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Buying a dishwasher for a holiday home or rural property

What to consider when choosing and using a dishwasher for a holiday home, short-term rental or off-grid property.

couple standing kitchen with dishwasher lead

Who doesn't love getting away from it all for a well-earned break? A beach house, mountain retreat or country cottage is the ideal place to relax, revitalise and spend valuable time with friends and family, far from the drudgery of domestic duties that eat away at our weekends at home. 

It's not just fun and games either – regular breaks are super important for your mental health. 

Now, put your hand up if your idea of a quality holiday is doing the dishes? Me either, which is why a dishwasher's an essential addition to your weekender (if you're fortunate enough to have one) or holiday rental (spoiler alert: your guests don't like doing dishes either).

But unlike your regular kitchen (used daily, cleaned regularly, and most likely on town water and electricity), a holiday house kitchen brings additional considerations when adding a dishwasher.

And if your holiday home or your new tree-change property is on tank water or off-grid, there are even more things you need to think about before installing a dishwasher.

Consider a smaller dishwasher

It's generally worth waiting a couple of days for your dishwasher to be completely full before running it because that's more efficient on a per-plate basis and, because of the higher thermal mass, it'll dry better too. 

But in smaller households it can take a while to get through a dishwasher's worth of crockery though, and in a place you only use for a couple of days at a time you may never fill a full-sized dishwasher. So a dish drawer, slimline or benchtop model might be a better option.

Slimline dishwashers offer equivalent performance to their full-sized brethren but, as the name suggests, tip the tape measure at a svelte 45cm at the waist, which means they'll fit around eight place settings and fill up faster, and they won't take up as much precious cabinet space. 

In a place you only use for a couple of days at a time you may never fill a full-sized dishwasher

Dish drawers are fuller-figured at 60cm wide but diminutive at half the height, so you can use the space above or below for storage. You may also find the drawer design more convenient. 

A double dish drawer gives you the versatility of either a full capacity dishwasher (holidaying with friends), or the option to just run one drawer on its own (holidaying alone). 

Finally, a benchtop dishwasher brings the convenience of a dishwasher to your weekender without the hassle of modifying cabinetry, sitting atop rather than under your bench, and only requiring a basic modification to your tap – after all, the whole idea of a weekender is relaxation, not more work.

dishwasher drawer stacked

Dish drawers can be a good option for smaller spaces.

Preparing your dishwasher for extended inactivity

Dishwashers love to work. Running your dishwasher regularly saves time and money, but also helps keep it clean, running its best, and even helps keep insect infestations (which can destroy the appliance) at bay. 

But what about the dishwasher in your weekender, which is likely to lay dormant for long periods between cycles? The good news is you can prepare your dishwasher for extended inactivity with a few simple steps, just as if you were preparing it for long term storage:

  • Turn off the water under the sink, then start a cycle to pump out any water in the sump or pipes. You only need to run it for a few seconds until the initial pump out has finished then stop the cycle, turn off the power and unplug it (turn off your other appliances at the wall if you're not using them for long periods while you're at it, so you're not paying for standby power).
  • Remove baskets and trays, clean off any residual food scraps and leave them to dry on the benchtop.
  • Remove the filter and housing and give them a good scrub in hot, soapy water to get rid of any grease and food scraps, then leave them to dry. This should be central to your regular dishwasher cleaning routine, but it's especially important if you're leaving it unattended for long periods because grease and food scraps can solidify and become harder to shift, attract vermin, and create foul odours.
  • Wipe out the sump to remove any remaining food scraps and dry around the pump intake. Leave the door open for the sump and dishwasher tub to dry completely if time permits.
  • Wipe seals and external surfaces with a soft, damp cloth. Pay close attention to the door seals – food scraps and grime will be harder to remove once it's dried, so doing it now is saving yourself a headache in the future.
  • Once everything's dry, reinstall the filters, racks and trays, but don't close the door – leave it open if possible, or at the very least ajar – this will allow air to circulate and any residual moisture to evaporate, help seals maintain their shape and minimise the possibility of mould and foul odours building up inside the machine. 

You can now head home, safe in the knowledge that you've done everything you can to prepare your holiday home dishwasher for a long hiatus of its own. Just remember to turn the water and electricity back on again at the start of your next getaway.

Dishwashers for properties on tank water

One of the things that makes a holiday house so appealing (and not to mention more affordable) can be its remoteness.

Getting away from it all may mean getting away from it ALL though, including municipal sewer and water supplies, and the electricity grid – if your weekender is in a regional area it's more likely to rely on solar power, a septic system and rainwater tanks, and you'll need to consider that when choosing appliances.

The good news is, to a greater or lesser extent, a dishwasher will be a help not a hindrance when utilities are in short supply.

Water and energy use

Dishwashers use far less water than washing by hand (around 12–15 litres to wash a full capacity load of 144 items – hand washing uses on average 99 litres to do the same), which can make a big difference when you need to be water conscious, particularly when you don't know when the next rain clouds are coming.

Running an appliance to do your dishes also uses less energy than washing by hand

It seems counter-intuitive, but running an appliance to do your dishes also uses less energy than washing by hand, because the vast majority of energy used doing the dishes goes into heating the wash water, and as we've already established, dishwashers are very water-efficient. 

This means less drain on your battery storage, or if you run your dishwasher in the height of the day, a reasonably-sized solar array can power it directly, with surplus generation to spare.

Choose the right detergent

In terms of septic systems, your choice of dishwasher won't make much difference (other than producing less waste water generally), but it pays to be discerning when choosing your detergent. 

Happily, most modern detergents are septic-safe, and contain the same enzymes – protease, lipase and amylase – as a healthy septic system because they do the same job in both applications: breaking down proteins, fats and complex carbohydrates. 

For extra peace of mind you should look for a dishwasher detergent that claims to be septic-safe, and while phosphates in detergents are banned in many countries and largely a thing of the past, you should also avoid detergents containing chlorine bleaches.

water tank on rural house property

Make sure you buy a dishwasher that can adapt to lower water pressure if necessary.

Minimum water pressure requirements

While water-efficient dishwashers are great if you rely on tank water, your water supply might not be the only thing that's limited – your water pressure might be as well. 

This is a minor inconvenience when hand-washing, but some dishwashers can be a bit picky when it comes to the minimum water pressure they'll operate with (we list claimed minimum water pressures on our website). 

If your taps barely trickle rather than flow freely, you might need to raise your water tank off the ground to increase the pressure from gravity, or install a pump to ensure your dishwasher works as intended.

Some dishwashers can be a bit picky when it comes to the minimum water pressure they'll operate with

Contaminants in tank water

Further, unlike filtered and fluoridated town supply, tank water is susceptible to contaminants – dirt, leaves, the occasional dead pigeon and its associated pathogens can all find their way into your water tank. 

While your kitchen tap's fairly forgiving, you'll need to install and maintain a good filter in the line to avoid clogging your dishwasher's delicate innards. This is especially important in remote areas because the nearest shop or service agent could be several hours away.

Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.