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Garbage Disposal Buying Guide

Garbage Disposal Buying Guide

A garbage disposal (also called a disposer) is a great asset to any commercial kitchen. Garbage disposals cut labor costs by quickly removing waste that is difficult to dispose of and they save money on waste collection bills. Choosing the best garbage disposal for your business can seem like a daunting task at first, but it's simple if you follow the guidelines in our garbage disposal buying guide!

What Size HP Garbage Disposal Do I Need?

Garbage disposal size is determined by the horsepower rating. When deciding how to choose a garbage disposal, consider the foods you'll be disposing, the volume you'll be disposing, and compare that to the horsepower rating of your unit. If you're providing limited service and just grinding up fruits and vegetables, you should use a disposal in the 1 hp or less range. Cafeterias, butcher shops, or facilities that need to dispose large amounts of meat should use 5+ hp disposals. Most full service restaurants fall somewhere in the middle.

However, each manufacturer will have its own criteria to help you rate what size garbage disposal you need for your application and you should use that literature to finalize your decision.

Garbage disposal volume vs horsepower chart

Garbage Disposal Special Features

There are a few key features that you may want to consider when buying a commercial garbage disposal:

  • Auto-Reverse: allows the disposal to change the grind direction automatically to clear jams. Look for this in the control packages. More basic models will have a manual reverse or no reverse.
  • Water-Saving Modes: some manufacturers offer models with water-saving control packages that can reduce the amount of water going down your drain with each use.
  • Noise Reduction: This is important if your layout makes it easy for sound to travel between the warewashing area and the front of the house. Garbage disposers are noisy, so having features that help to reduce that noise will improve the ambiance for customers and employees. Usually this is done with components or insulation that reduce vibration.

Typical Garbage Disposal Setups

The diagrams below show a few of the more popular disposer setups to help you envision how a new one might look in your kitchen! Dish rooms that do most of their pre-scrapping in a compartment sink will probably find it more helpful to install their disposer there. If you do most of your pre-scrapping at a soiled dish table or a sink with a drainboard, installing a scrapping cone will likely make more sense.

Also be aware that most manufacturers do not recommend connecting the drain on your disposer to a grease trap.

Disposals come with options to match pretty much any need, and if you aren't sure where to start our knowledgeable customer solutions team can help you find a solution that works for you!

Garbage disposer sink setup
Garbage disposer scrapping cone setup

What Do I Need to Install a Garbage Disposal?

Disposals offer a wide range of installation options whether you're doing a brand new installation or replacing an old unit with a new one, and you should read all product literature to make the right decisions.

When you're ready to order your brand new disposer, we make it easy for you to select these accessories through dropdown options right on the disposal pages. Most manufacturers offer a few core options, listed below.

And should any of these components break and you need a replacement, we offer a wide selection of disposal parts and accessories, too.

Garbage disposer cone

Cones and Collars

These may be needed to mount the main disposer unit. Scrapping cones (sometimes also called scrapping bowls or cone bowls) are typically used when you want to install the disposer under a dishtable or drainboard instead of a sink bowl. Collars are sometimes required depending on the setup.

Salvajor disposer adapter for Atomic and American Delphi cones


In many cases, you can use some of the existing hardware from an old disposer to fit a new disposer to the sink / cone, but this will depend on the situation and this usually still requires the purchase of an adapter. The disposer pages will have literature explaining when you need one and how to choose the right one for your application.

InSinkErator 15259A control box


Where you turn your unit off and on. Most minimalist control sets have an on/off switch and a reversing switch to change the grind direction, while more advanced options give features like automatic reversing, water saving modes, and adjustable run times.

Hobart VALVE-SOL110 solenoid valve

Solenoid and Flow Controls

A solenoid, or flow control valve, ensures that water flows into the disposer at the proper times. One is typically required for installation.

Salvajor 288A vacuum breaker

Vacuum Breakers

Used to prevent dirty water from backflowing into your potable water supply. Most local plumbing codes will require one.

Salvajor commercial garbage disposer

Garbage Disposal Maintenance and Care

These tips will help you fix and prevent some common problems, in addition to answering common care questions like how to clean a garbage disposal.

  • Run the disposal before loading. Start the disposer before feeding waste into it, and load waste in at a steady pace. Overloading it with lots of food at once or pre-loading the grind chamber with food can cause clogs or jams.
  • Run the disposal after you're done. Let it run for a short time after you are done feeding product in. This ensures that any residual waste is ground up and removed.
  • Use a lemon and ice cubes for a light cleaning and to deodorize any bad smells in your garbage disposal. Run them through the disposer after you're done using it. For heavier cleaning your user manual will usually outline the best way to clean your garbage disposal, but in many cases this can be done with a stiff brush and a hot water / soap solution.
  • Never reach in the disposer with your hands. If you need to get an object out of the grind chamber, use tongs, pliers, a screwdriver, or other tools. Also make sure that the unit is shut off first.

