How to Choose a Garbage Disposal

A garbage disposal (also known as a disposer) is an excellent addition to any kitchen. This appliance saves labor expenses by swiftly eliminating difficult-to-dispose-of material, saving money on waste collection fees.

Choosing the finest trash disposal for your home or business may appear to be difficult. Still, it is easy if you follow the suggestions in this garbage disposal buying guide.

How Can I Choose the Right Garbage Disposal for My Kitchen?

Whether you’ve opted to enhance your kitchen sink with a garbage disposal or replace an old one, the variety of models and features to consider might be overwhelming. Grind power, size, and how it operates are all factors to consider. Continue reading to discover more about the garbage disposal options and how to choose the best one for you.

Things To Consider When Choosing A Garbage Disposal

  • Type
  • The size of your kitchen
  • Size
  • Grind/Horsepower power 
  • Noise level

Type of Garbage Disposal

There are two types of garbage disposal available.

1. Continuous Feed Garbage Disposals

Continuous Feed Garbage Disposals
Continuous Feed Garbage Disposal

Continuous-feed garbage disposals are the most common type used in residential kitchens. As the name suggests, users can feed waste down the disposal continuously rather than only adding small quantities at a time. As long as the switch is on, it grinds waste.

A continuous feed model turns on with the flick of a switch and runs until it is turned off. You can add food waste while the disposal is running. Some models offer auto-reverse functions, advanced grinding features, and special circuitry to help eliminate jams. Some units also come with splash guards to help prevent items from splashing out while adding food waste to running disposal. 

With a continuous-feed garbage disposal, you can continuously add waste as you move along in meal prep or cleanup. Leave the switch on to grind waste as you go or only turn it on when needed.

You do, however, need to run cold water while the garbage disposal is running. If you leave it on continuously, there is a potential for wasting more water and electricity.

Because continuous-feed garbage disposals are more popular, they are typically cheaper than batch-feed models, and you will have a variety of models to choose from.

The main drawback of continuous-feed garbage disposals is safety. The motor runs until the switch is turned off, which raises the potential for accidents. Serious injuries are likely if someone sticks their hand down the drain as the disposal runs. Also, if other non-food items such as silverware slip down the drain, your disposal may suffer damage.

You can learn more about the features of a continuous feed garbage disposal from our article: What is a Continuous Feed Garbage Disposal?

2. Batch Feed Garbage Disposals

Batch Feed Garbage Disposal

A switch does not operate batch feed garbage disposals. They are activated once the sink stopper is put in place. To use: put your food items down the drain, then place the drain cover over the opening to initiate grinding.

These models operate in batches and run only when a stopper is placed over the disposal opening, turning it on. They must be used with a stopper and are better for households with exuberant, exploring children. The stopper prevents items from accidentally falling into the machine. 

You must put the food waste into a batch feed disposal and put the stopper in place before turning it on. The construction of these units is more intricate than continuous feed, and you do not need to install a switch or button to operate them.

The main benefits of batch feed garbage disposals are safety and conservation. With a batch feed model, the potential for accidents is nearly nonexistent, making them a great choice for homes with children. The machine and water do not continuously run, which conserves electricity and water.

Because batch-feed garbage disposals aren’t as popular as continuous-feed models, they are usually more expensive. There are also fewer options when it comes to different models to choose from.

Grind Power/Horsepower and Size

The size of the unit depends on the horsepower you buy. The amount of power you need should be based on how much cooking you do and how large a family you have. The dimensions of units vary. On average, garbage disposals are 10 to 15 inches high, 5 to 9 inches wide, and 6 to 13 inches deep.

Motor sizes are measured in terms of horsepower (HP). Disposals offer various ratings for motors, most commonly ranging from 1/3 HP to 1 HP. You’ll find some with as much as 10 HP, but that is overkill for residential applications. The average motor size is 1/2 HP. 

