When you are installing a new kitchen, you will no doubt be aiming for the three principles of modern functionality and design - clean, open, and minimal. If you aiming for a seamless flow in your kitchen, you might be interested to learn more about panel ready dishwashers.
What is a panel ready dishwasher?
Panel ready dishwashers allow you to seamlessly blend your appliance in with your new cabinetry - without that obvious stainless steel look and a device protruding out from your cabinets. These dishwashers come ready for you to apply your own front 3/4-inch or 1/2-inch panel in the same material (such as custom wood) as the rest of your cabinets, and you can also customize the type of handle that is best for you.
You can find out our best dishwasher picks for the year on our earlier post.
How to avoid problems when selecting a new panel ready dishwasher
If you are already familiar with panel ready dishwashers, you have probably seen some where they stick out even beyond the countertop. If the idea was to have a streamlined finish, then why do people make this mistake?
Tip 1 - Product Selection - Know the depth of the dishwasher you are buying
In the US, the standard counter depth is 24 inches. Considering a standard panel is 3/4" thick, you would want your dishwasher to be shallower than 23 1/4". Taking into account an imperfect drywall, and considering hoses and wires that may end up lurking behind, it is best to have a dishwasher depth of 21 5/8" to a maximum depth of 23 1/6".
Almost all European-made dishwashers (Bosch, Miele, Asko) come with these dimensions, however, we cannot say the same for the US made dishwashers since they are generally deeper than their European counterparts. So, if your heart is set on a GE or Whirlpool model, make sure to double check the product specs for depth.
Tip 2 - Avoid these three installation mistakes
In our experience, we have seen the following installation mistakes that lead to protruding appliances instead of sitting flush with cabinets.
- Installing an electric outlet directly behind the dishwasher. This is generally a bad idea as it prevents access to your power source, plus the space for an outlet and cord will make your dishwasher stick out many inches from the wall.
- Plumbing fixtures in the back of the dishwasher. Intake and drain hoses need to be leading to the adjacent cabinets, rather than accumulating at the back of the dishwasher.
- Leaving the coiled hoses hanging behind the dishwasher. Manufacturers generally don't want to have dangling parts and hoses when shipping their products so they tie them to the back of the dishwasher. During installation, these parts need to be untied.
Which features should I have in a new dishwasher?
If you are going to the trouble of installing a panel ready dishwasher to match your cabinetry, then you will also want to make sure you are getting the right features and functions to suit your needs. See our in-depth dishwasher buying guide, so you don't miss out on the features of modern dishwashers.
Panel ready models are slightly more expensive than budget dishwashers, but they aren't all created equal. Here are some things to look out for:
The good news is that most respectable brands only feature quiet dishwashers in today's market - gone are the days of having to put the cycle on just before you leave the house because you can't put up with the noise.
But how do you actually know if a dishwasher is quiet? We covered this subject with real life examples in our video below:
All dishwashers will feature their noise level rating in decibels (dB), and the lower the number, the quieter the machine is going to be. You'll find most modern dishwashers sitting somewhere between 38-51 dB, but we'd recommend getting something 45 dB and under if you can.
Why? If you can imagine that the sound of a quiet library is around 40 dB, regular conversation is 50 dB and restaurant chatter is 60 dB. You want to be able to stay with a dishwasher noise level that is not going to be disturbing while you visit with family or watch a movie.
Cleaning and Drying Performance
A dishwasher without good cleaning performance is basically a waste of time, so it's good to see manufacturers introducing different wash cycles for different soil types. With the addition of extra pressure jets and spray arms in many brands, having fully clean dishes each and every cycle is guaranteed.
When it comes to drying, you'll see differences depending on whether the brand is European or American. While US manufacturers continue to prefer the old style bottom heating element for drying, prestigious European brands use the energy-saving condensation drying method in a stainless-steel tub and it works wonders.
Since the heating element method can cause plastics to melt, we recommend choosing models with the condensation drying method for gentle and energy efficient drying performance. It is good to know that most models released in recent years do feature condensation drying.
