How to Choose a Garbage Disposal
It’s hard to imagine getting by without a
garbage disposal nowadays. Garbage disposals (sometimes called garbage
disposers, depending on where you live) are strictly essential, but they save
you quite a bit of dirty work and make cleaning dishes a lot more pleasant than
it would otherwise be. If you’re building a new home, replacing a broken
garbage disposal or simply want to upgrade your garbage disposal, you’ll want
to know the different options that are available in today’s garbage disposals
before you make your choice. Keep reading for some information on the options
that are available and how you can choose a garbage disposal that works for
Weigh the differences between types of
Garbage disposals come in two different
basic designs: continuous feed garbage disposals and batch feed garbage
disposals. Continuous feed disposals run as long as the switch is flipped, so
you can funnel food into the disposal while it’s still on. Batch feed disposals
only turn on when you put the disposal cover in place, so you run the disposal
one batch at a time. Continuous feed sink disposals are the most common kind of
disposal since they are convenient and relatively inexpensive. However, some
people prefer batch feed sink disposals since they won’t turn on unless the
cover is on, eliminating the risk of injury or flying particles.
Choose the level of horsepower you want for
your garbage disposal.
The biggest difference between the least
expensive and most expensive garbage disposal is horsepower. The most basic
garbage disposals have as low as 1/4 horsepower motors, and the most powerful
disposals have 1 horsepower motors; however, that doesn’t necessarily mean that
the 1 horsepower models are the best garbage disposals available. If your
household has few members and you don’t work your disposal very hard, then you
can probably get away with a 1/4 horsepower or 1/3 horsepower model. Of course,
if you want to be able to grind chicken bones and you have a larger family, a 1
horsepower garbage disposal may be a wise choice.
Consider how noisy you want your garbage
disposal to be.
Sink garbage disposals are known for being
noisy, but modern disposals have come a long way in terms of noise reduction.
Many of the high-end sink garbage disposals have noise-dampening materials that
significantly reduce the rumble that usually accompanies operating a disposal.
If you want a quiet garbage disposal, you will have to pay extra. If noise is a
key factor, look around for quiet garbage disposals. If saving money is more
important, you can find plenty of garbage disposals that do a great, loud job
Decide whether you want a garbage disposal
with stainless steel parts.
A garbage disposal repair often comes up
when some piece or another inside the disposal becomes corroded after years of
exposure to water and food. Garbage disposals made with stainless steel
components can help you avoid these kinds of repairs. Since stainless steel
resists corrosion, garbage disposals made with stainless steel grinders can
last significantly longer than disposals made with other materials.
Garbage Disposal Buying Guide
Garbage disposals do double duty, meeting
the often competing demands of convenience and conservation. They pulverize
leftovers and other food waste—from peach pits to corn cobs to fish bones—so
you can send them down the drain instead of hauling them into the trash,
reducing waste and odors, and the critters they can attract.
Apart from convenience, washing food waste
down the drain also means it doesn’t end up in landfills, where it can emit
harmful greenhouse gases as it slowly breaks down. Instead, food waste ends up
at a wastewater treatment plant (unless you have a septic system), where, when
processed the right way, it’s even more environmentally friendly than
How We Test Garbage Disposals
Consumer Reports tests garbage disposals on
a number of factors. For our speed test, we grind pieces of beef rib bones for
1 minute with cold running water, then measure how much food is left in the
disposal. The more food that’s left, the longer it takes to grind and the lower
To see how well the disposals grind food,
we toss a mix of bones and raw vegetable scraps into each model and run the
resulting fragments through four different-sized sieves to gauge fineness. A
garbage disposal that garners an Excellent rating turns out food particles fine
enough to slip through most of the sieves. If bigger bits are left over,
there’s a greater chance the kitchen sink drain will clog—and that model will
receive a lower score in this test.
Are my pipes up to the task? Food debris
might not present a problem in a newer home with slippery plastic drainpipes,
but clog risks go up substantially if you have rugged old cast-iron drainpipes.
Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) piping became more commonplace in homes built after
the mid-1970s. One general rule of thumb: If your pipes already clog fairly
often, a disposal might not be for you.
How to Select a Garbage Disposal
To many of us, the garbage disposal is one
of the best kitchen appliances. It not only saves you from having to scrape off
every bit of food from each and every dish, but it also lets you do the dishes
without worrying about small pieces of food clogging your sink drain.
Garbage disposals are pretty simple devices
so you don’t have to spend a lot of time narrowing down what you want. You can
quickly select the feed type, motor size, and a few other features that fit
your use and your budget. You also don’t have to spend a lot to get solid
performance, but it’s a good idea to buy a quality product ad to keep the
disposal clean. Better disposers are more effective and last longer than
cheaper models, which means you won’t have the expense and effort of replacing
it as soon.
