Saturday, February 23, 2013

Living More Simply: Dishwashing

Ah the dish washing chore. People around here, ok I, despise washing dishes. I thought that the dishwasher was God's gift to me, and people like me. Until I did some math and some real evaluating.

Have you ever noticed how much work a dishwasher really is? Really unless you have that stellar reputation of person who rinses and loads the dishwasher the very second after the dish is dirty, you have to scrub your dishes before they go in the dishwasher, or as everyone has witnessed from time to time the entire load ends up with crummy yucky stuff plastered to it.

Now that alone, seems like extra work to me. Usually if I've rinsed my dishes well enough to put them in the dishwasher I might has well have added the soap and they'd be clean by the time they got there! Seems like I just wasted time!

After pondering that, I started looking at all those things I cannot wash in my dishwasher. My pans. aren't the pans the worst part of the dishes? Couple that with the fact that most pans, especially those with any kind of non-stick coating, are not dishwasher safe, so if you are putting these things in the dishwasher you are voiding your warranties and not guaranteeing the safety of your pots and pans. The cast iron that I use often, can't be dishwasher-ed unless I want to re-season them every time I cook. Not a real useful thing.

Looking around at that I started wondering if there was more that I wasn't seeing. We stopped using the dishwasher and started washing ALL of our dishes by hand. I mean I was essentially doing that anyways! We stuck a towel on the counter and used that to lay dishes out to dry and after a month, lo and behold our electric bill was TWENTY DOLLARS cheaper! I never in my wildest dreams thought that the dishwasher could possibly eat up that much money!

After a few months of watching our electric bill being consistently cheaper, my husband had an assignment for his environmental science class to measure the amount of energy you used on a daily bases for something like four days. Now I had no idea you could actually calculate this total! I know I must be blonde right? (actually red-head, worse than blonde!) We did the math our dishwasher eats up 120 volts at 8.5 amps, meaning it eats up 1020 watts (volts times amps) while it's running.  If I did the other math properly (hours of use times current cost of electricity) with running the dishwasher once a day (about an hour) it eats approximately 17 dollars or electricity a month, not including the gas to heat the water it uses. So my totals were not that far off!

Looking at the hand washing method, I can safely assume that the amount of energy to heat three to five gallons of water that I use while hand washing (and sometimes used while rinsing and loading the dishwasher anyways) is significantly less than the dishwasher eats up. While I can't calculate for the water usage as we don't pay for water where we are at currently, I still would guess that it doesn't cost as much because I was using the water to rinse the dishes before they went into the dishwasher anyways. All in all for our family washing the dishes by hand is far simpler than washing them with the machine. As an added bonus my dishes have never been cleaner!

Now I'm not saying go out and tape off your dishwasher, never use it again. That would be crazy! But, if you are interested in living with less work and using less energy, it might be time to evaluate your dishwashers actual potential. Are you getting the bang for your buck? Turns out, we weren't!

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