Garbage disposals are a perfect example of how a simple idea can make a difference to our everyday chores. Any kitchen appliance that saves time, effort and waste gets a gold star in our book, and a garbage disposal certainly fits that bill. This clever device has been around since the 1920s and is now one of the most popular kitchen appliances found in homes all over the country. Anything that stands the test of time for over 90 years has earned undisputed status as a top-class gadget. Of course, design and technology has come a long way in that time and today we will focus on one of the newest styles of machine- the compact garbage disposal.
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What is a garbage disposal and how does it work?
Garbage disposal units are essentially shredders, but for food, installed underneath the kitchen sink and connected to your drainage and plumbing system. Their job is to grind and shred any food waste in the drain before it gets into your pipes to avoid your plumbing getting blocked. Plunging your sink to clear old scraps of food that are clogging the drain is not a pleasant task, and that is exactly why garbage disposals were created. The mechanism will chop down waste into pieces tiny enough to flow easily through your pipe system without getting stuck, which means you don’t need to worry about chunks of vegetable or potato peel, for example, if they get washed down. It also means throwing less food waste in the trash which will eventually end up in a landfill, instead it goes straight into the sewage system.
What are the disadvantages?
When used properly, garbage disposals are great kitchen appliances- but it’s important to know the potential drawbacks of having one installed before you commit to buying:
Not all waste can go in the disposal-
These machines are designed to be tough, but there are still some things you don’t want to find their way into the mechanism. Very hard waste like chicken bones or fruit pips should not be put in, no matter how small they are. Stringy foods like celery can tangle and stop the grinder from functioning until it is removed, and grease can build up inside the device, so don’t pour excess amounts of oil down there either. Sometimes other people trying to be helpful, or children who want to push the button will switch on the garbage disposal with unsuitable waste inside and it can end up damaged, so you need to keep an eye out.
They take up space-
If you don’t have a lot of storage in your kitchen, a disposal will take up valuable space below your sink where many people keep cleaning products, for example. Even compact garbage disposals will cut into the available space, so take that into consideration if storage space is precious.
Garbage disposals are loud, no two ways about it. Some of the higher end models have found ways to reduce the levels but generally speaking, these things are noisy when they are in action.
It means more complicated plumbing-
Some are easier than others to install, but the additional fixture will increase the complexity of your under-sink plumbing system and any repair it ever requires.
Not advised for septic systems-
If you have a septic tank, garbage disposals are not really recommended. There is debate in this area, however, so if you are still interested you should thoroughly research the point from both sides of the argument.
They can get pretty smelly-
If you don’t keep your garbage disposal clean, it will start to smell unpleasant. Old food residue left over time will give off a foul odor, which is something nobody wants in their kitchen.
How to keep your garbage disposal clean.
Keeping your machine clean is a must. I can not stress enough how important it is to properly maintain your garbage disposal, unless you want a smelly kitchen and a build up of germs and bacteria in your sink. Here are a few tips on how best to clean your machine:
1. Before you do anything, check (then check again!) that the power is turned OFF so the disposal won’t start up while you are cleaning it. I assure you; you don’t want that to happen as you could hurt yourself.
2. Start by cleaning around the outside and around the part of the machine that connects the garbage disposal to the sink. This is called the ‘baffle’ and can be easily cleaned with dish soap, warm water, and the rough side of the sponge.
3. Next, we clean the interior. Pour a good amount of baking soda into the drain (roughly half a cup) then slowly pour in an equal amount of vinegar (white vinegar is best). Once the vinegar is added you will see the mix starting to froth up, so have the drain cover ready to put on as soon as you finish pouring. Leave the drain for about half an hour then switch on the disposal and gently run hot water through it to rinse it out. This should totally clear and residue and leave the mechanism as good as new.
4. If there are any funky odors still hanging around, dilute one part bleach with two parts water and pour it down your drain. Another option, if you don’t want the smell of bleach, is to run some citrus peels through the disposal to release their fresh smelling oils into the mechanism and the air.
What is a compact garbage disposal and what benefits does it have?
