There are two types of garbage disposals: continuous feed and batch feed. They operate differently and have different strengths and weaknesses.
If this is your first time shopping for a garbage disposal, it might surprise you to find that there are two types. The continuous feed model is much more popular, so you may not have ever seen a batch feed disposal before or known anyone who had one. Also, you can visit our guide and reviews on choosing the best garbage disposal.
It’s popular in part because it tends to be less expensive. It is also simpler and more straight forward to use. You just turn the water on, turn the continuous feed garbage disposal on and start feeding food waste into it.
A batch feed garbage disposal requires a little more planning and organization. You have to first fill it with food waste, place the stopper into it, turn the water on and then turn the power on. In most cases, a batch feed garbage disposal will not turn on without the stopper.
The way batch feed disposals work makes them a little less convenient. They are not as conducive to disposing of small bits and pieces of things as you do food prep and cook.
They also are less convenient for disposing of large amounts of food waste at a time. Large quantities need to be processed in several small batches, making batch feed disposals less convenient for large families who do a lot of cooking and deal with a lot of food waste.
However, the way a batch feed disposal works means it is inherently safer than a continuous feed. This is true in various ways and for various reasons.
For starters, the fact that it has stopper means small items, such as kitchen utensils, cannot readily fall into it. Small items falling into the always open entry point for a continuous feed disposal is a common cause of blockage.
It can also cause someone to get hurt if they reach into the disposal with their hand to retrieve the item. This is especially likely to be a problem in a case where a child accidentally drops something into a disposal.
They are unlikely to think twice before simply trying to reach in, especially since their small hands are more likely to readily fit through the opening. In a household with several children or a special-needs child, this can be a serious cause for concern.
A batch feed disposal eliminates the risk of such scenarios. In most cases, it is simply not possible to have your hand in it while it is running.
The stopper serves as a safety switch. The unit will not turn on unless the stopper is in place. Even if someone sticks their hand in the unit, they will not be sticking their hand into dangerous machinery while it is running.
For households with small children, elderly members or other individuals with special needs, the safety features inherent to the design of a batch feed garbage disposal can be very attractive. Not having to live in fear of a relative being seriously harmed by this common household appliance can make a batch feed disposal highly desirable.
Continuous feed disposals can also potentially spew out items. Most of them come with a splash guard that reduces the risk of this happening, but does not completely eliminate the risk.
The stopper on a batch feed disposal also eliminates this possibility. Nothing can accidentally come flying out of the top of it because it will be closed up while running.
For people who feel like they walk around with a black cloud over their head and anything that can go wrong, will go wrong, this safety feature can help provide peace of mind. Some people find low risk events of this sort very stressful and may worry constantly about the possibility every time a continuous feed disposal is turned on.
They, too, may find a closed batch feed model a happier user experience. So, simple worrywarts or even people with a formal diagnosis of anxiety may want to consider a batch feed model.
Price Versus Cost
The typically lower upfront price of most continuous feed models is often cited as the reason they are so common. But the listed price is rarely the whole story.
Some continuous feed models lack a standard power line with a plug. This means they need to be installed by a professional.
If you were planning to have a professional install it anyway, you may not think anything of this detail. It may not strike you as an extra expense. But if you are the DIY type, this may be a genuine pain point for you.
In contrast, batch feed models always have a complete power line with a plug. This makes them slightly more DIY friendly, but only slightly. Some continuous feed models also have a complete power line with a plug.
If you are the DIY type, make sure to check if the model you are considering has a proper plug. Saving the cost of professional installation by a certified plumber may allow you to spend a bit more on the unit itself and get the disposal of your dreams.
They Require Different Habits
One of the downsides of a batch feed disposal is that people are sometimes tempted to pile small amounts of food waste in them a little at a time and let it sit until the unit is full. This can potentially take several days.
This is a potential health hazard. It can be a place for germs to grow while the food rots and can potentially attract insects or other vermin.
If you know this would be you, consider a continuous feed unit instead. If you purchase a batch feed unit, make sure you are prepared to run things in batches in a timely fashion.
