Besides eliminating messes and discouraging bugs and other pests, a garbage disposer shifts food waste from landfills to a wastewater treatment system.
That has prompted some cities to require disposers in new homes. Add in the many towns that charge by volume for waste removal, and it's easy to see why nearly half of American homes have a garbage disposer.
But some municipalities discourage residential garbage disposers because of inadequate sewer systems or water supplies. Even if your community allows disposers, using one may cost you more than you think. Some cities also worry that garbage disposers encourage homeowners to flush down fat, oil, and other greasy residue that can clog sewers.
How to choose
Before choosing a model, answer these four basic questions.
Is a garbage disposer appropriate in my area?
If you use a municipal sewer system, call your local sewer authority to find out its disposer policy. Some require a permit to use one, while others discourage them because of limited water and sewer capacity.
Is my septic tank big enough?
Your municipality may require an upgrade if you have a septic system and use a garbage disposer. Check with your local building inspector or environmental health official. Alternatively, you may need to empty the existing tank more frequently.
Is the extra water use worth it?
Figure on about 2.5 gallons of water per minute for most faucets, or some 900 gallons per year based on minute-per-day use. Besides potentially increasing your water bill, a disposer's added water consumption is a concern in drought areas.
Is the plumbing up to the task?
Don't install a garbage disposer if plumbing clogs or backups are frequent, since a disposer's added waste can make both more likely. Have a problem septic system fixed, emptied, or enlarged before buying a garbage disposer.
Copyright © 2006-2012 Consumers Union of U.S., Inc. No reproduction, in whole or in part, without written permission.