Garbage disposal units, often referred to as garbage disposals, are like under-the-sink blenders. These units, which are surprisingly affordable — given their combination of plumbing and appliance — need to be kept in tip-top shape in order to avoid leaks and damage. The good news is that some fine options are available today.
Garbage Disposal Basics
Garbage disposal units are fixed beneath the kitchen sink to shred food waste into tiny pieces for easy flow through the your plumbing and off into the sewer system. The target is to get waste down below 2mm square, which is to say tiny but not completely disintegrated. The waste has to be chopped down small enough that it’ll flow freely through pipes.
Garbage disposal units work best with kitchen waste that, as you would have guessed, will shred freely when mixed with water. This includes small bits of vegetables, like the scraps of a carrot that you just peeled.
There are also lots of things you definitely do not want to put down a garbage disposal, including:
- Coffee grinders
- Grease or oil
- Stringy vegetables, like celery
- Bones, no matter how small
- Fruit pits, again, no matter how small
- Egg shells
How Much Horsepower?
Frankly speaking, most garbage disposal units are pretty similar to one another. You may have a good history with one brand or another, but at this point in time most top brands sell nice, reliable units. One major point of distinction from unit choice to the next is the level of horsepower.
The least expensive units sold today will feature 1/3 horsepower (hp) motors. This is, in our opinion, not a sufficient amount of power to get the job done. These are made to cut costs when the disposal isn’t going to be used often and it will be for small jobs when it is used.
1/2 horsepower units are the standard for homes and they have the advantage of a small size and a low price. That said, 1/2 horsepower is still undersized for people who cook often or a family of four.
3/4 hp disposals are generally the recommended amount for most families. You are getting a disposal that is built to last, has sufficient power to get through good-sized jobs, and isn’t overly large.
A 1 hp garbage disposal is a high-power unit that will have far few jams than any of the lower power options. That said the full 1 hp is not necessary for the vast majority of buyers and it’s more of a premium product than it is a necessity.
The more power you get, the the fewer jams you will get. That doesn’t mean you should fill your disposal with bones and banana peels — those are still on the no-no list — but if something does fall in you will a higher chance of just grinding through it.
Reasons Not To Get a Garbage Disposal
In all honestly, I love the convenience of garbage disposals but I don’t love owning garbage disposals. Here are why I tend not to recommend putting in a disposal…
- Disposals take up valuable under-the-sink space, which I’d rather use for a water filter
- Disposals often smell, which causes old food odor to come up through the drain
- They add complexity to your under sink plumbing
- People always put the wrong stuff down there (often guests who are trying to help)
- Most disposal are quite loud
- Not recommended with septic systems (there is debate over this, but I don’t like it)
But if you are going to get one, you should get a good one that lasts for years.
Top Garbage Disposal Units
Here are some of the top garbage disposals sold today. I’ll say from the start that I have an InkSinkErator and I think it’s the way to go. This brand knows how to produce waste disposal units — they’ve been at is since the 1920s and it’s a recognizable piece of the parent company’s business. InSinkErator is owned by Emerson, the same company that makes Rigid power tools, Copeland air conditioners, and Workshop wet/dry vacs.
InSinkErator Badger 5 Garbage Disposal
The Badger 5 from InSinkErator is a very popular choice of disposal unit. In fact, InSinkErator is the top disposal brand in the US in 2020. The Badger 5 combines a known brand with a low price and sufficient power to get the job done.
The Badger 5 is distinct due to a compact design, galvanized steel components, and and “easy-swap” plug-in design.
The thing to realize about the Badger 5 is that its low price comes with a low power motor — just 1/2 horsepower. This isn’t necessarily a dealbreaker, but many people will want to go with a 3/4 or even 1hp unit.
- 1/2 horsepower motor
- Two years’ parts and in-home service
- Continuous feed operation
- Rugged galvanized steel construction
- Wall switch on/off control
- Permanently Lubricated Upper & Lower Bearings
- Stainless steel 360° swivel lugs
- Self-service wrench included
Some people might be tempted to save a few dollars by getting the Badger 1, but you’ll be downgrading to a 1/3 hp unit that isn’t any smaller and your savings will only be about $20. Most people will be happier with the Badger 5, especially since it has a 3-year warranty versus the Badger 1’s single year.
Upgrade Pick: If you want to increase the power level then you can opt for the Badger 1hp disposal unit, which will increase the price considerably. This is very simple to the Badger 5, but has more power, and is technically part of InSinkErator’s Power Series of disposal units. This unit will be an inch taller than the Badger 1 or 5 and will require 10 amps to operate over the Badger 5’s 6 amps.
Top Quiet Garbage Disposal Units
When buying a garbage disposal, two things come at a premium: price and quiet operation. We’ve talked about power, but if you want peace and quiet you’ll need to upgrade as well.
