What To Know When It’s Time To Replace The Garbage Disposal

It's time to replace the garbage disposal unit that came with the house. Should you go with the cheapest model, or just do without for awhile? More than a convenience, your disposal unit helps the environment. Here is some helpful information as you shop for a new garbage disposal.   

Why It Helps the Environment

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), nearly 20 percent of household waste is food scraps. If thrown out and taken to a landfill, the scraps decompose, creating greenhouse gases. Disposals grind up those scraps and deposit them in the municipal sewer system. The local waste treatment facility handles any organic matter that comes through to prevent the breakdown and production of greenhouse gases.

Types of Disposals

Since the invention of the home disposal unit in 1927, few changes to the basic design have been made. A set of spinning blades grind up the food scraps into tiny pieces that get flushed down the drain. Design differences are focused on safety and efficiency.

  • Standard disposal units - This is the garbage disposal you're likely most familiar with. You turn on the water in the sink, turn on the disposal and slowly push your food scraps down into the unit.
  • Batch disposal unit - This design uses a chamber into which you place the food scraps. When you close the lid to the chamber, the disposal starts and grinds up the food like the standard design. This is a good model if you're concerned about little hands and fingers getting into the unit while it's on.

Both designs come with motors of various horsepower. The higher the horsepower, the finer the food will be ground up and the less likely you'll clog up the unit or your drain. Larger units are also more expensive and noisier.

Safety Concerns

When you look at disposals at a plumbing supply shop, have the staff show you the latest safety features. These prevent damage to you and the unit.

  • Breaker switch - If the disposal has been running for a long time, the motor can overheat. It can also overheat if the blades jam on something tough and sinewy. At a certain temperature, the breaker switch goes off, stopping the unit. Once it has cooled off, you can press the reset button and use the disposal again.
  • Batch feed - As mentioned above, the batch feed unit uses a separate chamber to hold the scraps before grinding. Units are available with a magnetic door that turn off the motor whenever the door is opened.
  • Auto reverse - A few units have an auto-reverse feature. Should the blades hit something hard, like a large piece of bone or a spoon, the motor stops and reverses the blades slightly so you can remove the blockage.

Professional Installation is Required

You'll need one of the local plumbers to install the new unit for you. If you have a dishwasher, there will be several pipes going between the sink, dishwasher and disposal unit into the drain. Keeping the plumbing and electrical connections straight is best left to a licensed plumber.