Have you ever wondered what that button on top of your countertop? That is an air switch, and it is used to run your garbage disposal. So now, you may be wondering what an air switch is, and why it is used. This article details everything about garbage disposal air switches. Continue reading to know more.
What is an air switch?
An air switch is a pneumatic switch operated using air. It is installed on the countertop and is used to operate garbage disposals. It works as an intermediatory between a garbage disposal and a wall outlet, connecting and disconnecting them at the push of a button.
Parts of an air switch
An air switch has three main parts;
- A push air button aka actuator
- An air tube
- A convertor box
Push air button
It is also called an actuator. It is the part of the air switch that is installed on the countertop of your kitchen. So, yes, this actuator is the button you see on your countertop.
This air button has a bellows in it, which is completely air-tight. The bottom part of this bellows has an opening connected to an air tube. This bellows is made of high-quality plastic, and it will send a gush of air through the air tube when the button is pressed.
The push air button is mounted on the countertop by drilling a hole on it. All air switch buttons are of the same size, so it is easy to replace one with another. The hole size required to install an air switch is 1 and 3/8 inches. You can also install it in the hole of the soap dispenser to avoid drilling the countertop. The push air button comes with a threaded body with a lock nut on. To install the button, the lock nut is first removed, and the button is inserted into the hole drilled on the countertop. Then, the locknut is tightened from the bottom to keep the button in position. Make sure that you use enough silicone sealant between the countertop and the button to prevent any leaks.
Push air buttons are available in many finishes that complement any kitchen decor. So if your current button is faded or you changed the decor, you can simply buy a new button and replace it without having to change the whole air switch.
You can also easily replace the trim of the air button by prying open it with a screwdriver. The button mechanism is pretty simple so you don’t have to worry about damages while opening it.
Air tubing is a small but long hose that runs from the bottom of the push air button bellows to the converter box of the air switch. The air tube can be transparent or opaque depending on the manufacturer but they all work the same. You can also replace one air tube with another, however, make sure that both of them have the same inner and outer diameters. Most air tubes have an inner diameter of 1/8 inches and an outer diameter of 5/16 inches. But for some models, the inner and outer diameters are 3/16 inches and 3/8 inches respectively.
The air tube is flexible so it can be routed through anywhere to the converter box. If the tube is excess in length, just coil it and keep it under the sink. Its length doesn’t matter as long as it is sufficient to reach the converter box.
It is recommended to change the air tube from time to time as they can develop leaks. Air leaks will make the tube redundant and make the switch inoperable.
A converter box module is the actual air switch. It has an inlet that receives air from the air tube, an internal, micro switch, and a module to plug it into the outlet in the cabinet. It also has a module to plug in the garbage disposal power cord. Some convertor box modules come with a power cord and some with a direct, 3-pin plug. The microswitch inside this converter box is designed to tun on with one push of the air button and turn off with another push. When the micro-switch is ON, it passes electricity from the wall outlet to the power cord of the garbage disposal. A converter box in fact acts as an intermediatory between the wall outlet and the garbage disposal.
Installation of air switch
An air switch is easy to install, and you can do it yourself without needing professional help. Here is how to install an air switch;
- Drill a 1-3/8 inch hole in the countertop where you want to place the air switch button.
- Insert the air switch button through this hole and tighten it with the locknut that comes with it. Make sure to seal the gaps to prevent water from leaking into the countertop.
- Insert the air tube into the inlet at the bottom of the air button switch.
- Insert the other end of the air tube into the inlet of the converter box.
- Plug the converter box into the wall outlet under the countertop.
- Plug the power cord from the garbage disposal into the power inlet of the converter box.
Working of an air switch
Like I mentioned above, an air switch works using air. Here is how its operation in detail;
An air switch is operated using a push button installed on the countertop. When this button is pushed, a gush of air flows from a bellow inside it through an air tube into a converter box plugged into the wall outlet. This gush of air triggers a micro-switch inside the converter module which lets electricity pass from the wall outlet into the garbage disposal through the power cord plugged into the converter box. Another push on the push button will break this connection stopping the garbage disposal.
What is the need for an air switch?
Air switches are used with garbage disposals for the safety and convenience they offer. Since an air switch doesn’t conduct electricity, it is completely safe to use with wet hands. In a kitchen, wet hands are unavoidable, and many accidents can happen if you touch electrical switches.
In terms of convenience, it is pretty easy to use air switches since they are installed on the countertop. They are also useful if the power outlet on the wall is a little away from the kitchen sink.
