Best Off Grid Dishwasher Options When Water is Limited

When you make the decision to go off grid, you make a conscious decision to reduce your carbon footprint in as many ways as possible. That being said, being off grid doesn’t mean that you have to live a life akin to an 18th Century pioneer.

Dishwashers are a convenience most people enjoy, getting the dishes clean without extreme effort but they are energy and water sucking units in many cases. When you are off grid, conserving these resources is essential for many different reasons.

Fortunately, there are some great portable dishwashing units that use little water and electricity that do a fantastic job in cleaning dishes.

Hand Washing Versus Dishwasher Use

A long-standing debate exists with dishwashers in general. Do they use more water than washing dishes by hand? On average, a built-in dishwasher uses 6 gallons of water per wash cycle. Energy efficient models drop this use to 4 gallons per cycle. Keep in mind there is still the energy to heat the water and run the dishwasher.

Hand washing is really determined by how efficient you use water in the process. An average sink holds anywhere from one to 1.8 gallons of water. This is obviously a rough estimate as some larger farm sinks might hold more volume.

That being said, for the off grid efficient lifestyle, we’ll assume that a small-to-average sized sink is in use. So right off the bat, by filling the sink to soak and scrub dishes, you are using anywhere from one-quarter to fifty percent of the water use in a built-in dishwasher.

Considering the average faucet flows at approximately two gallons per minute, you have less than two minutes to rinse all dishes before exceeding the water use of the dishwasher.

This makes a great conservation case for dishwashers in general since most people spend more time doing the dishes. In fact, some estimates suggest people use up to 27 gallons of water when hand-washing dishes.

A portable dishwasher can further reduce water usage, dropping the water consumption down to 3 gallons of water or less depending on the capacity. So if water accessibility is an issue in your off grid layout, a dishwasher will help you budget and maintain a water load you can afford to use.

Ease of Use With Portable Dishwashers

Portable dishwashers are designed to move as needed. They range in weight depending on the construction and capacity but expect one to weight anywhere from 40 to 60 pounds. These are designed to sit on countertops like a portable microwave or toaster oven. As such, it isn’t going to be moved from the counter to storage like a blender.

Most will connect to the kitchen faucet for easy installation and use. This means while the dishwasher is in use, the faucet will be inaccessible. While this might seem like an inconvenience, it does eliminate the need for confusing and complicated installations.

There are adapters you can buy to that essentially allow you to split the faucet use and maintain a more permanent installation.

The most efficient portable dishwashers are designed to hold six place settings. This helps keep the model energy efficient and works well with off grid daily needs.

hOmeLabs Compact Counterop Dishwasher

hOmeLabs Compact Countertop Dishwasher: Designed for easy use. This means no tools are required for connecting the water inlet or drain hoses. It is compatible with all round-shaped faucets making it nearly universal. Choose between six wash cycles depending on the types of wash load you have. It even has an ECO option for greater energy efficiency.

This unit is easy to load with up to six standard-size place settings and takes up a small countertop footprint. There is also a rinse aid dispenser that automatically adds streak-free rinse aids to prevent streaking on glassware.

This unit has a very low water need when in ECO mode, using less than half a gallon of water during the cycle.

Water usage: 0.31 to 0.87 gallons per cycle

Dimensions:

  • 17.2 inches wide
  • 19.6 inches long
  • 21.6 inches tall
  • 6-145 PSI
  • 67 pounds

Editor’s Rating: 10/10

Pros:

  • Delayed cycle start option
  • Energy Star certified
  • Detergent dispenser

Cons:

  • Can run for up to 110 minutes on longer cycles
  • Heating element remains hot

Ivation Countertop Dishwasher

Ivation Countertop Dishwasher: Considered tiny but mighty with a sleek compact design and stainless steel durable interior. Keeping things simple, it has integrated rinse aid and detergent dispensers requiring less filling.

LED controls allow you to choose from six wash cycles to clean anything from light to heavy grimed dishes. Includes a cup shelf and silverware basket for maximum load design.

No difficult connection required. Comes with a sink faucet adapter requiring no tools.

Dimensions:

  • 17 inches wide
  • 21.5 inches long
  • 20 inches tall
  • 50 pounds
  • Water Pressure: 5-145 PSI

Editor’s Rating: 9/10

Pros:

  • Temperature up to 148 degrees Fahrenheit
  • No tool assembly and use
  • Discreet footprint tucks under upper cabinets to maximize counter space

Cons:

  • Drain and inlet hoses can leak if not properly installed
  • Not suitable for larger pots

EdgeStar DWP61ES Countertop Portable Dishwasher

EdgeStar DWP61ES 6 Place Setting Countertop Portable Dishwasher: Slightly taller than its competitors, this unit takes up a bit more kitchen area but still fits in most counter spaces between top and bottom counters. Added height gives it a slight edge for larger plates and pots, holding plates up to 10.5 inches in diameter.

