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How Many Horsepower Does a Garbage Disposal Need?

The dilemma of garbage disposer selection for most shoppers is "how many horsepower?". The disposers all look about the same, they don't have features beyond grinding garbage and they are installed out of view - so who cares what they look like? That leaves the question, "How much power does a garbage disposal need?"

Garbage Disposers for homes generally come in 4 power ratings. They are rated in horsepower and the ratings go from 1/3 hp, 1/2 hp, 3/4 hp to 1 hp. The more horsepower the unit has, the more things it can grind and the less likely it is to jam. So for the most reliable operation, go big.

But how big, you ask? We'll keep this simple, 1/3 HP is too small. A 1/3 hp disposer is inexpensive, but it won't be up to the challenge of grinding much of anything. Because it is a budget model, it is also likely to last for a shorter period before it rusts out or the motor burns out. A disposal with 1/2 hp is the minimum we'd recommend. It will grind small scraps scraped off of plates and it won't jam as frequently as a 1/3 hp model. A 1/2 hp unit won't grind large quantities at a time, so you have to pace how much you put down the drain at a time. If you want to throw larger scraps down the drain, things like orange peels, salad leftovers and the like, a 1/2 hp will do the job. A 3/4 hp disposal will do the job better and faster. A bigger unit will also do a good job with small bones, egg shells and watermelon rinds. A 3/4 hp garbage disposal is much less likely to jam and is a choice for homes with families.

One Horsepower, The Grinder

A powerful disposer will not jam or clog as easily, and it will quickly disintegrate waste allowing the refuse to flow freely down the drain. A 1-hp disposal will allow you to grind large quantities of waste without having to meter has fast you feed it into the drain and it will easily grind tough rinds and larger bones; and it will rarely jam.

The one horsepower disposals also tend to be the top of the line, in both price and features. One thing to look for in a heavy duty disposal is quiet operation. Sound levels are usually rated in "sones" and fewer sones means it is quieter. There is no standard for measuring noise levels, so each manufacturer may measure their product differently, making it impossible to compare them. However, the sones measurement will give you some basis for making a selection if the noise is a concern for you. Another top of the line feature is the material it is constructed from. Cheap units are made from steel or plastic and they can rust or crack. Quality disposals may be made of thicker stainless steel, making them more durable and resistant to rust.

One last consideration: Disposals generally get larger with horsepower ratings; make sure the model you choose will fit under your sink.

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