Garbage disposals are awesome machines that grind food wastes into pulp which makes food waste disposal convenient in household kitchens. Here is a comparison of the top garbage disposal switch options.
Garbage disposals are turned on via some special switches. Four popular garbage disposal switch options are air switch, wireless switch, wall switch, and Toe Kick switch. You can also directly wire a garbage disposal to the mains if it is a batch feed type unit.
Here is a quick comparison of these switch options;
|Switch option||Installation location||Feature|
|1. Air switch||Installed on the countertop||Completely safe from electric shocks||View on Amazon|
|2. Wireless switch||Multiple installation locations including wall, countertop, island etc||Safe from electrical shock and free of wires and tubes||View on Amazon|
|3. Wall switch||Installed on the wall||Traditional setup, not recommended||View on Amazon|
|4. Toe Kick switch||Installed on the toe kick of the countertop||Hidden away from view and somewhat convenient||View on Amazon|
1. Air switch
Using an air switch is the most convenient and safest way to turn on a garbage disposal. It is a pneumatically operated switch that works without any electrical wires that connect the switch to the mains. It is usually installed on the countertop near the sink. The absence of direct electrical connections makes the switch safe to operate even when it is wet. It is also visually pleasing and easy to operate.
An air switch unit controls an electrical connection by using air pressure. It is connected to an existing electrical socket under the countertop, and it acts as an intermediatory between the mains and the garbage disposal.
An air switch has three main parts;
- A push-button
- An air hose
- A power module unit that houses the actual air switch
The push-button part of the air switch unit is installed on the countertop. The power module is a box with an electrical plug on one side and a socket on the other side. This power module is plugged into the existing electrical socket, under the kitchen countertop, near the garbage disposal. The air hose connects this power module with the push button switch installed on the countertop.
The power cord from the garbage disposal is plugged into the power module of the air switch. Thus, staying in the middle of the garbage disposal and the mains, the air switch unit is capable of controlling the electrical connection between the two.
The push-button switch contains a diaphragm. When the button is pushed, this diaphragm sends a gush of air through the hose to the power module, which is under the countertop. This power module too has a diaphragm in it, which converts this pressure into a mechanical motion. This mechanical movement triggers the electrical connection between the mains and the garbage disposal.
A second click on the push button will disconnect the electrical connection. Sometimes pushing the button may not work the first time, if so, push it again. The connection turns on and off alternatively for each click on the push button.
Here is a video showing how the mechanism works in the power module of the air switch;
Installation of air switch
Installing an air switch is an easy job. Here is how to;
Step 1: As mentioned before an air switch has three main parts. The push-button is installed on the countertop by drilling a hole on it. Most push buttons require a hole of 1.25 inches. This is the most tedious part of the otherwise simple installation process.
Step 2: Plug the power module of the air switch into the existing power socket
Step 3: Connect the power module and the push button switch using the air hose.
Step 4: Switch ON the power
One prerequisite for using an air switch is that you need to have a working electrical socket under the kitchen sink or near it. Without it, it is not possible to use an air switch.
This is how a typical installation of an air switch looks like;
Here is a video showing the installation of an InSinkErator air switch;
Where does the air switch go on a garbage disposal?
The air switch for a garbage disposal is installed on the countertop for easy access. It can also be installed on the wall with the help of a wall plate or on the front side of the countertop. Sometimes air switches are installed directly on the sink by drilling a hole in it.
As mentioned before, an air switch is not electrically connected and is safe to use in wet areas. So there is no need to restrict its installation to dry areas only.
Pros and Cons of an air switch
An air switch has certain advantages and disadvantages. Here are they;
- The push-button of the air switch doesn’t have any direct electrical connections so it is safe to operate even when wet.
- It doesn’t require any electricity or battery for its operation
- Air switches are ergonomic and visually pleasing. They don’t take up much space on the countertop while being easy to use.
- With all the advantages an air switch has, they are also wallet-friendly.
- An air switch can only be installed if there is a power socket under the sink. It also requires the garbage disposal to have a plug-in power cord.
Why is the air switch not working?
Like anything, air switches too can get damaged. There are many reasons for this. One main reason among these is an air leak. The hose connecting the power module and the sink top switch can get holes that prevent sufficient air pressure from reaching the power module, and thus rendering the whole unit worthless. The simple solution is to replace the air tube with a new one.
Sometimes there can be problems with the power module of the button switch. In both cases, they cannot be repaired, and replacement of these parts is the only solution.
For more information, refer: Air switch not working: Reasons & Fix
2. Wireless switch
Wireless switches are new in the market when compared to air switches. As you guessed, wireless switches work wirelessly. Just like an air switch, they don’t have any direct electrical connections, so it is safe to operate them with wet hands.
Cleesink Wireless Switch
A wireless garbage disposal switch has two main parts;
- A power module
- A portable remote
A wireless garbage disposal switch works based on the input it receives from the remote control unit. The power module it has is usually a rectangular box with a plug on one side and a socket on the other. This unit is plugged into a power socket under the countertop. It works as a wirelessly controlled on/off switch between the garbage disposal unit and the mains.
The power module has a signal receiver in it, which is coupled to the remote control. When you press the remote control button it activates the switch inside the power module. This will turn on the garbage disposal. With another click, the circuit can be closed.
The good thing about the remote control is that it can be put anywhere. You can stick it on the wall or keep it inside a drawer of the cupboard.
While there is only one type of air switch, wireless switches are available in different models. Some models, like this Didikit one, have four buttons instead of one. Two of the buttons let you run the garbage disposal for specific amounts of time, while the other two function as ON/OFF switches. Another model by Cleesink has only one button, which functions as ON/OFF. This one doesn’t require any batteries to run it either.
