A few years ago, the great dishwasher debate rolled through the blogosphere. The question was which is more eco-friendly, using the dishwasher or handwashing dishes. The focus was on water usage, and in the end, the findings were that, on water-saving setting, assuming no pre-rinse of the dishes, there was really no significant difference in water usage between using a dishwasher and handwashing the dishes.
And that's where the debate ended. Dishwashers were deemed just as eco-friendly as handwashing, and I never thought more about it, and we continued to use our dishwasher.
I should disclose that we don't have a "regular" dishwasher. Ours is a 3/4 size portable dishwasher, which means that when we want to use it, we have to roll it over to the sink and hook it up to the faucet. When we bought our house, there was no dishwasher, and because of the way our kitchen is set-up, we couldn't have a built-in, and because our kitchen is so small, we only had space for the little three-quarter size machine. So, our dishwasher actually uses less than a regular dishwasher anyway.
Then, one day, not so long ago, I became obsessed with lowering our electric bill. Nothing is safe and nothing is sacred, and I've turned this desire to reduce, reduce, reduce into some kind of maniacal witch hunt. Anything and everything that has a power switch or a plug is closely evaluated to determine if it's something we really need. I even bought a wind-up alarm clock, because it doesn't use batteries or plug into the wall.
My obsession has earned me more than a few sideways looks, much rolling of the eyes, and even the occasional scowl ... mumble ... grumble.
Incidentally, don't mention the television, the VCR, the DVD player or the stereo to Deus Ex Machina. I think he might still be a little sensitive. Sometimes it's hard to let go :).
A month without those things, though, and there was a marked reduction in our electric bill. Heartened by my success, I decided to see what else I could (easily) eliminate ... and I spied the unsuspeting dishwasher sitting innocently next to the refrigerator (which shouldn't get too smug or too comfortable, either).
In the comments section of a recnt post, Bellen asked how we calculated the energy usage of our dishwasher, and so I asked the man who knows all things electric, and Deus Ex Machina said that it should be marked somewhere on the machine. Every appliance has the usage listed somewhere as part of the UL requirements. So, we looked and found the little metal plate attached just inside the door frame. It says that our dishwasher requires 120v (current) and draws 8.5 amps.
To calculate the power draw, the formula is current x amps = watts. So, our dishwasher uses 1020 watts or 1.020 kilowatts. If we run our dishwasher for one hour, that's 1 kWh, which means if we run the dishwasher every day, and it takes one hour to go through the cycle (which it does), operating the dishwasher would take 30 kWh per month ... for a dishwasher.
And suddenly our sweet, little, three-fourths-sized dishwasher that's more eco-friendly than a full-sized machine doesn't seem so eco-friendly at all.
We've been researching alternative energy systems, and the more I look at any system the uses renewable resources, the more I realize that if we really want to be successful at generating own our power, we have to trim off every single sliver of the fat. The alternative energy systems just don't provide the enormous quantity of power available through the grid.
For instance, with a bicycle powered generator, the average rider can produce between 125 and 300 watts, which wouldn't even be enough power to get the dishwasher to kick on, much less run it for a full cycle. Maybe if the rider were Lance Armstrong I'd have clean dishes from a machine powered by a bicycle.
And that's what really put it into perspective for me.
In the end, I've decided that doing the dishes by hand isn't so difficult, and with me doing the dishes instead of him, Deus Ex Machina will have more time to concentrate on building that bicycle generator, because even if I can't pedal hard enough to get the electric dishwasher to work, I'm pretty sure I could pedal hard enough to charge up a battery so that we could plug in the laptop and snuggle on the couch to watch a DVD :).
I'd probably shower first, though ;).