Notable technologies and features
Developing new technologies to improve the performance and usability of their dishwashers is a high priority for manufacturers. Here are some important features to consider when investing in a new panel ready dishwasher:
Water softener: If you live in an area with hard water, it may be common for you to see watermarks on your glassware after a cycle. To combat this, some dishwashers have a water softener which releases salt to break down the calcium deposits. This is a superb feature that not only means your glasses come out streak-free, but it also protects the life of your machine.
Auto Open Door for better drying: Almost all Miele dishwashers and some high-end Samsung models feature an auto-open door, and it will be interesting to see what other brands follow suit.
This feature means that the door automatically opens ajar at the end of a cycle to release any excess humidity. Not only does this help the drying process, but it cools down your dishes and prevents musty smells.
3rd Rack for Silverware: Many modern models are including a 3rd rack at the top of the dishwasher ideal for cutlery and small items such as espresso cups. This frees up space in the lower rack for pots and pans, and often they are height adjustable to allow for tall glasses in the upper rack. You can also find V-shaped 3rd racks for additional space in the middle area.
3 Best Panel Ready Dishwashers
The best panel dishwasher in terms of price, functionality, features, and quietness, is the Bosch 800 Series SHV878ZD3N. For under $1,099 you can install this machine flush with your cabinets and really appreciate the 42 dB noise rating.
In terms of features, you have a flexible 3rd rack that adds 30% more loading capacity, an Extra Scrub cycle, and a Sanitize cycle for getting rid of nasty bacteria. One excellent feature that you'll find extremely beneficial is the InfoLight Beam, which shines a light on to the floor while the dishwasher is in use so that you know it hasn't finished its cycle yet.
Bosch incorportated its latest technology, CrystalDry, in this dishwasher, so you can get the best drying action in the market.
For $1,699 depending on seasonal promotions, you can get your hands on this delightful machine from Miele. Miele excels when it comes to dishwasher innovation, and you'll certainly enjoy features such as SensorDry, Perfect GlassCare, and Intense Quick Wash. While it's not the quietest model around at 45 dB, it does offer a lot of flexibility in terms of washing and drying cycles.
It's hard to believe you can get a dishwasher this quiet at a price of $1,199 if you factor in promotions. With only 40 dB, this model has a super silent operation and you also get the MyWay Rack for fitting larger and deeper items.
SHVM88Z73N allows you great flexibility when it comes to loading your dishwasher due to the RackMatic system that offers nine different rack positions. This becomes handy when you need to negotiate loading odd size or large items while still making room for your regular dishes.
The amazing CrystalDry feature will get you bone-dry dishes without adding up to your energy bill or melting your plastics. This is the key upgrade feature over the discontinued SHVM98W73N which was the best selling predecessor model number.
Models Worthwhile to mention
Bosch 300 Series SHV863WD3N
For around $800, this Bosch model offers RackMatic and Flex Space Tines for ultimate loading flexibility. It has a reasonable noise rating of 44 dB and includes a Speed60 wash cycle for clean and dry dishes in under an hour.
Miele Classic Series G4998SCVI
This energy star rated dishwasher gives you a flexible interior, 3D cutlery tray, and an Express Cycle.
Fisher Paykel Double Drawer Dishwasher DD24DHTI9N
If you prefer to have two dish drawers and were wondering if it was possible with panel ready, Fisher Paykel have this energy star model for around $1500. It includes a water softener, 15 wash programs, and a knock-to-pause feature in case you want to add more dishes after a cycle has started.
Miele G 6987 SCVi K2O
This Knock-to-Open model from Miele is available for $2899, and includes the auto-open door feature and LED interior lights.
Miele G 6935 SCi Diamond
For $2,699 you can get your hands on this 39 dB super silent dishwasher, which can give perfect cleaning results in less than an hour and takes special care of wine glasses.
Special application dishwashers
Single Drawer Dishwasher
If all you need is a single dish drawer then you will be pleased to know that the Fisher Paykel Single Drawer Dishwasher DD24SI9N comes panel ready for seamless installation. With capacity for 7 place settings, this 44 dB model certainly is spacious for its size and you get the fantastic Knock-to-Pause feature.
