Install A Garbage Disposal
To our forefathers who crossed the great plains the term “modern kitchen appliance” was more than likely understood to mean a large black kettle or some kind of hunting weapon. A rabbit trap or maybe a repeating rifle. In any event, it certainly didn’t mean an electric can opener, or a microwave oven, or an automatic dishwasher or even a garbage disposal.
When we were kids the major kitchen appliances in our home were a range and a refrigerator. We often had to use a plunger on the kitchen sink to free the drain of the food debris that made it past the strainer basket. Boy, how many times we had to do that. Things sure have changed around the kitchen. It seems like every time we turn around there is a new devise available to make our lives in the kitchen easier. One such gadget that has been popular for several decades and it looks like it is here to stay. You guessed it – the garbage disposal.
There are those purists who would say that a disposal is anti-environmental. Well gang, in a 100 unit condominium project for example, there is only so much kitchen waste that will fit into the community compost pile before it becomes a neighborhood sanitation problem. Balance friends, balance. Besides, a disposal doesn’t have to be used to grind all of the world’s waste. It also can be used to insure that your drain remains clog free. With a disposal at the kitchen sink the chunks of waste that get past the drain basket end up in the disposal grinding chamber where they can be ground up into tiny particles before being passed into the drain system.
Whether you are purchasing a disposal for the first time or as a replacement it is important to know what’s available. We spoke with Jerry Fish, a field representative for Slakey Bros., a Western US plumbing distributor who told us that there is more to a disposal than meets the eye. Fish told us that there are two basic types of disposals: CONTINUOUS FEED and BATCH FEED. Both types are installed in exactly the same way, and they grind waste in the same way. Continuous feed disposals are operated by a switch (on the wall or cabinet) and run continuously while waste is fed into the grinding chamber. Cold water must be kept running when a continuous feed disposal is in operation. The water cools and lubricates the grinding parts and helps to float the pulverized waste “down the drain”. The batch feed type is used more like a food processor. Once it is filled with waste the motor can only be turned on by replacing the sink strainer. The continuous feed type is great for macerating great volumes of waste quickly and easily, but the batch feed model is considered safer because it will not operate unless it is closed. Be prepared to spend $150 or so to purchase the batch feed type. On the other hand, continuous feed disposals are available in a wide range of prices and styles. And where there are choices – there are other considerations. Smaller, ½ horsepower units are lower priced but they don’t last as long as the larger, more powerful ¾ horsepower units. Those that have stainless steel housings and blades are better quality and last longer. Remember: with disposals, price does have something to do with lasting quality. Also, pay a little extra and make sure to purchase a well insulated disposal. This way you will be able to hear yourself think when the motor is running.
TIP: Even the best disposal sounds like a thrashing machine when installed in a cheap sink.
Installing a disposal is a relatively easy task compared to many DIY plumbing projects. Actually, the hardest part is lifting, and then holding the unit in place, long enough to interlock with the mounting ring. This part of the task may require the assistance of a husky teenager with weight lifting experience.
The first step is to install the disposal mounting ring assembly which takes the place of the sink drain. Before installing the new parts make sure that all of the old plumber’s putty has been scraped away from the opening and that it is thoroughly clean. Three screws hold the new parts in place. We think it is one of the most ingenious connections in the home. Don’t forget, the water seal is provided by a pencil sized application of plumber’s putty between the lip of the new drain and the sink. With the drain assembly tightly in place the disposal can be “twist locked” onto it with the turn of a “disposal wrench”. Last but not least, simply connect the drain. If you have a dishwasher its drain hose also is connected to the disposal. A plug located in the dishwasher drain inlet of the disposal will have to be knocked out using a hammer and a punch.
Once in a while you will find that the air vent on the sink will overflow when the dishwasher is running. This is because the disposal has thrown waste into the dishwasher drain hose and partially clogged it. When this happens remove the hose from the disposal, clean it out with a hangar and everything should work just fine once the hose has been replaced.
If the disposal ever jambs quickly turn it off. Use the end of a wooden mop or broomstick wedged against the opening of the disposal to loosen the blades (located at the bottom of the disposal). In some instances the reset button (usually located at the bottom of the disposal) will have to be pushed in to return power to the disposal.
Caution: Never discard shells, pits or fibrous waste into disposal. And for continuous feed disposals – never force large volumes of anything into the disposal at one time. This can cause drain clogs. And, good luck!