The biggest drawback for many when it comes to having a garbage disposal installed is the space they take up. Standard disposals are relatively big, so they either consume almost all available under sink area leaving no space to store anything else, or they don’t fit in at all! The average garbage disposal is between 12 and 18 inches in height and requires an additional 6 to 12 inches of space below them for installation, meaning you need at least two to two and half feet of space to accommodate one. In a lot of kitchens, this is simply not possible. This is where compact garbage disposals come into play.
As the name would suggest, a compact disposal is a smaller version of the same appliance- we determine a garbage disposal to be ‘compact’ if the total height and space required is less than 13 inches.
They work in exactly the same way but take up less space which is a huge advantage for the many people looking for smart ways to maximize space usage. If you want to install a disposal in a condo, studio, or an apartment, where storage space is often a rare and valuable commodity, then a compact model is certainly the right choice to make. In modern kitchens, more and more people are installing deep sink basins. This is a hot ticket in new kitchen design trends, but it will make it a lot more difficult to find space for a garbage disposal. A lot of these basins are 10 inches deep (or more!) so a good chunk of space is already taken up, meaning a compact disposal will be the only option.
Luckily, opting for a smaller machine doesn’t mean compromising on quality. The constantly evolving world of design and technology means that even the smallest disposals can pack a serious punch with the power of their motor. Most good quality compact disposals come with top rate motors capable of delivering over 2500 RPM. You don’t necessarily need the most high-powered motor on the market- as long as your compact garbage disposal can successfully grind food residue and debris into chucks small enough to flow easily through an extended pipe, you should face no issues with blocked plumbing.
While there are homes out there who have space to spare and can easily accommodate a larger machine, the majority of houses can benefit from compact appliances, and even if your kitchen is large, a lot of people still value practicality and discreteness.
Things to consider before buying a compact garbage disposal
Size is not the only thing that matters when deciding what compact garbage disposal to buy. The range of quality, power, design and cost that comes with these machines can be intimidating, not to mention the various other functions and features that vary from model to model. In this buying guide we will talk about some of the most important aspects of a garbage disposal and the different individual qualities to look out for when you are searching for the right machine for you. By following the advice below, you will be better prepared and will have all the information you need to pick the perfect garbage disposal for your kitchen sink.
-How much do you think you will use it?
Before we get into the technical details, you have to ask yourself how often you are going to need the disposal and how much work you will be throwing its way. The reason why this matters is: the more features and higher quality the machine has, the more expensive it will be. If you rarely cook and don’t have much waste going down the drain, you don’t necessarily need to go for top of the range and some features may not be important to you. If, on the other hand, you are always busy in the kitchen and cook at home on a regular basis for a lot of people, many of the following points will be very important- none more so than the power.
-How much power do you need?
Garbage disposals are all pretty similar on the surface, but the big difference from model to model is the power and quality of the motor. There are two important factors when it comes to the motor: Revolutions Per Minute (RPM), and Horsepower (HP).
The RPM is basically the speed at which the motor operates. The higher the RPM, the quicker and more efficiently the debris is processed. Higher RPM means disposal can run safely at a higher speed and is less likely to jam.
Horsepower is the most important thing to look for in a motor. Just like a car, the higher the HP, the stronger and more powerful the machine, and for a compact garbage disposal the HP is what allows it to cruise through the job at hand as opposed to overloading and shutting down. The motors range from 0.3 HP up to 3 HP with the ideal level we are looking for sitting between 0.5 and 1.0 HP- strong enough to handle a decent load, but we do not need a woodchipper in our kitchen!
Anything under 0.5 HP is not going to be much use unless you are rarely going to use it and won’t be disposing of anything substantial. Models with 0.3 HP motors are a t the very bottom of the price range- good if you are on a tight budget, but the low cost will be reflected in the quality.
0.5- 0.75 HP is a good range to shop in for the average home with a normal amount of expected usage and are available for competitive prices between different brands. 0.5 is perfect for a smaller household with fewer people, although a 0.75 HP motor will bring that extra touch of durability and efficiency, especially if you regularly cook for more than four people.
