The real cost of using your dishwasher

Dishwashers have become a common feature in Australian kitchens, but are they the culprit for higher than expected electricity bills? Dishwashers save you time, that’s for certain, but whether or not they save you money remains one of the most divisive appliance debates. Canstar Blue has crunched the numbers to work out the real cost of using your dishwasher.

How much does a dishwasher load cost?

Most household dishwashers will cost you between $0.12 and $0.40 in electricity and water charges for each load of dishes. The cost of electricity makes up the largest portion of dishwasher expense, costing 0.1c to 0.35c for most dishwashers. The amount of electricity it uses will depend on the size of the dishwasher (measured in place settings), as well as its energy efficiency star rating. The table below uses data from energyrating.gov.au, and due to the complexity of calculating water heating costs, it assumes a cold-wash only on normal settings.

Dishwasher size 2 star 3 star 4 star 5 star 6 star
7 Place setting 19.3c 13.5c 9.5c 6.6c 4.6c
10 Place setting 27.6c 19.3c 13.5c 9.5c 6.6c
12 Place setting 33.2c 23.2c 16.2c 11.4c 8c
14 Place setting 37c 25.9c 18.1c 12.7c 8.8c

Table assumes an electricity usage rate of 28.7c/kWh

What’s the cost of water in a dishwasher?

water rating

A standard dishwasher uses around 13 litres of water per load. At a relatively standard rate of $2.20 per KL ($0.0022/L), water will cost 2.8c per load.

Again, the amount you pay for water usage depends on the size and efficiency of your dishwasher as well as the rates in your area.

The amount of water a dishwasher uses will be displayed on its water efficiency star rating label. The image displayed shows a 3.5 star rating for a dishwasher that uses 13.1 litres of water per load – relatively standard for a dishwasher.

What is best: Dishwashers vs Hand washing?

The question is difficult to put to rest because there are so many factors that come to play: dishwasher efficiency and size, how often you do dishes, water heater type, preferred dishwashing temperature, and the list goes on…

Many Aussies are adamant that washing dishes by hand is cheaper, after all – muscle power is free. However, washing dishes by hand uses considerably more water than most dishwashers – a sink might hold 20 to 25 litres of water while the standard dishwasher only uses 13L. The water itself is not too expensive, but the water heating cost of heating the water certainly adds up, especially if you constantly run water or refill your sink several times when doing the dishes.

Energy star claims an energy efficient dishwasher can save you hundreds of dollars in energy and water costs over a 10 year life of your dishwasher. This, however, did not account for any possible dishwasher maintenance costs, which again vary depending on the model and how well a dishwasher is cared for.

If your dishwasher is old, inefficient or unnecessarily large, then it may well work out that washing dishes by hand is the cheaper option (albeit more burdensome). Generally speaking, however, an energy efficient dishwasher will be cheaper than washing dishes yourself.

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