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How to Install a Garbage Disposal

Garbage disposals have become increasingly essential to the way we live. As meal times grow ever more hectic and homeowners find themselves making regular use of leftovers, it seems like we rely more and more on this simple device to keep our sinks and plumbing clear. If the system fails or begins operating at something less than peak efficiency, the resulting blockages can quickly lead to leaks, odors and sitting water – ideal breeding grounds for the kind of mold and mildew regularly associated with poor health. Thankfully, installing a new garbage disposal is far easier than you may imagine, meaning you could save hundreds on the expense and inconvenience of having a plumber in your home.

Before you begin, however, you will want to select a device with the proper power rating for your wiring. Too many homeowners naturally assume bigger is better with machines such as these, when the truth is that a poorly matched device can quickly overwhelm the circuit. Stick with the recommended wattage you have on your existing garbage disposal – or in the case of a first-time installation, check the manufacturer’s rating first. You always want to avoid choosing anything that requires more water pressure than your pipes have to give – inadequate saturation can lead to dry operation, which may cause the machine to break down or even catch fire.

Once you have the right product in hand, you want to cut off the water to this part of the house and remove the entire drain assembly. Most plumbers keep a bucket on hand to catch any errant leaks that may be hiding in the kinks of your pipe, particularly if the cabinet below is prone to mildew. Remove the flange, washers and trap, being careful to use blunt tools if your sink has delicate chrome or ceramic parts. Once everything is clear, you are ready top attach the mounting assembly that comes with your new garbage disposal.

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Attaching the mounting assembly is a fast and simple process for most sinks, especially with newer models that include detailed instructions for the flange and mounting ring. Most brands simply snap into place, though a few may require some additional force or even three screws for a solid fit. Once everything is in place, you ay also want to turn the flange to see if you can get a tighter seal – a few designs are intentionally asymmetrical to allow for subtle variations in the sink basin.

This is a good time to double-check the S-trap or P-trap under your sink, as unwanted waste may get in the way while you attach disposal to mounting assembly. If the pipes are clear and the flange is secure, you are ready to remove the discharge tube and fasten the mounting rings together. It can be tough to get purchase in such an unusual position, so consider getting a mechanical screwdriver to relieve your back and shoulders from excess straining. Once the screws are in place, you can tighten the ring itself to ensure the metal pieces are lying perfectly flush.

Attaching the discharge tube to your waste line is the easiest part of the process. Line the edges up and be sure to leave appropriate clearance in the case of vibration. Garbage disposals are designed to minimize such forces with total symmetry, but it’s not unusual for age and wear to render them unusually active. Tighten the brackets on the discharge tube and check the safety on the bottom of your unit. If everything seems aligned and ready to go, you can attach the power source, turn the water back on and run a quick test.

One final note: garbage disposals draw a tremendous amount of power, and keeping such machinery in close proximity to running water may pose a fire hazard. Check with a licensed, bonded electrician if you need to run a power line directly from the wall – often you can bypass such pricey installation costs simply by adding a certified ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) in the outlet you use. You may also want to keep the water running for a minimum of 45 seconds after each use of the disposal, as clearing this slurry effectively is the surest way to maintain the health of the machine.


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