Anything 1.0 HP or above falls into the category of ‘luxury premium’ rather than ‘necessity’, but you will certainly see the difference in quality. The higher the power, the less likely the grinder is to jam. Having a high powered motor isn’t a free pass to throw everything and anything into the disposal, but it will mean a much better chance of any accidental slip ups passing through without too much trouble.
-Do you want a one, two, or three stage grinder?
Another differing feature between models is the grinding process. The grinding stages are what break down the food so the more stages your device has, the smaller your food waste will be at the end of the process and the less likely it is to block your pipes. Most household compact garbage disposals use a one-stage grinder, which simply means the debris will only be processed once. This is enough in most cases, as long as you only put the right type of waste into the disposal. If something more robust gets in there, a chicken bone for example, a one-stage grinder will struggle to break it down and this will increase the risk of a blockage. One-stage grinders use a lot of water to help with the disposal process, but they are by far the most common and most affordable.
With a two-stage grinder, the first part of the process is the same but then the food is liquified in the second stage. This is great for thinner pipelines and will help with any stubborn debris that does not want to shred the first time around.
At the top of the pile, you have (you guessed it!) three-stage grinders. With this design, the risk of blocked plumbing is almost eliminated as the waste is processed once more after the liquifying stage, so even the toughest of food waste doesn’t stand much of a chance. This feature could be described as overkill for a normal family kitchen, especially when you consider the difference in price compared to one or two-stage models.
-Batch Feed vs Continuous Feed…
The ‘feed type’ refers to how you activate and use your garbage disposal and to how the inner mechanism runs. You are more than likely to end up choosing between ‘batch feed’ and ‘continuous feed’.
So, what is the difference? It’s simple- a continuous feed disposal will start working as soon as you switch it on and won’t stop until you switch it off, whereas a batch feed disposal needs to be pre-loaded with food waste before you turn it on and will stop running automatically when you remove the ‘cap’ to fill it up again with the next batch. If you cook a lot and often have large amounts of food waste, a continuous feed garbage disposal is probably the most convenient. A batch feed disposal might seem like unnecessary extra work, but if you don’t often have much for your grinder to dispose of it really doesn’t take much more effort than the continuous feed. A lot of people- particularly those with children- appreciate the added safety value of batch feed garbage disposals. It only runs when it has been filled and the cap is in place, so there is no risk of anyone sticking their fingers in when it’s unattended. Of course, if you use them properly and pay good attention, continuous feed disposals are also safe to use.
What material should you choose?
Most compact garbage disposals are made from either galvanized steel or stainless steel. Both are hardy materials, but we would always recommend buying a stainless steel model if at all possible. The reasoning behind this statement is that when cared for properly, stainless steel can last a lifetime, and is specifically designed and treated to resist rust. Galvanized steel does not have the same resistance and there is nothing you can do to prevent rust developing over time- so although they are usually less expensive upfront, you will end up needing to replace or repair it much sooner.
Think about the noise levels.
If you have ever accidentally hit the disposal switch instead of the light switch, I’m certain that once your heart beat returned to its normal pace, you vowed never to make the same mistake again. There is no escaping the fact that garbage disposals are loud, but some are less offensive to the ear than others. As it stands, a silent garbage disposal is certainly not available to us mere mortals, but that doesn’t mean yours needs to sound like a Harley Davidson just pulled into your kitchen every time you turn it on. The cheapest models will sound the worst, but even most mid-range machines have some sort of sound-limiting liner or muffler, so take the time to find one you find bearable enough to live with.
How easy is it to install?
While this is not one of the biggest priorities when choosing a compact garbage disposal, it’s still worth thinking about. Keen DIYers may want to look for a model they can install without professional assistance, in which case they should go for something along the lines of the Waste King with power cable. This type of model just needs to be mounted beneath the sink and plugged in, as opposed to some more complicated models which require a decent understanding of electrical installation. If the garbage disposal comes with a universal mounting bracket, they tend to be quicker and easier to install.
Check the warranty.
Finally, after deciding on everything else, you should check the warranty agreement conditions. Regardless of how impressive the quality of your chosen compact garbage disposal may be, nothing is infallible, and things can unexpectedly go wrong. Even if you never end up needing it, the peace of mind that comes with knowing you are covered should you require it is essential. The reputable brands out there will offer decent warranty agreements, but never just assume all is well without reading through it first. The length of time the warranty is valid for as well as the circumstances included in the cover are important to know in case anything crops up in the future.
