When buying a new dishwasher as well as other appliances people often buy them with features that they will never really use beyond the first few times that they try it and, half load on a dishwasher is one such feature that is, in our opinion, almost pointless.
The idea is that the dishes on the top or bottom only will be cleaned but, how do they do this you may well ask as inside the dishwasher is a big box with some baskets and bits in it?
It's a good question and one that we will provide an answer to here.
If you look in any standard dishwasher you will see that there are two main areas where you put your dirty dishes and cutlery. A top basket and a bottom basket.
There are variations on the theme with cutlery trays and such but, in essence, this is how almost all dishwashers will be set up, slimline, integrated or freestanding it really doesn't matter.
The concept behind a half load function is that only one of the two wash areas will be cleaned when half load is selected. The marketing will tell you that this saves money, water, electricity and detergent.
How this is done is by, in basic terms, stopping the flow of water to either the upper or lower spray arm areas by way of a diverter valve.
Therefore when you select the upper or lower basket area only a little valve operates and "diverts" the water flow to one of the other spray arm. It doesn't somehow stop any water reaching the parts you haven't selected unlike the images you get showing the feature like the one shown.
Kind of, but it's a bit of a stretch.
It is true that you will often use less water so, you will use less electricity and if you don't use dishwasher tablets then you might be able to scrimp a bit on the detergent but, we're talking about degrees here, not massive savings.
Which? Magazine reckons that you would only see savings of 10-25% on water and electricity and we think that Which? are being kind here.
Of course the marketing will tell you differently but, mere common sense can tell you that this is perhaps not all it is cracked up to be. You will often see things like "Save time and energy by using our half load feature…" which is, as we said above, a bit of a stretch if technically true.
If you really want to save money using a dishwasher the best bet is to wait until it is full and then run it, this makes much more sense. But do be careful to maintain your dishwasher, making sure filters are clear etc and that you do not overload it.
Overloading or not loading it correctly will give you poor wash results meaning people often put things back in for another pass.
Doing this gets you maximum value as you get the maximum amount washed for not much more than the cost of a half load.
To be blunt, we would say that half load was useless if your aim in having it is to save money, time or energy.
We remain unconvinced that results from using a half load function on a dishwasher is as good as a full normal cycle would yield.
Whilst we couldn't say that It was definitely worse we equally cannot say that it is better and on subjective testing the half load function appears not to produce as good results as you would get from a normal full load.
Of course there are table top dishwashers on the market but sadly many of these are cheap Far Eastern imports that are designed for a single person living in a studio flat or suchlike, they are not intended for family use by any stretch.
There are also a few others from the likes of Bosch and Zanussi and, to be fair, they are good when used for the purpose that they were intended for, single person use or perhaps a couple. Beyond this you really need to look at a full size dishwasher in our opinion or perhaps a slimline model.
Then there are the left of field things such as the Fisher & Paykel dishdrawer which is a unique concept that strikes us as being more or less two small dishwashers bolted together one on top of the other. This has both pros and cons that will apply to many small dishwashers.
If that is what you want though, to wash small loads in your dishwasher, one of these options is a far better bet.
If it comes with the function and it isn't costing you any more, why not?
If however you are considering paying extra for this feature then our advice would be not to bother.
It's one of those features on a dishwasher that you might use a few times until you discover that it isn't what you thought and will then be consigned to being a vague memory of something you think that your dishwasher can do.
Asides from which the diverter valve that does the switching from top to bottom baskets isn't a cheap thing when it breaks, most of them are going on for £100.
For most people though, it's a pointless feature. All you want is the dishes washed.
Now if they could get some way to stop people fighting over who was loading and unloading the dishwasher, that would be useful.