Pros: energy efficient, cleans well, very quiet
Cons: rack layout could be improved
People who seem to know claim that built-in dishwashers have an average lifespan of twelve to fifteen years. That may be the case, but we're certainly helping keep that average low: we've now bought our third in the past six or seven years. Of course, they've been in three different houses, but that doesn't make them cost any less... The plain vanilla GE Profile that came with the new house was clearly near the end of its lifespan, leaving crumbs in the mug puddles and dollops of peanut butter on the knives. And so, it was off to the local appliance vendors yet again...
Like most people, we wanted to find a new built-in that doesn't shake the rafters when it's running, is energy efficient, and has a versatile rack and cycles and settings to handle a wide variety of dishes and cookware. Oh - and it also needs to get dishes clean... In our visit to The Great Indoors (again!), we happened on a Bosch Integra 500 Series dishwasher in white (their model SHX45M05UC) that a customer had ordered and then left sitting in the store. With a steep 35% discount off MSRP of $1050, we couldn't pass up the deal - and so we took this baby home.
As I said, we were looking for quiet, efficient, versatile, and effective. I'd say we got 3½ out of those four requirements. Here's what I mean:
Quiet: Bosch dedicates plenty of technology to keeping their dishwashers quiet. Besides the expected soundproof insulation, they use two small (and less noisy) pumps to fill and drain the system instead of one large one. The pumps are suspended by insulated brackets instead of bolted to the frame. The unit's base is a single molded tray instead of an open framework for more insulation and to reduce noise-causing vibration. The result is a parsimonious 51 dBA noise level - Bosch's 800 series are even quieter at 45 dBA - that can barely be heard while it's operating.
A mildly annoying end-of-cycle beep sounds when the timed cycle is over - it's by far the loudest noise an owner hears. Bosch builds in InfoLightTM, a little red light pointed at the floor below the door so, they say, you know when it's running. It's not that quiet - but it's definitely close: compared to its predecessor, the Integra 500 is whisper-quiet.
Energy Efficiency: Unlike most dishwasher, the Integra 500 series has no exposed heating element in the tub. Instead, it uses flow-through water heating to raise wash water to the recommended temperature. When it comes to drying, the lack of a heating element means that there is no heated drying - the heavy, well-insulated stainless-steel tub is designed to act as a thermal mass to speed drying. The Condensation Drying feature is aided by a hot-water rinse in the final cycle. Since we've almost always air-dried our dishes, this is not new to us - in fact, the Bosch does a better job of drying than our previous dishwashers. The lack of heated drying means that smooth plastics - storage containers and the like - may need a wipe with a dishtowel, but it also means that you can put plastics on either upper or lower rack without worrying about melting.
For saving cycle time, water, and the cost of heating water; the Integra 500 uses Bosch's smart technology called Ecosense® to measure the level of soil in the water and adjust cycle time. For small loads, there's also a half-load cycle to further reduce water and energy use. Those two small drain-and-fill pumps are more energy-efficient than the single large pump found in most dishwashers, and the heavy insulation used for soundproofing also acts as thermal insulation. The result is an EnergyStar® certified unit: according to the energy labeling, it uses an estimated $25 per year with an electric water heater ($19 with a gas water heater) compared to a range of $20-50 for comparable dishwashers.
Versatility: This mid-level Bosch dishwasher comes with multiple cycles: there's a standard timed wash (it lasts about two hours), an automatic wash that uses a turbidity sensor to control wash time, and a "quickwash" half-hour cycle for lightly-soiled dishes. For the germ-phobe crowd, there's a sanitization cycle with extra, extra-hot water (certified by something called the "National Sanitization Foundation"). Controls are arrayed across the top edge of the door, including an on-off switch, cycle choice, and a start delay of up to 19 hours. All cycles have OptiDry®, which releases the rinse agent at the "optimum time" for spot reduction.
Rack-wise, the Integra 500 comes with two half-rows of fold-down tines and a pair of fold-down cup shelves on one side of the top rack plus another two half-rows of folding tines on the bottom rack. The cutlery bin can be separated into two halves, each of which may be located anywhere on either rack Each also has a foldaway gridwork top for organizing pieces. The upper rack adjusts up and down through several inches with a single lever, and can be removed entirely for extra tall loads. Bosch claims "extra capacity" - fourteen full place settings instead of the twelve place settings standard on other models.
In theory, the rack system is highly versatile. In practice, however, it's less so. It may be designed to hold fourteen place settings, but they must be pretty small. In fact, I'd be really interested in seeing how they put fourteen place settings in - not from a room standpoint so much as an arrangement standpoint. Where we run into trouble is with bowls and mugs, neither of which fit particularly well in the racks. We also end up with a wide empty space in the top rack that usually ends up holding just a couple of serving spoons. The fold-down cup shelves don't work for us ‘cause we don't use teacups: like most people, we use mugs for coffee. Our everyday dishes are stoneware, and some pieces - especially bowls - don't fit well in these rack configurations. This is, as far as I'm concerned, the sole deficiency of an otherwise excellent dishwasher.
Efficacy: After several months of use, we've had to re-wash a dish or piece of silverware only twice; both times because of the way the piece was loaded. The machine works well with small amounts of soap (we use liquid Cascade); however, because it uses condensation drying instead of heated drying Bosch suggests the use of a rinse agent such as JetDry® to prevent spots. We rarely if ever wash pots or pans or attempt to clean baked-on grease, so cannot speak to pot-scrubbing prowess of Bosch's PowerScrubPlusTM. The two-hour cycle time necessitated by condensation drying may be off-putting to some, but - as mentioned above - we've used the air-dry cycle on our dishwashers for years and we're rarely in a hurry for a cycle to finish anyway.
• unlike many modern dishwashers, there's no grinder for scraps. Instead, Bosch uses a pair of filters to capture particles. Cleaning is easy, but you do have to keep an eye on the filter.
• the Integra 500 series comes in white, black, titanium, and stainless steel finishes and with a slot for a front panel that matches the cabinets. Ours is white, with a matte-finish stainless handle that runs the full width of the door.
• Bosch guarantees their Integra line against mechanical defects for two years
• the door pauses and holds at any position, instead of slamming shut or dropping precipitously (Bosch calls this PerfectDoorTM)
• there's no finger latch or catch, instead the door snaps shut with a friction catch (Bosch calls this AutoCloseTM). This also means, however, that there is no child-proof latch
• the Integra 500 monitors for leaks around the door or the base of the tub; if a leak is detected the cycle is automatically interrupted and drains the tub to prevent flooding the kitchen floor.
Overall thoughts: The Bosch Integra 500 SHX45M05UC is a full-featured washer that's energy efficient and plenty versatile for our needs. It performs its duties well, and performs them without producing ear-shattering levels of noise. We've found, however, that the tub is not as wide as our previous 24-inch dishwashers and therefore doesn't have room for as many dishes - especially on the top rack, which has a somewhat ungainly design.
This dishwasher is a very good performer with a couple of design limitations; I recommend it for people who aren't in a hurry and don't always wash lots of large or bulky items. It's probably better for small families as well.