How Long Does a Typical Garbage Disposal Last?
In most cases, garbage disposals have an 8 to 10 year life span and shouldn’t need to be replaced before then if you treat it properly. Machines at the highest end of the quality scale of course will last the longest and the more basic inexpensive models may not make it to the eight year mark, but the price range the average household will be buying in can expect roughly this time frame. Clean it regularly and keep up a good general maintenance routine and don’t try to dispose of things that the internal mechanisms are not designed to cope with. The more stress you put the grinder through, the sooner it will likely jam and lead to vital components breaking down. After 10 years, if your compact garbage disposal still hasn’t needed replacing, it’s probably time you think about swapping it out. If it’s a high quality machine and you have taken good care of it over the years then it can last a little longer, but the chances are you will notice more clogging and a deterioration in the quality of the job. Having to repeatedly solve these issues defeats the whole purpose of the time saving device and will end up costing more time and money than it’s worth. Swap it out for a new one and enjoy another ten years of easy food waste disposal.
What can I do to make sure my garbage disposal unit will last longer?
One of the most important things you can do to ensure your garbage disposal will last as long as possible is to buy a good quality machine to begin with that is appropriate for the amount you will be using it. You don’t need to spend a fortune to get a model that can last for 10 years, but you do need to ‘shop smart’ based on your household’s needs. Choosing the right feed system for the usage as well as the right amount of grinding stages will avoid overloading your machine with more work than it can handle, wearing it out before it’s time.
Buying a model built with stainless steel will also make a big difference. Other than that, treat the machine well, clean it properly, and do not abuse the grinder.
Will my plumbing be able to handle a garbage disposal unit??
The purpose of a garbage disposal is to grind down food to avoid your plumping becoming clogged, so if used properly and in accordance with the machine’s specifications, your plumbing should be fine. The problem people face comes with build up of grease and large amounts of waste (which plumbing is not designed for), but this happens when the machines are being overused or used to dispose of items on the ‘DON’T’ list. Follow the rules and your pipes will be fine.
Should I get a plumber to replace my garbage disposal?
This is dependent firstly on the type of model you have, and secondly on the reason you are replacing it. If you are just swapping it out for a new one and you have an easy installation model and have confidence in your DIY skills then no, you don’t necessarily need a plumber. You should, however, call in a professional if you are facing problems with the disposal unit. If the machine is jammed, having trouble draining, has started leaking and has just completely stopped working, a plumber will be able to figure out the problem and either fix it, or replace it safely. You should also have someone on hand with electrical expertise if you have a more complicated model installed.
How do I know the correct size of the garbage disposal unit to buy?
The first thing you should do is measure the space beneath your kitchen sink where the unit will be installed. These measurements will give you everything you need to determine the best size of garbage disposal for you. There are guidelines available for the space to unit size ratio to make it easier. Don’t forget to allow space for additional piping, but the guidelines will already have taken this into account and factored it into their recommendations.
The most important thing to remember when looking for a garbage disposal is: it is not an even playing field out there, and it is certainly not a case of ‘one size fits all’. Installing the right machine that is compatible with your space and your requirements will mean the best part of a decade of easy clean up and minimal waste, but hastily choosing a machine that is wrong for you will only mean additional mess and hassle- so take your time! We have discussed all the key elements of a garbage disposal and what makes them tick, so don’t forget to focus on the power of the motor and the amount of usage the unit is suited for as well as the warranty terms and conditions, and then the other details will fall more easily into place.
There are plenty of excellent compact garbage disposals out there that pack a punch with their Horsepower and RPM while managing to fit discreetly into even the smallest kitchens. Most leading brands offer machines at various price points to suit a range of budgets but remember, don’t compromise too much on quality or you may pay more for it further down the line. Balance the pros and cons of each machine and balance it out with a price tag you are comfortable with and you will be well on your way to the ideal compact garbage disposal working away happily in your home.
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