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My old dishwasher is very noisy and sometimes leaves specks of food on the dishes. Are the new super-quiet, high-tech models much more efficient? What convenience and noise reduction features are best? -- R. S.

A -- Even though your old dishwasher still works, installing a new one can be a wise financial investment. Whereas an old dishwasher uses about 12 gallons of hot water per load, the quietest new designs use as little as 4 gallons. This savings can pay back its cost over its life.

The noise level has been reduced to a whisper in the best models. Heavy wall insulation, especially heavy felt/asphalt pads bonded to the tank (same as used in Mercedes cars), blocks sound and vibration. Designs with automatic-closing vents (wash cycle) also reduce noise.

Many of the most efficient and quiet models use two small motors and pumps instead of one large reversing motor. One high-pressure pump is used for the wash spray. The other one is used for draining.

Since each pump in a two-pump system is smaller, a smaller water reservoir is needed and less hot water is used. Also, by using a different pump to drain the dirty water, there is less chance of food residue.

Whether you choose a super-efficient two-pump or a single-pump system, select a model with triple self-cleaning filtration. As it drains after each wash cycle, the waste water flushes out and cleans the filters.

New dishwashers have up to eight wash cycles and up to three temperature settings. An optional super-high-temperature sanitizing cycle is good. A built-in heating element heats the water to between 160 and 180 degrees. There are child-safe knobs to lock it shut.

Several of the high-quality stainless steel European models use a condensing method of drying to eliminate excess heat and humidity in the summer. Cool room air is circulated in a heat exchanger to condense the sealed dryer air, and the moisture drips into the bottom of the tank.

A new model (by Aquatec) uses a polypropylene foam tank that muffles the noise and keeps the water warm for efficiency.

Write for Update Bulletin No. 703, a buyer's guide for the most efficient and quietest dishwashers, water usage, number of pumps, wash cycles, convenient features, prices and efficiency tips. Please include $2 and a business-size, addressed, stamped envelope, and send your request to James Dulley, The Buffalo News, 6906 Royalgreen Drive, Cincinnati, Ohio 45244. Or instant download (

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