Drying dishes is a chore of the past. Dishwashers allow dishes to dry with forced hot air, saving you the time and effort of wiping excess water from the dishes with the touch of the convenient "heated drying" cycle button on your machine. Air-drying your dishes eliminates that step, but can reduce your energy consumption, and end the dishwasher cycle in a shorter time. Both save you from drying by hand, and there are benefits to each option.
How Heated Drying Works
Your dishwasher employs an electric heating element to create intensely heated air that it pumps through the dishwasher throughout the heated drying cycle. The small exhaust fan built into the top of the dishwasher door pulls the moisture from inside the machine and forces it out through the vents. This speeds up the drying process. Without heated drying, the air-dry cycle does not use the forced hot air and cycles room-temperature air through the dishwasher for the length of the cycle.
Ready to cut back on your power bill? The heated drying cycle uses at least 15 percent more energy than air-drying. The extra energy usage increases your electric expenses over time. Air-drying reduces the energy consumption by eliminating the heating element from the process, saving you some cash. The exhaust fan for the air-drying cycle uses minimal energy compared to the draw of the heating element to produce the temperatures necessary for heated drying. The downside is that the time involved to dry your dishes on an air-dry cycle is likely greater than a heated drying, depending on your climate. Humid environments will extend air-drying time, meaning you may still have to hand-dry dishes in hot summer months after you pull the clean dishes from the rack.
Speed or Energy?
Your dishes dry quicker with heated drying compared to air drying, because the heat evaporates any residual water. Air drying may result in water spots or hazy film on the dishes as a result of water evaporating slowly and leaving residue behind. One cycle is fast and the other saves energy, but your dishes come out clean either way. If you do not mind drying the dishes by hand, a clean, soft towel can help eliminate the unsightly spots from air drying if you want to reduce your home energy use by eliminating the heated drying cycle.
Finding a Dishwasher With Both Cycles
Newer dishwashers (made after the year 2011) come with a no-heat or air-dry cycle along with the heated drying option. On some models, this is an "energy-saver" mode. Brands that carry an Energy Star Certification must meet criteria to carry the title, and will have the air-dry feature. If your older model dishwasher does not include this option, opening the dishwasher door slightly after the wash cycle completes can provide the same results.
Tara Kimball is a former accounting professional with more than 10 years of experience in corporate finance and small business accounting. She has also worked in desktop support and network management. Her articles have appeared in various online publications.