 As with any equipment, though, your owner's manual is the definitive source on how to care for and maintain it, and you should defer to those recommendations.

Plates stacked with food scraps

What Not to Put In A Garbage Disposal

Commercial disposals can power through most foods, but generally they won't work well with these and similar items:

  • Very hard items: clam and oyster shells, glass, china, plastic, and metal
  • Very pliable items: plastic wrap, fish skins, and corn husks
  • Grease and oil
  • Drain cleaner or corrosive detergents.

Small, hard items like metal bottlecaps, or scraps of china and glass can be flung from the disposer at high speed, creating the potential for injury. Pliable items like fish skins and corn husks can put extra strain on the motor and cause it to wear out prematurely. Grease and oil can accumulate and clog the drain.

It is very important to read your unit’s warranty and user manual documents closely to find out what you can put in a garbage disposal, since processing items that the disposer is not equipped to handle may result in a void warranty and costly repair bills.

Pros and Cons of Owning a Garbage Disposal

Garbage disposals offer a number of benefits for commercial applications, but it's very important to educate yourself before you buy and understand what these machines do and what they don't do.

  • Decreased costs for solid waste removal and garbage bags.
  • Your drain is less likely to clog, which means fewer costly plumbing bills.
  • Less waste sitting around means fewer bad odors, which also makes your facility less attractive to pests like rodents and insects.
  • Convenience - it's much easier to get rid of food scraps in a disposal than to scrape them into the trash can.
  • Less waste in the trash can means fewer trips to the dumpster for your staff.
  • Increased costs for maintenance and water / electric use.
  • Pro installation is recommended for optimal safety and warranty compliance.
  • If sound travels easily from your sink to the dining area a disposal could disrupt the ambiance.
  • Some areas may restrict use - check with your municipality for applicable regulations.
  • Some items cannot be put in a disposal, so correct training for staff is important.
Electric utility meter

How Will a Garbage Disposal Affect My Utility Bills?

Water – In general you can expect smaller units (2 hp and less) to utilize around 5 gpm, and larger units (3 hp and over) to utilize around 8 gpm. Exact usage figures will vary, so check the literature for your specific model number.

Electricity – High-wattage units will cost more to operate than low-wattage units, and running the unit more frequently will also increase operating costs. Some examples of run costs are given below, based on the national average electricity rate of $0.12 per kilowatt-hour. This equation can be used to get a more accurate figure for potential run costs at your application:

["Average Kilowatts / Hour" Figures] X [Your Electric Rates (in Kilowatt-Hours)] X [Hours Per Day]


Hobart commercial garbage disposer with short upper housing

1/2 HP - 1 HP

Average Kilowatts / Hour: 0.8 - 1.2

Daily Run Costs ($0.12 per Kilowatt-Hour)

1 Hour: $0.10 - $0.14

2 Hours: $0.19 - $0.29

3 Hours: $0.29 - $0.43

Salvajor commercial garbage disposer

1 1/4 HP - 2 HP

Average Kilowatts / Hour: 1.2 - 1.6

Daily Run Costs ($0.12 per Kilowatt-Hour)

1 Hour: $0.14 - $0.19

2 Hours: $0.29 - $0.38

3 Hours: $0.43 - $0.58

Hobart commercial garbage disposer with adjustable flanged feet

3+ HP

Average Kilowatts / Hour: 2.0 - 2.4

Daily Run Costs ($0.12 per Kilowatt-Hour)

1 Hour: $0.24 - $0.28

2 Hours: $0.48 - $0.58

3 Hours: $0.72 - $0.86

Salvajor food scrapper / waste collector with pot and pan basin

Garbage Disposal Alternatives

If your area has restrictions on disposal use, there are other options that offer many of the same benefits. Always check your area’s regulations to see what is permitted.

  • A pulper / waste reduction system can be a good option for high volume applications. This type of system uses a disposal to grind up waste, but rather than sending everything down the drain, the processed waste goes to a de-watering tank. Water is separated from the waste and sent down the drain, while the remaining solid waste is ejected into a trash can with its mass and size greatly reduced.
  • A scrapper / waste collector system is designed to take the place of a traditional pre-rinse setup by recirculating water over a scrapping basin. Water-soluble items are ultimately sent down the drain, and the remaining waste is caught in a collection basket that can be easily removed, emptied and replaced.

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