If you've spent years washing your family's dishes by hand, you may be ecstatic at the thought of finally installing a dishwasher in your kitchen. While the prospect of tearing out a cabinet and sliding in a dishwasher may seem within reach, rerouting the electrical outlets necessary to support a high-powered appliance can be more daunting. Should you hire an electrician to perform this work or see if you can tackle it yourself? Read on to learn more about the electrical requirements for most household dishwashers as well as what it may take to get your kitchen dishwasher ready.
What type of electrical outlet do dishwashers need?
Dishwashers require a 120-volt outlet in order to operate properly—plugging a dishwasher into an outlet that doesn't allow as much flow of electricity will result in an underpowered performance (if the dishwasher even turns on at all). In some cases, the space where you're planning to place the dishwasher will be close enough to your refrigerator or oven to share wiring connected to a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI), helping minimize the risk of a sudden surge of electricity frying the electronic control panel on your washer.
In some cases, it may make more sense to hard-wire your dishwasher into the wall behind it; in other cases, you may simply be able to plug your dishwasher's cord into a pigtail (a short, one-ended extension cord) and plug it into a regular three-prong 120-volt outlet. Either option should be able to provide an adequate supply of electricity to your dishwasher as long as you're using a dedicated 120-volt outlet (meaning you're not also running a microwave or toaster oven from the same outlet).
You'll also want to ensure your dishwasher is close enough to your sink to make the requisite water and drainage connections. Every dishwasher needs a water source and a way to drain wastewater. Placing your dishwasher next to the sink can help you access the water supply and drainage lines easily without needing to run pipe across your kitchen or inside your cabinets. If you do find yourself needing to move these lines in order to get your dishwasher into an operable state, you'll want to enlist a contractor to help you decide the most efficient way to do this.
What are your options if your house isn't already wired for a dishwasher?
In many cases, installing an outlet where one did not exist is as simple as opening up a small section of drywall and screwing the positive and negative terminals into the right places, providing power to the outlet. This is especially true if you're planning to use the cord and pigtail method to keep your dishwasher running rather than hard-wiring it into the wall, although both can be accomplished with a minimum amount of effort. With a few minutes of work, you should be able to outfit your electrical outlets in a way that makes it easy and convenient to just slide a dishwasher right in. (You will need to keep in mind that if you hardwire your new dishwasher, it will remain attached to the wall by its wiring and could be difficult to pull out and sweep behind.)
However, if you don't have easy access to interior wires that will carry a 120-volt current, you may want to contact an electrician to provide you with some guidance. The electrician may be able to reroute certain wires through your walls or beneath your floor without making much of an impact, or they may instead need to replace damaged or outdated wires with newer and more durable ones.