Testing an air switch
It is important to test your air switch to make sure it is working properly. It is possible to test the air switch even before installing it on the countertop. To test your air switch, follow these steps;
- Unbox and place the parts of the air switch; the push button, the air tube, and the converter box on your kitchen countertop.
- Connect the parts of the air switch together. To do this, insert one end of the air tube into the inlet of the push button and insert its other end into the converter box module.
- Disconnect the power cord of your garbage disposal from its outlet. Then plug the converter box into the wall outlet.
- Keep the push button in your hand, and do not stretch the air tube much. Push the push button and see whether the garbage disposal is turned on. Press the button again and see if the garbage disposal stopped. If so, then this air switch is working perfectly.
Common problems with air switches
An air switch can run into problems, and the main one among them is an air leak. The air switch system is air-tight. However, sometimes the air tube connecting the switch and the converter module box can leak causing the switch to stop working.
Another problem is water getting into the air switch. This is often caused by the improper sealing of the push button on the countertop. This problem also will cause the air switch to stop working correctly.
If you want to read further on this topic here is an article I wrote detailing all problems with air switches.
Do all garbage disposals work with all air switches?
All garbage disposals are compatible with air switches as long as the garbage disposal has a power cord to plug into the air switch. Some garbage disposals do not come with a power cord, instead, they need to be hardwired to the mains. An air switch cannot be used with such garbage disposals.
Best air switches for garbage disposals
Here are three air switches that are compatible with all garbage disposals that have a power cord;
1. InSinkErator STS-00
This air switch is from InSinkErator, a brand renowned for its line of garbage disposals. This air switch is compatible with all garbage disposal models irrespective of their brands.
This InSinkErator air switch features dual outlets so you can connect it to a garbage disposal and an InSinkErator hot water dispenser at the same time. Unlike most other air switches, this model comes with a power cord. While the power cord helps to connect the air switch to an outlet far away from the countertop, this also means that its converter box, aka power module, needs to be mounted somewhere which is additional work.
The lengths of its power cord and air tube are 33 inches and 6-foot respectively. The switch can be installed in a 1.25-inch diameter hole on the countertop. It comes with two push-button finished within the same package; chrome and white.
The air switch is covered under a 1-year warranty, and it is suitable for installation only on countertops with a maximum thickness of 2 inches.
- Comes with a power cord that extends the length of the air switch
- It has dual outlets making it possible to connect an InSinkErator instant hot water dispenser in addition to a garbage disposal
- It is available in two finished without any additional cost.
- Additional work is needed to secure the power module under the kitchen cabinet.
- Costly compared to other air switch models
2. SINKINGDOM air switch
Even though Sinkingdom is not a popular name and is hard to pronounce, this is a reliable air switch with a good track record.
Just like the InSinkErator air switch, this one comes with a dual outlet. The switch is available in four finishes; brushed nickel, black, chrome, and white. However, unlike the InSinkErator air switch, this one has only one color option included in the package.
The Sinkingdom air switch comes with a power cord that is 40 inches in length. The length of its air tube is 1.5 meters. Therefore, this switch can be connected far away from the wall outlet if needed.
The push-button of this air switch requires a hole of 1-3/8 inch diameter for installation on the countertop. This switch is compatible with all brands of garbage disposals irrespective of their sizes.
One notable feature of the Sinkingdom air switch is a drain hole at the bottom of the push button. This helps to drain any water entering the push button thus preventing the switch from malfunctioning. Water in the switch is a common problem with air switches, and Sinkingdom implemented a simple but logical solution to this problem.
- It has a drain hole to drain any water entering the push button
- It is priced affordably
- It has dual power outlets
- No mention of warranty coverage
- Additional work needed to secure power module
3. CLEESINK air switch
CLEESINK is a well-known brand in the USA, and they did a good job coming up with a cordless power module for an air switch.
Since the power module is cordless, it is directly plugged into the wall socket. That is, the power module comes with 3-pins on one of its sides.
Unlike the other two air switches in this list, the CLEESINK air switch has only one outlet. The power cord from the garbage disposal is inserted into this outlet.
This air switch is available in 6 finishes including black, white, brushed stainless steel, polished stainless steel, and copper chrome. The air switch push button is available in two sizes; 2 inches and 2.5 inches. The short size is suitable for mounting the push button on steel sinks whereas the other one is for mounting on granite, marble, and quartz.
This air switch is UL rated and is suitable for any garbage disposal under 2 HP. For installation, the size of the countertop hole should be between 1-1/4 and 1-4/5 inches.
- The power module is cordless so it is easy to install
- The push-button is available in two sizes for installation in different locations.
- Cheap price
- No warranty information is available