If you’re wondering what size garbage disposal you need, you’re probably safe going with 1/2 HP, but the stronger the motor, the less likely a jam will occur. Spend a little more on a 3/4 HP or 1 HP motor and reduce the risk of jamming.

1/3 Horsepower

The lowest horsepower garbage disposals available are 1/3 hp. Although they may seem like a great economical option, their utility level is limited. These appliances get easily jammed and usually have the cheapest internal components, which quickly rust. You should only consider this option for very limited or temporary use, such as in a vacation home used infrequently. 

1/2 Horsepower

A 1/2 horsepower model is the minimum horsepower recommended for typical home use. These appliances are smaller than 3/4-hp and 1-hp units, making them suitable for tight spaces. A 1/2-hp disposal is a great option if you don’t use the disposal all the time and can be careful not to overfeed the appliance.

Whenever possible, opt for a 1/2 horsepower garbage disposer with stainless steel grinding components, which will make it last much longer. The noise level tends to be relatively high for these disposals. Also, running a lot of water with these units is essential to help all of the food waste pass through.

3/4horsepower

A 3/4-horsepower unit is an ideal size that will serve most kitchens quite well. A 3/4-hp unit should work well for a three to five-person family. At this size, a garbage disposal has plenty of power for all those leftovers and more. Most, like the InSinkErator Compact, can even grind problematic waste such as potato peels and celery with no problem.

With this much horsepower, the disposal is not likely to jam, and many more features can be available. Stainless steel grinding components, for instance, offer a much longer life, so look for that whenever possible.

Most disposals at this size will have more sound protection to run quieter than 1/2 horsepower units. However, one thing to keep in mind is that these appliances are physically larger than the 1/2 horsepower units, so make sure you have the room to install one under your kitchen sink. 

1 Horsepower

1-hp disposal will do the trick if you need to grind chicken bones, fruit rinds, and coffee grounds. Most of the 1 horsepower models are the top of the line. Better insulation makes them quieter than even the 3/4 horsepower models. All disposals at this level should have complete stainless steel in the grinding chamber, have a capacity for more waste in the chamber, and be virtually impossible to jam.

These appliances can be quite large, and you will need quite a bit of space under the sink. But these are great units, and if you have the room and the money, a 1 horsepower garbage disposal can be well worth it.

Above 1 Horsepower

Garbage disposals in the 2 hp to 3 hp range are used in commercial kitchens. You can get a 1 1/4 to 2 hp garbage disposal for families with eight people or more. As you add horsepower, the price jumps commensurately, and so does the energy consumption.

To better understand your garbage disposal horsepower, check How Many AMPS Does a Garbage Disposal Use?

SizesDimensionsWeightMaximum number
of people 
1/3 HP‎‎6.34 x 6.34 x 14.76 inches13 pounds2
1/2 HP7.75 x 7.75 x 13.75 inches‎13.73 pounds 3
3/4 HP‎9.69 x 9.69 x 14.88 inches‎18.86 pounds 5
1 HP‎13 x 12 x 12 inches‎20 pounds 7

Noise Level

One distinct difference between garbage disposals is the manufacturers’ sound-deadening features. If you are bothered by a disposal’s noise, look for features like nylon-coated grinding parts, insulated mounting baffles, and other sound-deadening technology.

Sink garbage disposals are known for being noisy, but modern disposals have come a long way in noise reduction. Many high-end garbage disposals have noise-dampening materials that significantly reduce the rumble that usually accompanies a disposal.

If you want 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.

Of course, the garbage disposal is going to make noise. However, better quality (and more expensive) units tend to have better insulated grinding chambers, so there’s a marked difference in the noise level.

Similarly, some models offer additional features such as sound baffles (to lower the decibel level of the unit), anti-splash baffles (to keep your sink cleaner), and corrosion protection shields.

