Do garbage disposals need GFCI?

Wiring your garbage disposal seems to be a challenge, but really it can be accomplished in a few steps. Garbage disposals do put a lot of strain on the water and electrical systems of your home, so first your options should be weight out. They can be wired and placed in a variety of ways.

According to the National Electric Code (NEC), garbage disposals are not required to have a GFCI (ground-fault circuit interrupter). Though connecting it to a GFCI is optional. Garbage disposals can be hardwired in or connected to an outlet through a grounded electrical outlet.

Garbage disposals can be important parts of the kitchen, they bring about a much needed way to get rid of food waste that is helpful in a variety of ways. Knowing how to properly wire a disposal will be helpful in its function as well as in the safety of your home and electrical system.

What is a GFCI outlet?

“GFCI outlets, also known as ground fault circuit interrupter outlets, are specifically constructed to halt your electrical systems and appliances to prevent overheating and potential fires, plus to prevent electrocution” Source.

Since 1961, when Charles Dalziel, a professor of electrical engineering at the University of California invented homes have had the opportunity to be protected by GFCI’s.

As you look at an electrical outlet, you see three holes. The top left hole, the longer blade slot, is the neutral line. The right hole, a smaller blade slot, is the hot line. The electricity is circulated out, through the appliance you have plugged in and then back into the neutral line, creating a circuit. When more electricity is going out than is coming back in, an electric shock occurs. GFCI’s notice this imbalance and trip the circuit when there is an imbalance in the electricity.

When compared to other outlets, it contains its own circuit breaker that sets it apart. Other outlets will not automatically turn off, and can be the cause of electric shock, fires, or destruction of the electrical system.

Should I use a GFCI for my garbage disposal?

While we see from the NEC that it is not required to have a GFCI outlet for you garbage disposal, it can be a good option. It will help in case water gets near the outlet while you are running the disposal. The law according to the NEC is that a GFCI needs to be installed for any outlets that are within six feet of the sink, which should also be part of the consideration process.

Advantages of a GFCI Outlet

There are many advantages to installing a GFCI outlet, and having them strategically placed around your home. They protect homes from electrical fires which can be caused by shorts of other wiring problems. They also aid in the protection of appliances, keeping them safe from electric surges. They also help keep your family safe from electrical currents which can cause electrocution.

What is a hardwired outlet?

“Garbage disposals (sometimes called food disposers) can be connected to the electrical power supply in one of two ways. They are sometimes hardwired directly into a dedicated circuit, or they can be wired with an appliance cord that plugs into a wall outlet that is usually located inside the sink base cabinet.”

Hard wiring a garbage disposal can be a complicated process, but it allows you garbage disposal to be directly connected with the power source. This is much more of a permanent process, because simply put it is splicing the wires directing into the junction or power box.

“Larger in-home appliances such as dishwashers, ovens, and stove tops might be hardwired into your home,” while others which are more mobile would be set up with a plug in configuration. Often times, large appliances are hardwired in from the beginning and having allow for a more organized look with less wire. Source. They do pose a challenge with being moveable, they are generally more expensive to install, and require the help of an electrician to move.

How do you hard wire a garbage disposal?

In order to hard wire any appliances, an electrician would be a big help. Hard wiring an appliance can be a big job and can have damaging results if not done correctly. Either way, its important that you strip the wires and connect them to one another in the correct way. White wires to white wires, black wires to black wires, or to red wires.

What is a plug-in configuration?

The other common option for hooking up your garbage disposal is with a plug in cord. These are normally purchased separately from the garbage disposal. Having appliances set up as with a plug in configuration is much easier most the time, the only restraints being the length you want the appliance from a power source. You can only go as far as the plug will reach. It is also important to be cautious as you try to remove the plug without bending it.

“Plugs come in various sizes and voltages depending on the power needed to run the appliance. The standard plug for an American an appliance is 110-volts and 60 hertz” Source. Knowing and understanding the voltage of a plug will help as you decide which set up to use for your garbage disposal. For example, “Larger appliances such as washer and dryers use a three or four-prong 240-volt cord to plug into a special outlet. Smaller appliances like microwaves and toaster-ovens use the regular two-prong 110-volt cord to plug-in” Source.

When purchasing a cord “be sure to use a grounded cord with the appropriate voltage and amperage ratings for your garbage disposal. It’s usually easier to connect the cord to the disposal before mounting the disposal under the sink, but you can also complete the wiring after the unit is mounted” Source.

Installing a plug in is also beneficial, because if the outlet has enough capacity, you can also use it for the dishwasher or other close appliances. More than one appliance in a single outlet of power.

How to Install a Plug in?

If needed, an electrician can be a great help when trying to install your garbage disposal, but if you would rather do it yourself there are some helpful tips while trying to install a plug in.

First off, start by removing the wiring covering from the bottom of the garbage disposal, where the wires are. Once you have done this “install a cord clamp into the hole near the wiring compartment. Insert the threaded end of clamp into the hole and secure it on the inside of the unit’s base plate with the clamp’s nut” Source. After installing that, you can strip the wires of plastic if necessary and feed the wires through the clamp and into the box.

Next, you will need to configure the wires in the proper way, start by wrapping the ground wire around the screw, wrapping it clockwise. Then “connect the white (neutral) cord wire to the white (neutral) wire on the disposal, using a wire connector. Connect the black (hot) cord wire to the black (hot) wire of the disposal with a wire connector.” Then reattach the metal base covering, and test it out!

Switching Between Hard Wire and Plug-in

Some houses have old hard wiring with no easily accessible plug in options. Others want to have less cords behind the fridge so they are ready to switch it over, whatever the situation, plug in’s and hard wiring are both good options.

It is important to mention though, that is much harder to switch from a plug to hard wire than the other way around. There is also a difference in the cost of the two. For both a plug in and hard wired option, you will have to pay the electrician for his labor and the materials, but changing to or adding in a plug in is more expensive because you must also install a new outlet. Though it is more expensive, it could be a valid option.

Other Restrictions and Tips

While knowing whether or not a GFCI outlet is required, it is also important to understand the other restrictions placed by the NEC (National Electric Code) when you are wiring in and installing a garbage disposal.

  • “A dedicated circuit is generally recommended, although a circuit that is shared with a dishwasher is sometimes appropriate. The best authority on this distinction is the disposal’s user manual” Source.
  • “The vibration caused by the operation of a garbage disposal can cause electrical connections to separate. Check for any loose connections in the wire compartment box at the base of the disposal” Source.
  • Always makes sure your garbage disposal has the correct amount of water that it needs to work properly.

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