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Su Lum: Slumming

Su Lum
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

A few weeks ago I went to turn on the full dishwasher and got the telltale silence that meant the motor had burned out. Lordy lord, what’s next.

The good news was that I never liked that dishwasher. I harbored resentment that the machine, which was really cheap ($150), cost $350 to install because all the pipes and things had to be replaced (“You know these old houses! That was the worst one I’ve ever installed.”).

I felt that if I were going to pay $500 for a dishwasher, I should have invested another $100 and gotten a better one. I didn’t need one of those super models that don’t even need for you to scrape the chicken bones off the plates and can handle week-old dried ketchup and petrified egg yolks, but I’d like a dishwasher with a silverware basket that didn’t let the forks and spoons drop through it onto its floor, a dishwasher that would ALWAYS release its plastic detergent capsule instead of SOMEtimes releasing it, which I wouldn’t discover until, halfway through the unloading, I’d notice that the dishes were less than sparkling.

The death of the dishwasher was premature by my standards – only 7 or 8 years old – though I learned, when I had to replace my refrigerator last year, that that constituted a virtual antique in the appliance business.

The next day I was wringing my hands when my friend Jack stopped by on his way to Glenwood. He got out the tape measure and said he’d check out the choices at Lowe’s. The upshot was: died on a Wednesday, checked out on Thursday, bought on Friday, delivered the next Monday (five stars for Lowe’s – and Jack) and now I have a new and better dishwasher. No chicken bones, but a step up.

A further step up was that Jack got onto the computer and learned, from Chris Carnevale and Nathan Ratledge of our local CORE offices, that my energy-efficient new dishwasher was eligible for a $75 rebate from CORE as well as another $75 from the city!

I voted for our energy-efficient programs, but didn’t have a clue that they would affect me and my new dishwasher! You just go to http://www.aspencore.org/file/CORE_ rebates.html, click on “Appliance rebate form” fill it in and send it with your receipt to Chris at Box 9707. They will take care of the city’s portion as well. Federal tax rebates (incentives) don’t yet cover dishwashers, but you can check out what IS covered at http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=tax_credits.tx_index. You might be pleasantly surprised.

One thing that shocked me is how long this energy-efficient machine takes to do the dishes. The recently deceased dishwasher took 90 minutes – much longer than the old Hobart that came with the house in 1972 and lasted another, give or take, 25 years. This new machine takes THREE HOURS on “light wash”!

The accompanying booklet says it is perfectly normal for the energy-efficient washers to take more time, and that a full-blast heavy load could take between three and a half and four hours, an explanation I definitely find counterintuitive. It’s not saving water, it’s not saving electricity, so what exactly is it saving?

We live in complicated times. On the homestead in Alaska, I used to wash the dishes of a baby and three adults (sometimes five) in melted snow and I had it down to a bitter science. Heat up yesterday’s final rinse water for today’s wash water, use new hot melted snow for the first rinse water and another batch for the final rinse. Save the latter for the next day’s wash water. Same routine for washing the diapers. It was good for the environment, and it sapped a hell of a lot of energy from me but it didn’t take three hours for the dishes part. Of course we dried them with dishcloths and a lot of time goes into the drying with the machine.

Anyway, I’m just happy to have the dishwasher replaced and rebated, and it’s so quiet I don’t even know it’s running.


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