Did You Know Your Dishwasher Can Do This?

by Barrett

When your hot water at home goes on the fritz, life can get pretty wonky. On the other hand, life (and your dishwasher) might surprise you…

Our gas-powered water heater stopped working last week. As a homeowner, it was one of those moments you know will eventually happen and dread for years. Not so much because you lose your hot water, but because of the legendary ways water heaters tend to break…

Your Old Water Heater is an Accident Waiting to Happen
The Simple Homeowner’s Guidebook in 50 Steps* says a home’s water heater will usually last 8-10 years, and after that, it just “lets go.” The leak creates some level of flooding. There’s no warning. It just happens. That’s the myth.

I think the reality is not always as dramatic, although it certainly can be. I spoke to a contractor about this, and he told me it’s more often a ‘drip’ that simply grows over time. The trick is to pay attention. But if you really think about it, that’s harder in practice.
(These days, I can barely pay attention to whether I spring a leak!)

Anyway, the good news is our thirteen-year-old gas water heater didn’t lose its structural integrity. It just stopped lighting up.
(And yes, it’s been living on borrowed time for over three years. Someone should tell that homeowner to buck up and stop playing roulette.)

I had a handyman take a look. He told me it was probably the gas valve. That’s a few-hundred-buck fix. On the other hand, it could have just been the thermal coupler. That’s only a $35 part.
(Plus a plumber’s time)

Pop quiz:
What do you do?

Okay… this one wasn’t so hard.
You go buy yourself a new water heater!
(And be thankful that your old hunk-of-junk unit died in such a graceful and non-destructive way.)

Option A or B?
So that’s exactly what I did.

The problem was the timing.
This all went down the day before we left for a little New Hampshire hiking trip with friends in the White Mountains.

The good news is we were going to be away for a few days.
(We’d find our hot showers elsewhere.)

The bad news is I wasn’t able to schedule the new water heater installation until four days after we’d get back.

We actually had the choice to delay our trip and get the new water heater installed the very next day. I seriously considered it, but my wife reminded me that a glorious hiking trip in the mountains trumps a little hot water.
(Another example of the wisdom from my better half that helps to keep me on track!)

Roughing It
We drove off to the mountains knowing that when we returned, we’d have to live for a while without the modern convenience of an always-available hot water supply.

What do you do?

Well, first off, you don’t freak out, like I did on the first morning back.
(My wife was much more sanguine about the whole thing. My seven year old was even more psyched, because he didn’t have to take a bath for the foreseeable future.)

For me, the big question was how to take a shower.

Our gas-powered stove was still working… so I tried heating up a big pot of water, bringing it into the shower and then mixing it with another big pot of cold water.
(That makes two big pots of warm water.)

You know, it’s amazing to find out how much (or how little) water you actually need to take a shower.
(My two-pot strategy worked just fine!)

The Dishwasher Dilemma
So you might be wondering by now what this all has to do with being at home with tech.
(Your iPhone and new Panasonic pocket camera can’t help you take a hot shower.)

This is actually about our Bosch dishwasher, which I purchased after some extensive research.
(And yes, I’ve really liked it!)

Doing dishes isn’t the easiest thing without hot water. But on day two of the Lester Hot-Water Crisis I figured I’d run the dishwasher anyway and see what happens.

Well, I opened up the dishwasher door after the cycle finished up and grabbed the first plate. My hand recoiled in pain. For a moment, I was entirely confused.**

My fingers felt the sting of heat. This plate was… hot?

I looked into the dishwasher and realized I had a perfectly clean, hot batch of dishes ready to go.

How was that… possible?!

Always Question Your Assumptions
Okay, I know it must be obvious. But it did take me a moment to process…
My dishwasher heated up the cold water.
(I had figured that dishwashers simply used incoming hot water.)

I told my silly (sad) tale to a friend. He cracked a small smile at my puerile understanding of how dishwashers work.

In fact, they do use hot water, but they also regulate the temperature to better accomplish their washing magic. And that means they have the technology to heat up the water.

And if all that’s coming in is cold water… well, voilà! Now it’s hot.

Your Dishwasher’s Secret Power
I know it’s taken a while to specifically articulate my little Aha moment.
But here it is:

If you lose your hot water at home, your dishwasher doesn’t care.***

So our dishes were sparkling clean.

And everything else worked out:

  • I successfully took four stove-based showers and didn’t run into anyone who questioned my hygiene.
  • I’m happy to report that the Lesters have hot water again.
  • And our hiking trip was indeed glorious.








You’ve got to keep it all in perspective…

*I’m not aware of any such book.
**Not the first time
***And a big pot of hot water from your stove can get it done for a quick shower!