The Size of Your Kitchen

A garbage disposal is used in kitchen sinks to process food waste. They are housed in the cabinet under the sink, connected between the drain and the trap. All garbage disposals are made to fit all kitchen sinks since they all have standard drain hole sizes of 3.5 to 4 inches.

You need to purchase a unit that will be adequate for your household needs but avoids expensive overkill.

SEE: InSinkErator Review and Comparison

How Long Do Garbage Disposals Last?

Typically, your garbage disposal will last you about 10 to 15 years, but remember, that will depend on a few factors. Did you go cheap on your purchase? High-quality disposal will last longer.

How well have you treated your disposal? Have you been careful about what you put in it? Do you run it properly with cold water? Take care of your appliances and they will last longer.

Other Tips/ Features To Look Out For

1. Make sure the model you choose is compatible with your plumbing, dishwasher setup, sewage/septic system, and local codes.

2. Larger units require more running water and energy. 

3. Just because you have a disposal doesn’t mean you can’t compost. Even if you take your vegetable and fruit scraps out to your pile, you’ll still have plenty of non-compostables to feed your beast. For example, meat and fish scraps are best tossed in the disposal because they’ll attract vermin to your pile. And citrus rinds don’t break down easily.

4. An auto-reverse is a great feature to have on a garbage disposal. It protects against jams when it automatically reverses motor rotation if waste becomes stuck in the chamber. This feature protects against breakdowns and damage.

5. Go for disposals with a stainless steel chamber. 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.

6. Go for disposals with a cost-effective warranty. The typical garbage disposal lasts for 8 to 15 years. Most warranties range from one to 10 years. If you pay more for a garbage disposal, it usually comes with a longer warranty.

There is little mechanical difference between low-end and high-priced disposals of the same horsepower. The average garbage disposal outlives its warranty, so you shouldn’t need to spend extra on a unit with a longer warranty. In general, these appliances are not that expensive to eventually replace.

7. Cheaper garbage disposals come without a power cord. There’s nothing wrong with this, but be aware that you’ll need to buy a power cord.

8. Cost is another factor to consider. On the low end, you can buy a garbage disposal for under $100 for a family of two, but if you have a large family or cook a lot, you might want to spend $200 to $300 for a 1-horsepower unit with some unique features.

Your average cost will shoot up if you choose to get a batch feed over a continuous feed model. Depending on the brand, the price might double for a unit with the same horsepower.

9. When deciding on the type to buy, evaluate how often you cook and how much food waste you generate. Also, a batch feed unit might be your safest option if you have little ones to think about.

10. Chambers in disposals with more HP will be larger since their motors can handle more food. And chambers and blades made of stainless steel will last longer, be more efficient, be the easiest to clean, and won’t rust.

11. If your home has a septic system, consider buying a garbage disposal with an enzyme reservoir to help break down the food scraps.

12. When buying a garbage disposal online, check the return policies. If you order the wrong size, check to see if you will be charged for the return. One of the biggest mistakes people make is ordering a unit without measuring the cabinet space underneath the sink. Check your under-sink measurements and match them to the model dimensions before buying.

13. Consider the ease of installation. Garbage disposal installation is straightforward, especially when replacing an old unit. If the wiring and connections already exist, follow the steps in the instructions. It is vital to hire a plumber, electrician, or professional to install a garbage disposal on a sink that needs electrical wiring and a switch installation.

14. The higher the horsepower, the better the disposal will operate when it comes to garbage disposals. You can expect fewer jams, finer pulverization of food waste, and fewer clogged drains.

However, higher horsepower usually means it takes up more space. So, make sure you have sufficient under-sink space for it. For most average-sized families, a 3/4 to 1 hp unit works fine.

15. For the best prices and greater selection, look online for your next garbage disposal. Consider the features you need, the size you can fit, and the power that will serve your household best.

Bottom Line

To ensure you buy the brand that offers value for your money, you can check our comparison of Waste King vs Insinkerator and Moen vs Insinkerator.

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