The strength of a garbage disposal is measured primarily by its horsepower rating (usually abbreviated HP). Other numbers like the motor's RPM can also come into play, but most of what you would assume about a garbage disposal's grinding power can be linked to that HP number.
This number usually ranges from 1/3 HP on the low end and 1.75 HP on the high end, at least for residential models. The following factors are impacted by this rating:
- Types of food waste it can handle
- Frequency of use
- Estimated number of people in household ("busyness" of the kitchen)
For example, the following graphic shows you the HP rating of several popular garbage disposals along with the number of people recommended for each one.
In this article, I'll answer the question: What HP garbage disposal do I need?
If you're looking for buying options, checkout our best garbage disposal recommendations page.
0.33 to 0.75 HP: The Easy Workload
Garbage disposals rated at 1 HP or under are very typical, though they're not designed to handle heavy work loads. Chicken bones, fruit pits, and even fibrous vegetables should be avoided with these. They're often installed in townhouses or condos and are more ideal for households with one to three people where the kitchen is not heavily used.
If you have a big family or cook at home a lot, you might want to consider something a little stronger.
1 to 1.25 HP: The Moderate Workload
At 1.5 HP garbage disposals can handle larger amounts of food at one time (essentially whatever will fit through the sink opening) and heavier waste items.
These disposals can handle fibrous or stringy food items, though we'd still recommend staying away from anything bone or hard. Moderate to high use kitchens where there are more than five people in a household will do fine at 1.5.
While they do tend to be a bit more expensive, we've found that the extra power is worth the investment, even if you do live in a smaller home with a less frequently used kitchen. A more powerful motor means less clogs and and an easier time disposing of the food waste you do make, small though it may be.
1.25 to 1.5 HP and Up: The Heavy Workload
Rarely do we see a residential garbage disposals above 1.75 HP. Those are typically only found in restaurants and not necessary for most homeowners.
In the 1.25 to 1.75 HP range, you're usually getting a disposal with multiple grinding stages that can handle bones or even fruit pits. Many of these disposals will also have silencing technology or some kind of noise suppression, just because their motors do tend to be a bit louder.
These are ideal for homes with heavily used kitchens and a lot of family members.
We would say six people or more where there's a lot of food waste and regular use of the kitchen for meals.
So which one is right for you?
I would recommend making a note of the following items:
- How many people are in your household?
- How many times per week do you cook/eat a meal at home?
Types of food are harder to pin down, but these two numbers will give you an idea of what HP garbage disposal you should target. For most people the 0.5 to 1.25 HP range is pretty typical and a safe bet if you're not sure.
If you have questions, leave them in the comments section below and I'll do my best to help out.