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Garbage disposals provide convenience, protect your pipes, and have environmental benefits. They range in costs from $50 to almost $1,000, and selecting the right one for your household takes a basic understanding of how they work and which features are essential for your household.

We’ve provided a guide to answer your questions and walk you through these features.

Convenience Benefits

If you currently or have previously lived somewhere without a garbage disposal, you know that it takes more time to wash your dishes if you have to make sure to scrape all the food off into the garbage before starting. Then, there is the icky task of cleaning out the strainer basket. Not needing to worry about tiny bits of food going down the grade is an everyday convenience many of us take for granted—until our disposal breaks, that is. Plus, it means less odorous trash in your cans.

Benefits for Your Pipes

Even with garbage strainers, sinks without disposals will allow small bits of food down your pipes. Over time, the food can build up and cause backup or other issues. Hiring a plumber to fix these issues is a costly disruption to your life that most would agree is better to avoid.

Environmental Benefits

We keep them out of landfills by processing liquids and food scraps through our garbage disposals. Food in landfills generates methane that harms the environment. Food from your disposal goes to wastewater plants that turn waste into fertilizer or capture the methane for energy.  

According to Consumer Reports, “in 2019, methane emissions from municipal solid waste were almost equivalent to greenhouse gas emissions from more than 21.6 million passenger vehicles driven for one year.” Also, the less food we throw away, the fewer plastic garbage bags we’ll use and add to those landfills.

Time For a New Disposal?

It may be time for a new disposal if it is leaking, not grinding as quickly, is making loud noises, or has stopped working altogether. First, check for stuck food or follow your manual to reset it. You also may be able to fix leaks or minor issues yourself or hire a plumber.

Garbage disposal costs, including installation, are not that high compared to the other appliances in your kitchen, averaging $266. Most last 10-15 years, meaning you won’t need to worry about a replacement for quite some time. Before purchasing, make sure to check your local ordinances for restrictions on disposal types.

Here’s what you need to know before you start shopping:

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Continuous or Batch-Feed

The two types of garbage disposal models are continuous or batch-feed. Wall switches power continues models, and you can add food while it is running. These are the most common types, with many models available. They typically require an electrician for installation.

Batch-feed units are less common. You turn them on by placing the stopper in the drain, and therefore they do not require a wall switch. Many homeowners use these units for island sinks.

Size Considerations

Measure how much room you have under your sink to ensure you don’t end up with a unit that is too large for your space! You also may need to reconfigure your pipes to fit in a new or larger unit. If you are on a septic system, you’ll want to ensure that your tank size can handle the disposal and check with the local inspector.

How Much Power?

The next feature to consider is the amount of power you will need. General horsepower for disposals ranges from ⅓ hp to 1hp. The higher the power, the more efficient the grinding. You’ll want to consider how much cooking you do and what types of foods you will be grinding up when choosing power. For example, grinding bones will require a 1hp unit.

Noise Level

Many people consider the noise level one of the most critical features! Runner gaskets, silencing technology, or insulated units can reduce grinding sounds. Units with the highest rating for noise levels are often the costliest because of the extra technology. If you’re not budget-conscious, they may be a solid choice for additional useful features and longer warranties.


Disposal warranties can range greatly from one year to lifetime warranties. This is an important consideration, and the higher price upfront may save money in the long run.

Other Features to Consider

Some units come with a power cord, and some require you to provide your own. An auto-reverse feature can be useful in loosening up stuck food. The more grinding stages your model has, the finer or more pulverized your food will be. Look for disposals with multiple grinding stages if this is an essential feature for you. Units with stainless steel components tend to last longer. A quick-mount feature will allow for faster installation.

Top-Rated Units

Insinkerator by Emerson, Moen Disposals, and Waste-King are among the top-rated brands available. Bob Vila and Popular Mechanics provide garbage disposal reviews worth checking out.

Whether you are purchasing your first garbage disposal or replacing an existing one, do your research on features, price, and customer reviews before making your choice.