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Zinsco or Zinsco-Sylvania is the name given to a brand of electrical panel that was commonly installed up to the mid-1970's. It was a very popular product and installed throughout North America. Production was halted when design flaws were discovered. However, previously purchased panels were still being installed for a time after that. The deficiencies that became evident were serious enough t...

Mama always told me "You better shop around." No, seriously, Mama always told me "Don't use hot water in a garbage disposal!" Was Mama right? At the risk of offending your sensibilities, Mama was only half right. Grind food waste with cold water. Grease and oil solidify and more easily grind up before reaching your tiny P-trap. Don't grind food waste with hot water. Grease and...

At the risk of stating the obvious, a garbage disposal is a device, usually electrically powered, installed under a kitchen sink between the sink’s drain and trap. The disposal unit shreds food waste into pieces small enough—generally <2 mm—to pass through plumbing. About 50% of homes in the US have garbage disposals; food scraps range from 10% to 20% of household waste.

A high quality garbage disposal will love grinding for about 10-12 years, depending on what you put in it and how well you take care of it.  Estimated life also is dependent on the quality of the unit itself.  A good 2/3 HP or 3/4 HP, with lots of stainless steel (particularly the entire grind chamber) is optimal. If you cheap out on a 1/4 HP or 1/3 HP model and overuse it, don’t expect the disposal to last very long.

This post is a mix of things to never put into your garbage disposal, along with common issues and recommendations.

What NOT to Grind

What NEVER to put in your garbage disposal: asparagus, artichoke leaves, banana skins, celery, chicken bones, coffee filters, cooked rice, egg shells, grease, green onion tops, onion skins, potato peels, shrimp shells, tea bags. Some items damage the appliance (bones), plug the drain piping (banana peels), or load up the local waste water utility.

In this case, green is not good.
Yellow is not good, either.
Nor is brown.
Dead Disposal?  All May Not Be Lost

Make sure the disposal switch is OFF.

Climb under your kitchen sink, look up and behold – the red reset button.

Press the red reset button.

Unfold yourself, stand up, turn on the cold water, and voila! the disposal should operate again!

Or not.  Sometimes the reset button doesn’t work.  But it’s cheap and easy and should always be your first course of action if the disposal stops working for no apparent reason.

Common Issues and Recommendations

We inspect thousands of garbage disposals every year.  When our inspectors find an issue with a garbage disposal, it’s usually one of the following four:

  • The garbage disposal is leaking.
  • The splash guard is missing or deteriorated.
  • The wire clamp is missing.
  • The garbage disposal is excessively corroded.

The garbage disposal is leaking.
This can cause water damage.
Repair or replace the garbage disposal.

Splash Guard Missing

The splash guard is missing or deteriorated.
This is a safety concern.
Replace the splash guard.

Missing Wire Clamp

The wire clamp is missing.
This is a safety hazard.
Replace the garbage disposal.

Excessive Corrosion

The garbage disposal is excessively corroded.
This indicates a failing and unreliable appliance.
Replace the garbage disposal.

Garbage disposals are useful for lots of households but there are some other ways to dispose of food scraps, many of which are environmentally happier, including using a strainer to capture food scraps, or even better, starting a compost heap.

Poopy smells usually come from the toilet. So what exactly is that poopy smell coming from your sink or shower drain? Sludge Begone Most of the time, stink is from sludge on the stopper, drain cover, or top of the drain pipe.  If you pull out the stopper and see a tangled hair mess, sludge is your problem.  If you run warm water and smell sewer, sludge is your problem. Making sludge begon...

Recently, I performed a home energy audit here in SE Michigan. The customer was bothered by many cold spots throughout the house. I set up my blower door in an entry door to test for air leaks. I turned on the blower door and then went hunting for those air leaks. I found air leaks at some electrical outlets and switches on the exterior walls. This infrared photo of a quadruple switch box and a...

Stucco siding is a sand-based siding and is very porous. Stucco is installed in several ways, such as: over concrete block, over wood frame with a metal or plastic lathe, over Styrofoam on wood frame called EIFS, and the list goes on. Stucco like any other masonry surface develops typical cracks from various reasons such as shrinkage after it dries, poor installation mixture, or normal settlement....

As part of our "coverage" of National Radon Action Month, I thought we could take a look at a question that seems to be getting some discussion lately—How often should you test your home? A colleague of mine shared an interesting analogy with me that helps put frequent testing into proper perspective. She compared radon testing to medical checkups. You get your teeth checked twice a year. Women an...

ON mode may actually increase radon gas levels! You and your family can’t see or smell radon gas but it’s present in every home. Radon is a cancer-causing gas which comes from radioactive elements (uranium and radium) present in soil.  Radon gas enters through the home’s foundation due to pressure differences between the inside and outside of the home. Operating your HVAC system in ON mode may...

Not all blower motors are designed for ON mode! Check if the fan is rated for continuous use.  If your fan isn’t rated for continuous use but you still elect to run the fan in ON mode, budget to replace the fan sooner than normal with a fan that is designed for continuous use. Other Issues Filter gets dirty faster, system works harder. Remember the filter we discussed in Part 1? The fi...

A recent fast moving snowstorm expected to bring heavy accumulation of snowfall had XCEL Energy (natural gas supplier) warning radio listeners of making sure exterior vents were not blocked by snow buildup.  Xcel's concern, obviously, was a safety issue that if venting was not properly maintained, indoor carbon monoxide levels may increase due to inadequate combustion and venting of gases. All ...