In a garbage disposal, the term "continuous feed" refers to a type of disposal that can grind up food without stopping.
A simple definition:
They run without stopping after you turn them on (via a light switch) and don't stop until you flip the switch off.
These garbage disposals work in conjunction with running water and can accept a "stream" of food that is fed down through a sink and into a spinning grinder.
What does "Continuous" actually mean?
Most garbage disposals will list continuous feed as one of the features. However, this does not mean that a garbage disposal can take an unlimited amount of food at once.
It simply means that you can continually feed a uniform amount of food into the shredder without stopping and that the spinner runs from the time you flip the switch on until you then turn it off.
Here are some of the pros of a continuous feed garbage disposal:
- Can handle larger amounts of food
- Easier to keep a clean kitchen (works quicker)
- Usually cheaper
At the same time, there are a couple of cons to consider which are somewhat self-evident, but still worth mentioning:
- Not as safe
- Uses more water
What about clogging?
Seeing a garbage disposal listed as having a continuous feeding system also does not mean that the unit is immune to clogging or being overloaded.
While it's true that it can be continuously "fed," getting too much food waste in too short of a time period can clog the spinner.
Generally speaking, the higher a garbage disposal's horsepower rating, the less likely it will be to get clogged.
If you want to get a feel for what kind of HP ratings to lookout for, you can checkout our list of best garbage disposals.
Is this the only type of Feeding System for Garbage Disposals?
While continuous feed is by far the most common type of garbage disposal, you can also have what's called a batch feeder. While these are less convenient, they are safer in that it's much more difficult to get hands or fingers anywhere near spinning parts.
Batch feeding systems the spinner only grinds up whatever is put into it and doesn't run continuously.
Here are the pros of this type of system:
- Come with cover or "stopper"
- Better for set or small amounts of food
- Much safer
At the same time there are some disadvantages to keep in mind:
- Not ideal for larger amounts of waste
- Can do a less efficient job of eliminating odors
You can read more about the difference between continuous and batch feeders here.
For most projects and kitchen, the garbage disposal will (and should) utilize a continuous feeding system. While the safety issues are real with a disposal that continuously runs, careful operation is enough to mitigate most of those concerns.
It's the most common and functional garbage disposal solution available.