Pros and Cons of Batch-Feed Garbage Disposals
This lesser-known type of food-waste grinder has its perks, but is it right for you?
When shopping for a garbage disposal, you’ll find models filed under two categories: continuous feed and batch feed.
Continuous-feed disposals are far more popular and the type you’ll see in most homes. You flip a switch to whirr it into motion and (with cold water running) toss in food scraps as it grinds. Often, that switch is wired into the wall above the sink.
“But in old homes, getting that switch on the wall and rewiring the electricity can be very difficult and expensive,” says Mark Cammarota, vice president of marketing for InSinkErator, the brand that invented the garbage disposal in the late 1920s. “The batch-feed model came out in the early '60s as a solution. The switch is actually built into the cover that you place over the disposal.”
How Batch-Feed Garbage Disposals Work
Rather than throwing food down the disposal as it’s running, you insert food waste in a single batch (3 to 5 cups at a time, depending on the model), place the cover over the opening, run the faucet, and twist or push down (depending on the model) the cover to turn on the grinder.
No wall switch required, which means no extra electrical work beyond getting power to the unit under the sink.
Safety. Since batch-feed models only operate with the stopper properly placed and nothing can enter while in use, there’s no risk of injury to children—or anyone for that matter. "Hands can't go in and food debris can't come flying out," says Larry Ciufo, who oversees CR's garbage disposal tests. "There is also no chance for utensils and random objects to accidentally fall into the disposal."
Perfect for the kitchen island. “If your sink is on the kitchen island it probably doesn't have an electrical wall switch hooked up,” says Alyssa Wiegand, product manager at Moen. “Installing a batch-feed model rather than hiring an electrician to hook up a switch can really save you a lot of money.” This also saves you the extra step of installing a countertop switch, which requires drilling holes through your gorgeous countertop.
Easy installation. The fact that you don’t need to wire the appliance to a wall switch saves time and money, but all other installation steps are the same as continuous-feed models—you either plug the unit into an outlet under the sink or hard-wire it to a junction box.
Quiet operation. The cover reduces the noise coming out of the drain while it’s grinding. Batch-feed models also generally come with added sound insulation since they’re considered higher-end garbage disposals.
Great performance. Consumer Reports tested four batch-feed models and they all performed quite admirably in our lab, earning Overall Scores in the Very Good range. Most continuous-feed models we tested fall in the Fair to Good range.
More expensive. Batch-feed models come exclusively with higher horsepower, which tend to cost more than the cheaper ⅓-hp and ½-hp continuous-feed models. “Since we only offer one batch-feed model, we made it ¾-hp because that amount of power meets the needs of almost all consumers,” says Wiegand. “They also tend to be a bit more expensive than continuous-feed models due to the extra components that go into the stopper.”
Time-consuming. If you have lots of food to grind, processing it in batches can feel tedious.
Potentially inconvenient. "If you lose the cover or manage to damage it, the batch-feed disposal won’t work," says Ciufo. Replacement covers cost around $30 to $40.
Higher risk of clogs. “With a batch-feed disposal, you're processing a large load of food all at once so you need to be careful not to overload the hopper,” says Eric Schultz, director of product management at InSinkErator. “And if you have older pipes that are more constricted, you might have to be a little bit more careful.”
Takes up more space. Batch-feed disposals have longer necks to accommodate the hopper that you fill with food scraps. This might take a couple more inches of vertical space underneath your cabinet. The models we test range from 14 to 16 inches tall, so you can expect 10 to 12 inches of clearance to store your cleaning supplies.
Best Batch-Feed Garbage Disposals
Consumer Reports tests garbage disposals for speed, fineness of ground food particles, and noise. In general, batch-feed models perform very well, topping our ratings chart. CR members with digital access can read on for ratings and reviews of the best from our tests.