Not everyone has a 24" space for a standard-width dishwasher, so you will find that some brands have an 18" model for smaller kitchens. While they are often noisier than the 24" dishwashers and have less capacity, they still come with regular wash cycles and options that will be enough to satisfy most households. One model to note is the Bosch SPV68U53UC, which features RackMatic, leak protection, and an InfoLight for just $939.
ADA Compliant Dishwashers
Bosch SGV68U53UC is rated as the top quality panel ready, ADA compliant dishwasher in the market. Although ADA implies "Americans with Disabilities Act", the use of this term in the dishwasher world has more to do with the height of the dishwasher.
If your kitchen has new floors and the contractor did not take the time to remove the dishwasher to make everything level, chances are you are going to need a shorter height (hence the ADA) to be able to replace the old clunker. More in-depth review of ADA compliant dishwashers can be found on our earlier blog post.
Can I buy a stainless dishwasher now and change it later to panel ready? I am not ready to renovate my kitchen just yet.
The quick answer is no, as purchasing a stainless steel dishwasher does not mean you will be able to remove the panel in the future. But, fortunately there is a solution. What some people do is purchase a panel ready dishwasher with a matching stainless steel panel from the same manufacturer. When the time comes to renovate your kitchen, you can ditch the stainless steel panel and replace with your panel of choice.
Will my dishwasher stick out of cabinets?
As we talked about earlier, you should make sure the depth of the panel ready dishwasher is the appropriate depth and nothing is obstructing the space behind the dishwasher during installation.
Will there be a gap on the sides of my dishwasher?
Some 2017 and 2018 Blomberg dishwashers, as well as some Chinese made models have a noticeable gap on each side - visible when the door is open. We consider this as a design flaw and suggest you stick with European dishwasher leaders such as Bosch and Miele for panel ready installations.
How do I maintain my dishwasher?
Your dishwasher will alert you for basic maintenance issues like cleaning the filter under running water and other basic tasks. It is also good practice to use a vinegar/baking soda solution or a supermarket variety cleaner such as Glisten inside your dishwasher every 4 weeks. Good to know: Most Miele dishwashers come with a deep clean cycle, and they also sell their own dishwasher conditioner for deep cleaning.
Why are dishwasher cycles so long these days? Are there express cycles?
Modern dishwashers have longer cycles because the Energy Star program requires them to use less energy and water. In addition, the US government has followed in Europe's footstep and recently banned the use of phosphates in soap. This has unfortunately added to longer clean cycles. The good news is though, if you are in a rush and want to override the dishwasher defaults, you can always use the express cycle to speed up the cleaning process.
Do Bosch panel ready dishwashers have different depths? Each brand has there own offerings when it comes to depth. Bosch panel ready dishwashers are generally at 23 1/16". However, a deeper dive to say Bosch Benchmark series reveal differences such as SHV89PW53N with 23 ¾" depth, the SHV88PZ63N at 21 5/8" and the SHV88PZ53N at 23 1/16". This quick analysis further reinforces that one should check out the specifications of the intended dishwasher in detail to properly guide contractors and cabinet makers down-stream.
What is a panel ready appliance?
Panel ready means that you have an unfinished front of your appliance such as a refrigerator. Obviously, your fridge will have a door. However, instead of a stainless steel finish you will get the ability to attach a wood panel on the door. You can also choose a suitable handle that matches rest of your hardware in the kitchen. Panel ready appliances are popular in many kitchens and among many designers as they allow for a uniform and integrated look.
Have a question?
At Designer Appliances, we can understand if you need some help in choosing a new panel ready dishwasher. You'll want to make sure you have exactly the right size, and that installation is a breeze. Our team of appliance experts are ready to help you in our New Jersey showroom or feel free to contact us online and we'll happily answer any questions you may have about particular models - and the best thing is, we deliver and install!
In case you are interested in a new dishwasher, check out our recent comprehensive buying guide for dishwashers which we keep updated with latest models and features.
See what other Designer Appliances readers are saying.