Yes, it requires a little more organization and planning to use a batch feed unit properly. But you need to use it properly if you don’t want to simply trade a safety hazard for a health hazard.
Another growing concern in this day and age is water use. Some sources have predicted that the next wars will be fought over water and many jurisdictions have had to ration water at one time or another due to climate change.
If you live in a desert or other situation where water use is sometimes or often limited, or if you are simply worried about the environment and committed to doing something about it, then a batch feed model may be more attractive. Continuous feed models tend to use more water than batch feed models.
The Popularity Factor
It’s possible that continuous feed models are popular in part because they are popular. The fact that they are popular means they are more familiar. It also means there is a wider selection of models on the market.
The wider selection of models available means people are more able to find the details they want at a price they like. On the other hand, modern people often suffer from the paradox of choice.
In short, the wide variety of options available on the market can be a huge headache for many people. It can take a lot of time to do the research on what is available and more time still to try to decide which one is best. Many people find this reality very stressful.
If you want to make a good choice without spending an excess of time and energy on it, a good first step is to decide up front whether you want a batch feed model or a continuous feed model. This will reduce the number of options you need to examine in detail in order to make your purchasing decision.
A Little History Lesson In How Markets Get Shaped
Returning to the point of familiarity, this is a surprisingly important factor in the persistence of some things. You may not realize just how much this shapes your life and the world at large. One great example is the QWERTY keyboard.
The QWERTY keyboard was intentionally designed to be inefficient. It helped reduce the incidence of stuck keys all jammed together from someone typing too fast on mechanical typewriters.
But typewriters evolved and now most keyboards in use today are for computers, not typewriters. Mechanical keys that can stick together are no longer an issue, yet most keyboards are still QWERTY keyboards.
Why is that? What gives?
Well, most people learned to type on a QWERTY keyboard. Learning to type efficiently on a different layout would take time and energy. So both individuals and organizations typically default to the QWERTY because so many people are familiar with it.
So Be Prepared, If Necessary
If you have never used a batch feed disposal before, you may be tempted to get a continuous feed simply because it is familiar. You may not even consciously realize this is the reason. It just ends up being a more comfortable idea for reasons you may not have even examined.
If you do decide you want to get a batch feed disposal, be aware that you will probably need some transition time to adapt to doing things differently. It takes time to learn new things. It takes time to establish new habits.
Give yourself some transition time and commit to learning to adapt to this new style of disposal. This will help make it a successful and positive experience. This is the best way to avoid having buyer’s remorse and returning to the old, familiar continuous feed model the next time you need a new disposal.
Features In A Nutshell
Here is a handy checklist for each type of disposal. It can help you to remember some of the main features of each when trying to make a purchasing decision.
- Most popular.
- Tends to be cheaper.
- Tends to use more water and power.
- May lack a plug-in electrical cord, thus requiring professional installation.
- Has inherent safety risks, especially with children or certain other populations.
- Superior safety features.
- Less common, so may be less familiar.
- Tends to use less water and power.
- Always has a proper plug-in electrical cord, making it more DIY friendly.
Which household appliance to purchase is always a personal decision. There is no one absolute “right” answer for all scenarios. Instead, you need to decide which answer is best for you and your household based on the specifics of your situation.
There are many factors that can impact the decision. These can include cost, household size, household makeup, where you live and strongly held views of various sorts.
It may help to list out various factors in your own life. Perhaps read back through the article to get an idea of what types of things you should write down.
Then think about which ones are most important to you and other members of your household. Two seemingly identical households may come to completely different decisions because they have different priorities and handle the same issues differently.
For some people, a particular viewpoint or personal commitment to a cause will be the single most important driving factor in the decision. Maybe you are big on the environment and will go with a batch feed model simply because they tend to use less water and electricity.
For other people, personal circumstances eclipse other factors. For some people, the arrival of a special-needs family member can become a critical factor in all decisions, permanently changing their priorities.
You don’t need to explain or justify it to the person selling it to you or installing it for you. Don’t worry about that angle.
Just make the decision that makes the most sense for your specific situation. Make the decision that makes you happy.