Components of Design
Invented in 1927 by John Hammes, the
garbage disposal hasn’t changed much over the years. A classic version is
little more than a plastic housing containing a motor connected to a metal
grinding plate with two “teeth” (called impellers) that help break down the
food waste. The plate is surrounded by a perforated metal ring called the
grinding ring. As the waste is ground up, water flushes the particles through
holes in the grinding ring, out through the discharge opening of the housing,
and into the drain pipe. The impellers help the grinding process, but they
aren’t sharp and they don’t cut up food as a blender does; rather, they and the
spinning plate force the food against the grinding ring, which is stationary
and has a textured surface that breaks down the material.
Disposals come in two basic types:
continuous feed and batch feed. Continuous feed disposals are the most common
and generally the easiest to use. They are the open-mouth disposals that turn
on and off with a wall switch. Batch feed disposals require you to fit a
stopper lid into the mouth of the disposal to activate the unit. This makes it
impossible to turn on the disposal while your hand is fishing down inside the
unit. It also helps prevent accidental mishaps like turning on the disposal
just as a fork is slipping into its mouth. Batch feed disposals can be more
expensive than continuous feed and generally are less commonly available.
The motor size of a disposal is rated in
horsepower (HP). Standard sizes include 1/3 HP, 1/2 HP, 3/4 HP, and 1 HP. For
most households, 1/2 HP is plenty of power, but paying a bit more for a 3/4 to
1 HP motor can mean fewer jams and smoother operation, especially if you tend
to be hard on your disposal. If you don’t want to worry about what goes into
the disposal, lean toward a larger motor.
Garbage Disposal Buying Guide
Garbage disposals—sometimes called garbage
disposers—are a cook’s best friend, grinding up and washing away kitchen refuse
with the touch of a switch. If you are in the market for a new garbage
disposal, this garbage disposal buying guide will show you that choosing one is
a very simple process because your choices are limited
From an environmental point of view,
garbage disposals have pluses and minuses. They help minimize the amount of
garbage that is delivered to landfills, but, in doing so, they require using
significantly more water and energy, and they can strain septic systems and
sewage treatment facilities. A good compromise is to compost food scraps
whenever possible and use a disposer when not.
All garbage disposals sold in the United
States are made by only a few companies, though they are branded with several
names. InSinkErator makes eight out of 10 of them, with consumer ratings
favoring the Waste King and Kenmore models in their group
Disposal Grinding Power
Power, for example, makes a big difference
both in performance and durability. At the low end, you can buy 1/3-horsepower
units, but we recommend that you spend a little more to get a lot more.
Disposal Connections and Switches
Most garbage disposals interlock at the
bottom of a sink’s standard drain outlet and are designed for easy connection.
Various adapters and connection kits are available. They must be hard-wired or
plugged into to a 120-volt receptacle with a 3- to 6-foot power cord that
sometimes must be ordered separately. And they are connected to a drain pipe.
Tips for Choosing a Garbage Disposal
There’s no doubt that it’s very useful to
have a garbage disposal in your kitchen. However, you need to be sure that you
choose the right garbage disposal for your own specific requirements. When you
look for a garbage disposal, you will find that there are many models
available. Finding the right garbage disposal is quite easy once you know a
little bit about them.
The first thing to determine is whether
local regulations allow you to actually have a garbage disposal. If you’re
simply replacing an old model, this is unimportant. However, if you’re putting
in a brand new unit where you haven’t had a garbage disposal before, remember
to check beforehand. Not all areas allow for the installation of garbage
disposals because of the increased strain they place on sewer lines.
Will your plumbing handle a garbage
disposal? Not all existing plumbing will so take the time to check first. It’s
also important to check your fixtures to discover what types of garbage
disposal will be compatible with your current plumbing and sewer system.
Many small garbage disposals come with a
motor that’s just 1/3 horsepower. While that may be fine if you’re a single
person in an apartment, you need something more powerful for a family home
where the garbage disposal will be used more. You should ideally look for a
unit that has a 1/2 horsepower motor. With a big house and plenty of people,
you might even want a 1 horsepower motor on your garbage disposal.
Look for a garbage disposal with stainless
steel blades. These are harder and sharper and will not only last longer, but
will grind up the food more finely so you won’t have to deal with clogs in the
pipes. Cheaper units will use far less stainless steel in their construction
and are likely to wear out sooner. Bear this in mind as you check out units.