For the first time in my entire life, I have a dishwasher. In the past, it’s always seemed like an unnecessary luxury and I haven’t been tempted to get one.
But my new house came with one already fitted and this has made me happier than you can imagine. No more scraping dried sauce off plates with my thumbnail! No more two-hour washing up marathons on Christmas Day!
Except that, having run it a few times, I have started to wonder just how much it costs. And the first time I bought a packet of dishwasher tablets, I nearly collapsed in shock at the price.
So what’s cost?
How much power?
The amount of energy your dishwasher burns depends on how efficient a model you have. The ratings go up to A+++, and the closer to that, the better.
Appliances Online, a company that sells appliances if you couldn’t guess, has worked out some average figures for the annual running costs of different-rated dishwashers.
It assumes that each home is doing seven dishwasher loads each week and that the average energy cost is 12.5p/kWh.
A+++ Rated £23
A++ Rated £27
A+ Rated £32
A Rated £38
B Rated £43
My machine is A-rated, meaning an annual cost of just under £40. Of course, the cost depends hugely on use, but I have already found that it is very tempting to run it every day. And there are only three of us in the house!
The cost of the tablets
Dishwasher tablets are incredibly expensive. I was genuinely shocked to discover that some of the big brands sell for almost 20p a go.
If you buy the Finish All-in-1 Powerball tablets, you pay an astounding 19.2p each, while a 20-pack of Fairy All-in1 Dishwasher Tablets Original costs £4. That’s 20p each.
Still more unbelievably, Fairy Platinum All-in-one tablets cost an amazing 25p each when you buy a pack of 20. If I did seven washes a week, that’s a cost of £91 a year on washing tablets.
[Related link: Advice on utility/gas/electricity bills]
Fortunately, I was able to find Asda’s own for 13.3p a tablet. While that’s considerably less, it’s still around £48.41 a year.
Compare that to washing up liquid; I buy supermarket’s own at 88p for 740mls, which lasts us around two weeks.
That means a total cost per year of £22.88, quite a bit cheaper than the tablets.
What about water?
Using a dishwasher instead of washing up by hand is more efficient in one area – most models use less water than handwashing.
Which? reports that the main wash program on a full-size dishwasher uses around 16 litres of water. But that’s less than two washing-up bowls and yet will clean more than 120 items.
So is it cheaper to wash by hand?
When you start to look at the annual cost, a dishwasher looks pretty pricey. But when I think of the endless stream of hot water used to clean dishes by hand, I’m not so convinced a machine is more expensive.
Of course, a lot depends on your machine and on how efficient you are when hand washing.
But a study by the University of Bonn in Germany found that washing a load of dishes (12 place settings) by hand used an average of 25 gallons of water and 2.5 kilowatt-hours of energy to heat that water.
That compared to an energy efficient dishwasher using around four gallons and 1 kilowatt-hour per load.
So the scientists think it’s cheaper for me to use a dishwasher and I know it’s cleaner and much easier. I think I’ll stick with my dishwasher, although I don’t think I’d necessarily replace it when it breaks.
At more than £300 for a standard machine, that’s a lot to pay for a relatively small annual saving.
How to save money with your dishwasher
If the costs in this article have made you wince, there are ways to keep the cost of a dishwasher down.
Run your machine on its eco wash, if it has one, as this will wash the pots at a lower temperature and use less power. According to Which?, the average energy-saving wash cycle uses 20% less power than the standard program.
Make sure you fill the machine every time, don’t waste water and energy on a half-full load. Having said that, I have found that if I cram too much into one load, nothing washes properly and I have to do it again. So don’t over-fill it either.
If you haven’t bought a dishwasher but intend to, make sure you get the most efficient model you can. Which? compared the annual energy costs of more than 140 machines and found that some cost an average of £22 a year to run, while others cost as much as £72.
That’s quite a difference, both to your pocket and the environment.