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Air Switch Not Working (InSinkErator & Others)

Air switches are pneumatic switches that can be used to turn on and off electrical appliances. Air switches can be used to operate garbage disposals also. They are an alternative to wall switches and are much safer as the operator has zero chances of coming in contact with electricity.

An air switch works by sending a gush of air down a hose to a micro-switch connected to an electric outlet. This gush of air is sent by an air bellow situated inside a push-button installed on a countertop. Since air doesn’t conduct electricity, it is safe to operate these switches even with wet hands, which is why they are recommended for garbage disposals.

However, like every device, air switches also run into some problems. Here are the major problems a garbage disposal air switch can run into;

Btw, click here to check out some top-rated air switches on Amazon, if you are interested.

Image of an air switch by InSinkErator
Image of an air switch (Buy this on Amazon)

Air switch not working

There are plenty of reasons why an air switch may not be working. So you will have to first identify the problem to fix it.

Case 1: Air switch not clicking

If your air switch is not working, first check whether it makes a clicking sound. When you push the air switch button on the countertop, you should hear a clicking sound. This click sound comes from the micro-switch that is situated inside its power module, the part which you plug into the electrical outlet under the countertop. If you do not hear the click sound, then the problem is with its tubing or the air bellow inside the button.

Solution: Check under the kitchen cabinet and make sure that the air tube is firmly connected to the power module. Sometimes the air tube can fall off the unit. If this is the case, cut the tip of the hose at half an inch length and fit it to the power module’s air hose inlet.

The Air tube fell of switch: Fix

If you hear a hissing sound when pushing the air switch button down, the air bellow inside this button could be damaged. Unfortunately, there is no way to repair this bellow, so you will have to replace it with a new one. Unfortunately, you cannot buy that part alone, so buy the whole button unit and replace it.

An air switch can also fail to work if its air-hose is leaking. Due to the leak, the hose will fail to transfer enough air pressure to operate the micro switch inside the power module. Luckily, these hoses are available in local stores, or you can solve the problem with some duct tape.

Case 2: Air switch clicks but the garbage disposal doesn’t turn on

If you hear a clicking sound from the air switch each time you push its button, it means that the air switch is working correctly. The problem could be with the garbage disposal or the electric connections inside the power module.

Solution: Check whether the reset button on the garbage disposal is popped out. If it is, then gently push in the reset button. Once the reset button stays in place, press the air switch button. This should turn on the garbage disposal.

If the garbage disposal is still not working, plug it directly into the power outlet by bypassing the air switch. Make sure you turn off the corresponding wall switch before unplugging the air switch from the power outlet. Once the garbage disposal is plugged in, turn on the wall switch. If the garbage disposal is working, then the problem is with the power module of the air switch. I suggest you buy a new air switch and replace the old one with it.

If the garbage disposal is not working when you turned on the wall switch, the problem is with the disposal or the power from the mains. Use a multi-meter or a voltage tester to check if power comes from the outlet. Also, test if the disposal’s power cord carries power by using a non-contact voltage tester. If there is power, the problem must be with the garbage disposal.

It is possible that the motor of the garbage disposal is burnt out. Another possibility is that the blades of the disposal are blocked by something. But if it is the latter case, then the disposal would hum, or its reset button would pop out when it is powered. If the motor is burnt out, your only choice is to replace the garbage disposal.

Water in the air switch

There are several cases of water getting into the air switches of the garbage disposal. This is a dangerous situation that can lead to fire hazards.

Air switches are operated by a vacuum hose attached to a micro-switch. Water can get into this vacuum hose and short-circuit the micro-switch. When this happens, the microswitch will not work anymore. Water getting into the power module of the air switch can cause it to overheat. A burning smell also may accompany it.

If this happens, immediately turn off the power going onto the air switch and remove it from the outlet. It is unsafe to dry it and use it again. Water in the air switch can also cause the disposal to turn on and off by itself, causing possible damage to the disposal itself.

If water gets in your air switch, replace it with a new one.

InSinkErator air switch not working

If you have an InSinkErator air switch and it is not working, the cause is most likely water in the air switch. This problem caused InSinkErator to call back its air switches. If your air switch belongs to model numbers 76703, STS-SOSN, 78251, or 74300, get it replaced immediately. (Source)

Testing an InSinkErator air switch

Jammed air switch (Stuck in pressed position)

While it is rare, the push button of an air switch can get jammed. When pushed in, it can get stuck in the pressed position, making it impossible to turn off the garbage disposal. This can be caused by dust or grease getting in the space between the button and its trim.

A gentle push or two can get the button back. But if this happens often, I recommend replacing the button unit.

Here are two good disposal switch options for you in case you couldn’t fix yours:

1. InSinkErator air switchBuy from Amazon
2. SINKINGDOM air switch (don’t mind the name, this one is good)Buy from Amazon

How to bypass the air switch on a garbage disposal?

An air switch has a control unit, aka box, that is plugged into the socket below the countertop. To bypass the air switch, all you have to do is remove this control unit from the socket and plug the power cord of the garbage disposal directly into that socket.

Make sure to turn off the wall switch ( I assume you have a wall switch that controls the power to the socket below the countertop) to avoid any electrical hazards.

If you do not have a wall switch, you must install one to bypass the air switch. In this case, your best alternative is to replace the air switch, as installing a wall switch is more difficult. Another alternative is using a wireless switch.

Additional reading:

While you are at it, don’t forget to check the other garbage disposal switch options.

My name is Thomas Anderson, author of DisposalQA. I have 15 years experience working as a plumber in CA, and this is where I answer common questions about garbage disposals.