Disposals: Not the Same Old Grind

Posted by Woodrow Aames ~ September 18, 2009

Renovating your kitchen and adding a sink? Perhaps it's time to consider the latest options in garbage disposals. While only a few manufacturers actually make disposals and issue them to resellers, there are more choices than ever before.

If you've ever found yourself (I have) using a broom handle to dislodge frozen chopping blades in your kitchen disposal, there are new units that have reversible blades. And while most disposals run on a third-horsepower, you can purchase models that rev up to a full horsepower in operation. That's like Tim Allen attaching a corvette engine to a disposal to convert it into a wood chipper.

About Disposal Options The invention of the first kitchen disposal in 1927 is credited to Wisconsin architect John W. Hammes, the man who went on to found one of the today's largest manufacturers, InSinkErator. Since then, kitchen garbage disposals have been segmented into three major categories: Continuous-feed, Cover-control (or batch-feed), and Septic-tank disposals.

The Continuous-feed disposal is the most-common unit found in homes and apartments. You flip a switch on the kitchen wall and the unit fires up. It keeps running until you switch it off.

The Cover-control model consists of an open mouth and stopper-cover. You push scraps and waste into the unit and then insert the stopper. The cover fires up the unit, and it runs until you remove the stopper.

The Septic-tank disposal works just like the Continuous-feed model, except that it contains a bio-charge cartridge that further breaks down waste before it feeds out into your plumbing. Cartridges must be changed several times a year.

New Ideas for Old Garbage Newer disposal models today include features like anti-jamming and reversible blades and quiet operation. The anti-jamming models have timed or auto-reverse features where the blades suddenly lurch into reverse or can be set to operate in reverse to prevent silverware, bones, lost dimes and quarters from freezing the mechanism. (Remember the broom handle trick). I don't know how often I had to hit the reset button on those older units.

The quiet-operation feature comes either with baffles or insulation wraps around the unit. I'm not sure how much they soften the din of chopping food waste. Some models also come with hookups to your dishwasher so that wastewater from your pots, pans, and dishes runs through the blades before leaving the kitchen.

Consumer Reports says that you can expect a ten-year service life from most models of today's garbage disposals. You can do your part, too, to extend service life by operating your disposal with a minimum amount of care. Many disposal problems are caused by homeowners running units with little water or hot water. You need a healthy stream of cold water to assist the shredder.

It's also common sense worth repeating that you should take care to remove silverware, large bones, and large twigs or stems from vegetables from the sink before running the unit. The latter belongs in your compost pile.

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