Once upon a time, the dishwasher was considered a luxury appliance, one of
which to boast at dinner parties and one that could boost the saleability of a
home or condo. Nowadays, homeowners consider it a definite necessity,
and turn to manufacturers worldwide in their search for the one that can
perform the most tricks--efficiently, quietly, reliably and at the right price.
There's a fairly clear distinction between dishwashers
made in the U.S. and dishwashers made in Europe. U.S. dishwashers--made by
the likes of Whirlpool, GE and Frigidaire--are geared
to clean those dishes, come hell or high water usage. Most of them
also have a miniature garbage disposer of sorts so that whatever gets washed
off the dishes can be ground up and flushed away.
European dishwashers, on the other hand, are geared to conserve. They do clean dishes,
but in general,
they use far less water and energy than their U.S. counterparts. One way
they save energy is by eliminating the food grinder and replacing it
with a filter. No grinder also tends to make European dishwashers quieter.
The trade-off is that whoever uses the dishwasher might have to periodically clean
the filter, unless the dishes are pre-rinsed to get rid of big chunks of stuff.
So basically, the U.S. versions get the job done and are lower maintenance,
whereas the European versions are better looking and conserve resources. In
financial terms, U.S. dishwashers are generally cheaper to buy but cost more
in water and electric bills. Euro dishwashers are more expensive to buy but cheaper to use.
Getting the Best of Both
So...if you're like most Americans,
you're probably hoping to come across a model that combines sleek European
design with the soil-stomping functionality and price you're used to getting from U.S.
That's a tall order, but as the two dishwasher schools converge,
the products get better and better. There's always been that huge
difference between U.S. and European dishwashers, says Carolyn Verweyst,
Whirlpool's manager of marketing communications, but U.S. manufacturers are
making design improvements to meet consumers' needs. Such improvements include
reducing water usage, redesigning dish racks and sprayers for maximum coverage
and beefing up insulation for quieter cycles.
Apparently, homeowners love the look of the European dishwashers from
companies like Miele, Bosch and Asko, but we're not necessarily comfortable shelling
out upwards of $1,000 for looks alone. "They're certainly beautiful," Verweyst
admits, but their emphasis on
water conservation means they have no way of disposing of food
particles, a process that can require an additional quart of water. "I can't
imagine many people in this country spending that much on a dishwasher that
requires them to rinse the dishes first."
Just as Americans are finding ways to use
less water and energy, so Europeans are making their units less high-maintenance.
In 1997, the German manufacturer Bosch opened a dishwasher plant in
the U.S. and now offers what it calls "the best of both worlds: European design and
engineering coupled with American manufacturing." One positive upshoot of this
arrangement, according to the company, is there's no pre-rinsing necessary with Bosch
dishwashers. "We never had that type of step," says a spokesperson in the
corporate office, "as long as people scrape off the big pieces of food,
everything will run smoothly."
Miele boasts that each dishwasher is custom configured to meet clients' needs.
Its "Novotronic" line is equipped with electronic controls that are "capable
of performing hundreds of tasks." One feature allows the
consumer to load and wash just the top half of the dishwasher.
And then there's Fisher & Paykel, a New Zealand company that offers a new
spin on dishwashers. That new spin is called
the Dish Drawer, and that's just what it is: a dishwasher in drawer form. Two
of the units can be stacked to fit in the space of one conventional dishwasher,
and they can be operated independently. The company began selling these
babies in the U.S. in autumn 1998.
Find pretty pictures of dishwashers in Dishwasherpalooza!
Traditionally, U.S. dishwashers, like the Whirlpool model above, were built for power
and ease of use. European models, like the Bosch below (actually built in the U.S. now),
were designed to run quietly and conserve energy and water. These schools of thought are