Using only 200 kilowatt hours per year compared to similar models, using approximately 61 percent less energy annually. This holds a standard six place setting set. Water is heated up to 149 degrees Fahrenheit to maximize germ disinfecting. 

Dimensions:

  • 17-3/16 inches wide
  • 21-11/16 inches long
  • 19-11/16 inches tall
  • 45 pounds

Editor’s Rating: 9/10

Pros:

  • Child lock function
  • Energy Star certified
  • Five-foot hose for extended positioning

Cons:

  • Bulkier footprint on countertop
  • May not fit under all cabinets

SPT Countertop Dishwasher

SPT Countertop Dishwasher: A sleek white exterior design goes with most kitchens but this unit has a stainless steel interior and spray arm to reduce corrosion. Quick and easy connection doesn’t require tools; do dishes on your time.

Like other units, this has six wash cycles and sliding rack with cup and cutler areas. The unit has just a slight edge in interior space yet is still under 50 pounds.

The control panel is intuitive and easy to use, showing exactly where the cycle is.

Water Consumption: 3.8 gallons per cycle

Dimensions:

  • 21.6 inches wide
  • 19.7 inches long
  • 17.2 inches tall
  • 48.5 pounds

Editor’s Rating: 8/10

Pros:

  • Full power in compact unit
  • Easy no-tool connect
  • Connects via standard-sized aerator

Cons:

  • High water consumption for compact unit
  • May not fit under all cabinets

Koldfront 6 Place Setting Portable Countertop Dishwasher

Koldfront 6 Place Setting Portable Countertop Dishwasher: This Energy Star certified model uses less electricity during each wash cycle helping those off grid conserve valuable solar panel use. Slightly larger than the more compact models, this unit has a little extra interior space but might not fit under all cabinets. Depending on your countertop needs, this could be problematic.

Internal water heater heats water up to 149 degrees Fahrenheit and has a delay start cycle to use at optimal times of the day. With up to 3.8 gallons of water use in normal cycles, this compact unit isn’t ideal for water conservation though probably still beats hand washing.

Water Consumption: 3.8 gallons per wash cycle

Dimensions:

  • 17-3/16 inches wide
  • 21-11/16 inches long
  • 19-11/16 inches tall
  • 45 pounds

Editor’s Rating: 8/10

Pros:

  • Durable stainless steel interior
  • One Year Warranty on all parts; 90 days labor
  • Quiet unit

Cons:

  • High water consumption
  • Larger counter top footprint not ideal for limited space

FAQs

  • Can a portable dishwasher be connected permanently under the kitchen sink?

Yes. It is possible to modify the connectors and establish a permanent inlet and waste hose. Unless you are accustomed to plumbing details, it might be wise to get a professional plumber to install this. The benefit is you no longer need to utilize the faucet while running the dishwasher, keeping it available for other use.

  • What are the disadvantages of a portable dishwasher in off grid environments?

Depending on the location, you may be limited in water availability. This means running the unit may become problematic if you don’t have available water.

Even though the units are smaller and use less water than most traditional size counterparts, they hold less and require more frequent cycle usage. This means that a larger unit designed for efficiency and using only four gallons per cycle is cleaning a lot more dishes per gallon of water use.

Smaller units also don’t hold larger items, which means you will still need to do a fair amount of cleaning by hand, consuming running water as you wash and rinse cooking items.

  • Can I mount this somewhere other than my countertop?

If you are dealing with a small kitchen that has limited counter space to begin with, taking up nearly four square feet in the counter top footprint is a lot. You may be able to prevent losing the space by mounting it under a drawer in a cabinet next to the sink.

This would require cutting holes through the back or side of the cabinet to access the sink plumbing and connecting under the sink with more permanent mounts.

Keep in mind that these units are durable but a leak can go unnoticed in a cabinet for longer timeframes thus causing more damage. Explore all options and get a professional plumber to seal all connections if looking to install the unit anywhere other than the countertop.


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Going off grid means parting ways with many of your life's comforts. What about clean dishes? Find some great alternatives for off-grid dishwashers here!

  1. The absolute very best dishwasher is a big dog. In my case, a German Shepherd. I have one dish (a plastic bowl that can hold 5 pound of rice), one fork and one spoon (the utensils are cleaned by wiping them off with a towel). A big dog will enthusiastically get your dish squeaky clean every time!!

  2. Why don’t you include the larger portable units that sit on the ground? Also, it would be helpful to have amperage ratings for off the grid folks who may not have enough power or big enough inverter to run each machine.

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