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The type of dishwasher to go for depends on the size and style of your kitchen. The biggest choice of models come in a standard width of 60cm, are designed to fit under your worktop, and are generally available in white or metallic-type finishes. They can normally wash about twelve place settings. If you like to hide your appliances away, you can also buy ''integrated'' dishwashers that fit inside a cabinet and have an exterior panel that matches the rest of your kitchen. A variation on this theme are the ''semi-integrated'' units that have panels that leave the controls exposed. Integrated and semi-integrated models can wash slightly less dishes, as they need to be smaller to fit into the cabinet, and tend to cost a little extra. If space is an issue, most manufacturers also offer ''slimline'' (45cm wide) freestanding models that can wash about six place settings, or even table-top models that can handle about four place settings.

While practically every machine now on the market will use less water and do a much better job than washing up by hand, different models still use different amounts of electricity and water. Look for a model that is at least C-rated for efficiency, and preferably A-rated â?? an efficient machine may cost a little more at the check-out, but the extra cost will soon be recouped through savings on utility bills.

Make sure the machine you buy has at least three main programmes - an intensive, hot wash for very dirty plates and saucepans, a standard wash at about 65oC, and a 50oC (or thereabouts) economy wash, which will take longer to complete but uses less energy. A nice feature to have, although generally only found on the most expensive models, is an â??automaticâ?? programme, where sensors inside the machine sense how dirty the dishes are and adjust the programme to suit. Different models will boast other programme settings, such as a ''quick wash'' for lightly soiled items or a ''soak'' setting for dried-on food. The more programs the machine has the more it is likely to cost, so it''s false economy to spend a fortune on a unit with twenty different settings, unless you really think you are going to use them all.

Another factor to think about is noise. It''s almost impossible to hear a machine working before you buy it, so look at the manufacturerâ??s specifications for its rated noise level in operation â?? anything under 55 decibels is reasonable, although the more expensive the machine is, the more likely it is to be fitted with noise pumps and sound suppressors. A cheap model with loads of features wonâ??t seem such a bargain if you have to shout at each other across the kitchen table every time you do a wash.

Try and get a machine with adjustable racks that you can move up and down to accomodate different sized pots and pans. Also make sure your machine has indicator lights to warn you when the rinse aid or salt need topping up, because itâ??s very hard to guess the right levels for these, and you could even damage your machine or your crockery if the salt''s run out. An anti-flood device to prevent leaks is desirable, as is a timer that will delay the start of a cycle to a time when you''re at work, or the electricity is cheaper, for example. Parents should aim for a machine with a child lock to stop small hands being scalded if they try to open the machine while itâ??s running.

Author R. Germain
date added Tue 04 08 2009

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