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Garbage Disposer Switch Kaput?

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  • Garbage Disposer Switch Kaput?

    Most garbage disposer complaints on the plumbing forum have to do with a unit that won't run. My General Electric Super Grind Disposall, a golden oldie that has worked just fine since I bought my 1941-built house a year ago, has the opposite problem. It won't shut off.

    My instincts tell me the cause is likely a worn-out on/off switch rather than a malfunction of the disposer itself. The switch is a push-button type mounted under the front part of the (vintage) sink cabinet. It may sound like it would be easy for a DIYer to remove/replace, but trust me, it isn't, at least not for this arthritic homeowner, whose DIY jobs are limited by what my orthopedist, a man with a gift for colorful language, refers to as "the Chernobyl of spines"--the switch assembly is essentially hidden in the wood structure of the cabinet, with a hole drilled to allow only the push button to protrude.

    The plumber I phoned said, "Ah, just put in a new unit. I got a nice super-quiet 3/4 HP Badger you'll love." Easy for him to say--he's not a retiree living on a fixed income!

    Am I right to think a bum switch is the likely reason a disposer won't shut off?

  • #2
    Re: Garbage Disposer Switch Kaput?

    Yes. Change the switch. Its a cheap fix. Be very safe, and if there is any doubt, hire an electrician.
    Water Heater Reviews & Water Heater Information


    • #3
      Re: Garbage Disposer Switch Kaput?

      My trick replace with a 20 amp,not 15 amp switch ,a little ,heavier duty
      I can build anything You want , if you draw a picture of it , on the back of a big enough check .


      • #4
        Re: Garbage Disposer Switch Kaput?

        i would have told you the same thing--replace it
        since we are plumbers --not electricians,i would suggest calling in a licensed electrician and letting him fix the switch-----the only bad thing is with the disposal being that old,it COULD die on ya in a week-an electrician will have the parts neede on his truck,not a plumber
        personally, i stick to my trade---plumbing----if i cant plug it into an existing outlet--i have our electrician do it----


        • #5
          Re: Garbage Disposer Switch Kaput?

          Thanks, everybody, for your expert help. It's most appreciated.

          I definitely will hire a licensed electrician, have him re-route the flex conduit and install a 20-amp switch in the wall above the countertop. (I promise not to buy the switch at Home Depot.)

          As for the ancient metal-clad G.E. Disposall, if she dies, she dies. But if she's anything like my KDS-17A KitchenAid dishwasher, which was built like a tank by Hobart in the early 1970s (triple porcelain over a steel wash chamber, reinforcing bars that run up and down both sides of the machine) and puts every other brand of dishwasher I've ever owned to shame, she may outlast me.

          Everything I know I learned via the internet.


          • #6
            Re: Garbage Disposer Switch Kaput?

            a disposal is a motor.
            the motor is controlled by supplying power to it via a switch. if the switch doesn't shut off, the disposal will continue to run.

            now if the electrical is too tricky to reroute, can you install a push button air switch on the counter or face of the cabinet. insinkerator makes them and they only require an outlet to plug them into. then the disposal plugs into the air switch control box.

            by the way, insinkerator, badger is a owned by emerson electric. the same company that owns ridgid

            phoebe it is


            • #7
              Re: Garbage Disposer Switch Kaput?
              Plumber Rick, the Insinkerator air switch ( may be the simplest way to go. I'll suggest it to the electrician.
              The situation now is a junction box fastened to a shelf at the top front of the sink cabinet, with flexible conduit leading from it to the disposer; another length of flex conduit runs through a hole in the cabinet floor and down to the basement, where it enters another junction box that feeds into the circuit-breaker panel. All I can see of the switch is what projects through the one-inch-diameter hole directly below the junction box: a push button half an inch long and even smaller in diameter than a reset button.

              The shelf is 4 inches deep and runs the length of the 33-inch sink cabinet, and although the online Insinkerator brochure doesn't give any dimensions, I would think the single-outlet unit should fit in the space; the air button line could be run down the hole next to the switch. I assume the button itself could be located on the bottomside of the shelf, upside down as it were, right?

              Because the sink cabinet doors are recessed five inches from the front of the adjoining base cabinet and dishwasher, I do not have to open either of them to hit the push button. It's an unusual--and well hidden--location for a disposer switch but actually very handy.

              Thanks for the suggestion. If it's workable, I'm sure my electrician will appreciate not having to fish up through the wall and hook into an existing wall receptacle, which surely would involve taking out the G.E. Disposall in order to have room to work.

              And just in case my ship comes in: Do all of the residential-use continuous-feed Badgers have plastic housings? I have read many online reviews complaining of the plastic cracking far too early, typically just after the warranty expires. I live alone, create little garbage and do not need more than 1/2 HP, but the shallow cabinet makes a compact unit mandatory.


              • #8
                Re: Garbage Disposer Switch Kaput?

                Just in case you do end up replacing the disposer take a look at the Insinkerator Badger 5. You can find it at Home Depot. It's not fancy but they do work well. It fits where many fancy models won't.


                As for the push button switch this may end up becoming a real PITA. Could you use some other type of switch under the sink in the cabinet or maybe a wall switch? In any case the recommendation to call in a good electrician is good advise.

                One replacement for the switch might be a panel mount type bat handle toggle switch. Be sure it has 15 or 20 Amp contacts, is rated for 1/2 HP or larger motor loads, and is of the single pole, single throw (ON / OFF) type with screws. A good electrical supply house should have them in stock. Please see picture. There are push on, push off switches but most can't withstand the starting current of a 1/2HP or larger motor.