Installation of a wireless switch
Installing a garbage disposal wireless switch is super easy, provided you already have a power socket near the garbage disposal, and also, the garbage disposals have a plug-in power cord.
Step 1: Plug the power module of the wireless switch unit into an existing power outlet under the countertop.
Step 2: Plug the power cord of the garbage disposal into the socket of this power module.
Step 3: Keep the switch of the power outlet in the ON position.
And that is all. Now you can control the garbage disposal with the wireless switch.
Here is a lengthy video of the installation of a wireless switch;
Super lengthy, wasn’t it?
Here is what a garbage disposal with a wireless switch looks like;
If you want to do something fancier, and control the garbage disposal via your Alexa device, then this GoSund smart plug is a good choice. You can plug this smart switch into the power socket under the sink, and then plug in the power cord from the garbage disposals onto its other side. And then, with a simple voice command, you can run the garbage disposal! But one downside is it cannot be used for a large size garbage disposal as its maximum amp rating is 10amps. It is good for a 1/3 or a 1/2 Hp garbage disposal however, if you plug in a larger unit, the switch may burn out.
Pros and Cons of wireless switches
- Wireless switches are super convenient to use since they can be controlled from anywhere. The switch of the wireless unit can be installed on the wall, countertop, or on any convenient location
- Wireless switches are safe to operate when compared to wall switches.
- Some wireless switches do not need batteries to operate
- Not all wireless switches are compatible with all garbage disposals. Large-size garbage disposals have a higher ampere rating, while wireless switches have a lower amp rating.
3. Wall switch
The third option for garbage disposal switches is a wall switch. These are regular wall switches rated to run a garbage disposal.
As you know, this setup involves a power switch and a power socket. The power socket is installed under the kitchen sink near the garbage disposal. The switch can be installed along with the power socket or a few inches above the countertop. I recommend the latter as it is more convenient to operate the disposal.
The power cord from the disposer is plugged into the socket. Once you switch on the power, the disposal runs.
Installing a wall switch is a tedious process. The installations of air and wireless switches are easy only when there is a wall switch. Here is a video detailing the installation of a garbage disposal switch;
Pros and cons of using a wall switch
Using a wall switch with a garbage disposal has some pros as well as cons. Here are they;
- No complex parts, just a power socket, and a switch
- No need for batteries
- Fewer chances of malfunctioning compared to air and wireless switches.
- Chances of electric shocks since our hands are usually wet when using a garbage disposal
4. Toe Kick switch
Toe kick switches are garbage disposal switches that are installed on the toe kick of a countertop. They are convenient and user-friendly in many ways.
A toe kick switch is foot-operated, or specifically, ‘toe’ operated. Its working is very similar to that of air and wireless switches. It comes with a switch, which is installed on the toe kick. A wire connects this switch to a power module which sits between the plug of the garbage disposal and the power socket from the mains, this is just like that of air and wireless switches.
The toe-operated switch is a retractive switch. When you push it with your toe to one side, it will activate the power module, which turns on the garbage disposal. When you release the switch, it cuts off the power to the disposer unit.
Here is a video from the inventor of this switch where he explains its working, and plus sides.
The installation of a toe kick switch is a little more tedious than that or a wireless switch but somewhat easier than that of an air switch. It mainly consists of two parts;
- A toe kick switch
- A power module
Here is how it is installed;
Step 1: Drill a hole on the upper side of the toe kick. The size of the hole only needs to be just enough to pass the wire connecting the switch and the power socket near the garbage disposal.
Step 2: Plug the power module into the existing power socket under the sink
Step 3: Pass the wire through the hole drilled in Step 1. Connect this wire to the toe kick switch.
Step 4: Turn on the power from the power socket. Then gently press the toe kick switch to check if the garbage disposal is working.
Step 5: If the garbage disposal is working fine, then screw the toe kick switch to the toe kick of the countertop in a location convenient to you. The best location is directly in front of the garbage disposal. This will make it very convenient to use the switch while adding food scraps to the disposal.
Pros and cons of toe kick switches
ToeKick switch is a convenient option for the easy use of garbage disposals. Let’s see what their pros and cons are;
- Less chance of getting electric shocks since it is operated by foot (unless your feet is dripping wet)
- Hidden from view installation
- Convenient to use for short runs. eg: While washing a plate of food scraps.
- Easy to stop if any metallic objects like spoons or forks fall into the disposer
- It will take some to get used to operating this switch
- A bit inconvenient when disposing of large amounts of food wastes as the switch makes you stay in one place.
Frequently Asked Questions about garbage disposal switches
Does a garbage disposal require a special switch?
A garbage disposal doesn’t require a special switch, a wall switch will do. However, it is recommended to use any of the special switches like an air switch, a wireless switch, or a toe kick switch for safety and convenience.
Does a garbage disposal need a 20 AMP switch?
No, a 15 amp switch is ample to operate household garbage disposals up to 1 HP size. However, if the manufacturer specifies that it should use a 20 amp switch, then by all means, do so.
Does a garbage disposal need a separate circuit, or can I put the dishwasher and disposer in the same circuit?
A garbage disposal doesn’t require a separate circuit, it can be installed in the same circuit as the dishwasher.
Are garbage disposals plugged in or hard-wired?
Garbage disposals can be plugged in or hard-wired. If you are using a batch feed type garbage disposal, then hard wiring is recommended. However, it is a continuous feed type unit then a power cord with a plug is recommended.
Where does the garbage disposal switch go on an island?
On an island, the garbage disposal switch is either installed on top of the island countertop or on its front. In most cases, the switch used is an air switch.