The top picks in this world are from the InSinkErator Quiet series, which compromises of the Evolution models, particularly the Evolution Compact, Evolution Essential XTR, and the Evolution Excel.
Here are the basic specs:
- Evolution Compact: 3/4hp, standard noise reduction, 2-stage grinding
- Evolution Essential XTR: 3/4hp, sink top button, advanced noise reduction, 2-stage grinding
- Evolution Excel: 3/4hp, advanced noise reduction, 3-stage grinding, auto-reverse
InSinkErator Evolution Compact
This small Evolution Compact 3/4hp disposal is a premier model, and part of the InSinkErator Evolution series. It comes at a price premium over the original but you get a better looking exterior and noise reduction features that the cheaper models don’t have.
- Noise reduction
- Dimensions: 8.0 x 8.0 x 12.1 inches
- Galvanized steel build
- LeakGuard liner for leak prevention
- 8.1 amp load
Select Other Garbage Disposals
Here are some other interesting options we’ve come across in our research. These are ones that have interest online and they might be a great fit for your, but they don’t have enough of a track record that we’d be able to actively recommend them.
Waste King L-1001 Garbage Disposal
The Waste King L-1001 is a 1/2 horsepower, power cord-powered disposal sells for about $50, which is about half what you’d expect to pay. The price and power, combined with the Waste King name (not quite InSinkErator, but still good) makes this an interesting option for budget buyers.
- 1/2hp motor
- Very affordable price
- 2-year limited warranty
- Stainless steel grind plate and flange (instead of galvanized)
- White color scheme
- Dimensions: 5.25 x 5.25 x 12.75 inches
Becbas Element 7 Garbage Disposal
Becbas doesn’t have the name in the industry that InSinkErator has, but the Element 7 disposal is hard to miss because of its bright red paint job. This thing looks like a hot rod, which is fitting because it’s a full 1hp unit, for not must more than a typical 1/2hp offering from better known competitors.
The manufacturer gives 4 years warranty for this UL-listed garbage disposer. Its motor is fitted with a permanent magnet high-speed DC motor. It can reach full speed very fast.
- 3/4 horsepower motor
- Continuous feed operation
- Hardened stainless steel cutting ring
- Balanced grinding plate
- Large size: 8.67 x 8.67 x 15.43 inches
HomeAid HA500 1/2 HP
This low noise continuous feed garbage disposal unit does not require electric wiring work. The efficient sealing effect is due to its powder metallurgy bearing based on copper. It comes with 1.5-inch diameter drain outlet, splash guard, stopper, and strainer. The non-blade design supports multi levels grinding technology.
- Measurement: 6.3×6.3×11.4inch /16x16x29cm
- Fairly quiet operation (50 db)
- Rust-free stainless steel grinding plate instead of galvanized steel
- Anti-corrosion ABS housing
- Large capacity grind chamber
- Copper-based bearing
- Reserved dishwasher port
- Quick 3-bolt mounting assemblies for easy installation
- What's the difference between the InSinkErator Badger 5 and the Badger 1?
The InSinkErator Badger 5 is a 1/2 horsepower disposal unit that sells for about $100 while the Badger 1 is a 1/3 horsepower disposal unit that sells for about $80. The Badger 5 has a 3-year in-home warranty while the Badger 1 has a 1-year warranty. They are both part of the “Standard Series” and are about the same size (11.5 inches tall) and volume.
- What is a continuous feed garbage disposal?
A continuous feed disposal is once that runs continuously (non-stop) when it's turned on. This means you can add waste to the sink as the disposal is active. This is the most popular type of garbage disposal unit, and it's what most people expect from a unit. The alternative to continuous feed would be a batch feed disposal unit.
- What is a batch feed garbage disposal unit?
A batch feed unit operates in batches as opposed to simply when the unit is turned on. These units are relatively rare because they grind up a lot of food at once, which means they require a lot of power (the only single determinant factor in disposal price). Batch feeds are considered safe than continuous feeds because they only operate when closed off from the outside, which means no one can reach into a disposal that is powered on. Batch feeds are also larger than standard models because they need a waste holding area (sometimes called a hopper) that is filled with food. When it's a filled the stopper is put in place and the batch is shredded. An example of a batch feed disposal is the InSinkErator Garbage Disposal Evolution Cover Control Plus.
- Can I use a garbage disposal if I have a septic?
There are many differing opinions on this. The simple solution is not to do it since you can fill your septic with things that shouldn't be there. That said, many people think a waste disposal unit and septic are a find combination so long as you use a disposal unit that is designed for a septic, like the InSinkErator Evolution Septic Assist Garbage Disposal, and you make sure that you only put biodegradable, mineral-light items in the disposal. So vegetable matter is fine, but grease and egg shells definitely are not.