                The switch in the picture mounts in a 15/32" round hole. 1/2 = 16/32

                Cutler-Hammer famous for circuit breakers, switch gear, motor starters and more makes lots of this kind of switch. A good electrical distributor that stocks heavy should have them. There are other brands too so no need to worry too much about the brand. I've found them at ACE hardware for that matter. Check the ratings. You must have 15 or 20 Amp contacts and 125 or higher Voltage rating. Also 1/2 HP or higher. Many of these are light duty look alike and can only handle 3 or 6 Amp loads. They will KAPOOF real fast.
                Attached Files
                Last edited by Woussko; 07-23-2008, 02:44 PM.


                • #9
                  Re: Garbage Disposer Switch Kaput?

                  I have been using that air switch for about a year in my personal house with no problems. Easy to install and comes with both chrome and white button trims.
                  Once you become a pickle you can't go back to being a cucumber.


                  • #10
                    Re: Garbage Disposer Switch Kaput?

                    I like the suggestion of a panel-mount bat-handle toggle switch. It would seem to be more substantial than the push-button air switch--and much less expensive, too--and thus likely not to be a PITA and to last longer. (Maybe I'm leery of push buttons because my electrician dad loudly and with great frequency referred to the finicky push-button door "handles" on his 1940s Lincoln Continental as "stupid, stupid, stupid.")

                    I'm aware of the Badger 5 and might buy it when I have to replace the vintage G.E. even though contemporary disposers seem to be victims of planned obsolescence. I offer as an example of "they don't make 'em like that anymore" the disposer I bought in 1966 for the first home my husband and I owned, an 1894 Victorian. The disposer was dead as vaudeville when we moved in, but as young newlyweds with little money to spare after paying to update the electrical service, I opted to buy the cheapest disposer I could find, a 1/4 HP Montgomery Ward. My husband, who is no longer among the living, thought manual labor was a Mexican, so I installed it myself. (I recall being pregnant was an advantage, my big belly a good prop for the unit as I hefted it up and got it locked into the mounting assembly.) I dunno who made the Monkey Ward unit, but it was still going strong when I sold the house 3 kids and 26 years later.

                    Thanks to all for your help. I'll post again when the job is done, although that may be a while yet.


                    • #11
                      Re: Garbage Disposer Switch Kaput?

                      I took the panel on the top front of the double sink cabinet off and removed the junction box and worn-out push-button switch, then bought a single pole, single throw, heavy duty toggle switch at an Ace Hardware store (#31499, 20 amp, 125V AC, 12 amp, 250V AC, 1 HP, 120/240V AC). The switch wouldn't work with the existing box, so I called an electrician.

                      He could use the switch I bought, just needed a different junction box. He did the job today in one hour. The cost was what I spend on groceries in a month.

                      Kinda ironic, we being in an economy that's failing so badly that I'd probably be smart to eat my garbage rather than swill it down the sink.

                      Thanks to all the pros who gave their suggestions, especially Woussko. My electrican didn't have any suitable switches in his truck and would have had to make another trip if I hadn't bought the toggle switch in advance.

                      JinMinn aka Minneapolis
                      Last edited by JinMinn; 10-07-2008, 03:55 PM. Reason: I seem to have two user names and forgot I had posted as Minneapolis in this thread.


                      • #12
                        Re: Garbage Disposer Switch Kaput?

                        Originally posted by PCPlumber
                        The price is about right. 1 hour for travel + 1 hour to diagnose x $240 per hour = $480. This is not a joke. I uses electricians all the time. Just a few days ago, before I retired, I called an electrician to run an outlet for a tankless water heater. He quoted $625 for job that takes 20 minutes and $15 in materials.

                        I did not use the electrician. As I said, the job took only about 20 minutes and I did it myself. I can wire an entire house from the meter.

                        Sorry to be sarcastic, but, at least electricians know what to charge. It is the cost of doing business + profit = prices we are not happy with.

                        Sorry about your food supply. You can come to my place and have some spaghetti and meatballs.

                        Sorry Jack, but cost of doing business aside, what was done for this gentleman should cost nowhere near $480. $480 would cover 2 trips and two travel times and a box and switch and still leave a decent profit. If in fact the charge was anywhere near this, I would guess the guy made out very well today, but will never see another visit to this home, nor will he get any referrals. Assuming he knew what the visit was for,(telephone prequalification) he should have had some kind of switch on his truck. An electrician without any switch of any kind on his truck is like a plumber not carrying faucet washers or angle stops. $480 for an hours work, better include some vaseline and a reach-around!


                        • #13
                          Re: Garbage Disposer Switch Kaput?

                          Originally posted by JTROANOKE View Post
                          $480 for an hours work, better include some vaseline and a reach-around!
                          It's also just not good business sense to price most of your customers out of the market.


                          • #14
                            Re: Garbage Disposer Switch Kaput?

                            The response of JTRoanoke quoting PCPlumber is confusing.

                            First, I do not see where PCPlumber ever contributed to this thread. Second, I (Minneapolis aka JinMinn) never mentioned the amount charged by my electrician but only stated that the job took an hour.

                            Truth is, his company charges $165.00 for the first hour, which includes travel time. Added was five bucks for parts (junction box, wirenuts, clamps to secure the free-floating Greenfield), for a total of $170.00. By stating that this amount was equivalent to my monthly food bill, I did not mean to imply that the charge was excessive. It was more than fair, and I would call this company again in the future.

                            Also, I never said the electrician had no switches in his truck but only that he had nothing suitable for what was an unusual situation.


                            • #15
                              Re: Garbage Disposer Switch Kaput?

                              Originally posted by Minneapolis View Post
                              The response of JTRoanoke quoting PCPlumber is confusing.

                              I'm glad your happy with your electrician. PCPlumber has rubbed alot of people the wrong way on the forum, with his insistence that plumbers should charge at least $300 an hour. There are of course two sides to the argument, and I am not trying to reopen that argument here; just letting you in on a bit of the background.