskets or trays for flatware and other types of dishes. Many dishwashers also contain child locks and interior controls as an additional safety measure.

Other beneficial features include built-in garbage disposals, adjustable racks and water level sensors that adjust to the size of the wash load. To regulate water use, dishwashers may contain economically designed wash cycles, delayed start timers (to operate the appliance during off-peak times to lower costs), high-heat sanitizing washes and thermal air drying.

For maximum performance, choose a high-tier washing system (with more spraying arms) and only consider models that are Energy Saver compliant. Whirlpool dishwashers, for example, are well-priced and highly recommended, but many models do not meet Energy Saver requirements. Bosch dishwashers, on the other hand, tend to be pricier, but with its EcoAction feature, the company boasts the most energy efficient dishwasher manufactured in the United States.

Finally, be sure to buy products with warranties that replace broken dishwasher parts and provide repair services to avoid unexpected expenses and frustration in the future.

Top Brands

If you're unsure of how to navigate the world of home appliances, begin with long-standing, reliable brands such as Maytag, Whirlpool and General Electric. Dishwasher prices can start at under $300, with the best values found in the $400 to $800 range. In most cases, a higher price doesn't equal more features, so don't fret over a smaller budget.

For affordability without sacrificing convenience, many Whirlpool and GE dishwashers with high-end features are priced under $500. Both GE and Whirlpool also manufacture the top-selling Sears brand of Kenmore dishwashers. For excellent performance at a great value, Maytag dishwashers in the Jetclean II series offer a 7-tier cleaning system at around $600.

With pricier appliances, the extra expense may be for better aesthetics or quieter operation. Ultimately, the amount of money you spend depends on the features you want, but regardless of the size of your budget, focus on products that achieve their purpose using the least amount of energy and at the lowest overall cost to you. You never know when a penny saved might come in handy.