There are two primary types of garbage disposals: continuous feed and batch feed units. The continuous-feed garbage disposal is the most common type. Continuous-feed disposals are operated with an on/off switch and continue running as long as the switch is in the “on” position. Batch-feed units require feeding garbage into the unit and closing the lid before engaging the disposal. Both types of units are available with a variety of motor sizes, including one-half and three-quarter horsepower sizes.
Household garbage disposals are food grinders that work in tandem with running water. The disposal motor drives the grinding mechanism, which reduces food waste into tiny, sludgelike particles. Running water through the disposal carries the sludge into the sewer or septic line.
A one-half horsepower garbage disposal is a light-duty unit. This size garbage disposal is appropriate for small households of no more than two people, or for locations not subject to frequent use, such as a vacation home. A three-quarters horsepower garbage disposal is medium-duty unit. This size garbage disposal is appropriate for most single-family dwellings where the unit is frequently used.
Both sizes of garbage disposals handle small amounts of common table scraps, such as vegetable and fruit peels, eggshells and small fish or chicken bones. A three-quarters horsepower garbage disposal can handle greater quantities of common food scraps and is more useful in disposing of tough materials, such as potato peels. Neither size garbage disposal should be used to dispose of large animal bones, such as steak bones, or fibrous materials, such as cornhusks nor celery stalks. Three-quarters horsepower garbage disposals last longer than one-half horsepower units with the same amount of use do.