Eventually, one fine day last week, the disposer simply refused to work. I could hear the motor humming when I turned it on, but the motor would not turn. I used the provided allen wrench to turn the motor externally thinking something was stuck. But I could turn the motor externally quite easily, but the motor never wanted to turn by itself. I even turned the motor this way and that way externally while it was on, but apart from humming and becoming warm, the motor refused to turn.
It was time to do some shopping. I called and fixed up an appointment with my usual plumber to replace the garbage disposer. Then, I went out and shopped around for a new garbage disposer. I checked reviews on various sites also and found that the best ones were very expensive (well over $250). When I went to the stores, I found the best-reviewed garbage disposers selling for well over $300. The best-reviewed garbage disposer is one made by Insinkerator, by the way. I also found the disposer I eventually purchased, the GE Disposall GFC720T selling for just over $100.
The specs of this disposer are quite reasonable. It has a 3/4 HP motor, and a 2-stage grinding mechanism. I had used Insinkerator brand garbage disposers for the past 13 years, and had gone through 3 of them in that time period. I decided it was perhaps time to try a different brand. It also helped that the GE Disposall was about $200 cheaper than the Insinkerator brand disposer of the same power rating.
Like all 3/4 HP disposers, the GE Disposall is quite large around. At least larger than 1/3 or 1/2 HP disposers. It seems to be slightly smaller than the corresponding 3/4 HP disposers from Insinkerator. It should fit under most sinks without much of a problem, but if you have an extra small under-sink space, you might want to check the clearances before buying a bigger disposer.
I did not do the installation. That was what I paid the plumber over $300 to do! It took him well over 2 hours to do it. It took about 15 minutes for him to test and remove the old garbage disposer. After I showed him how the motor never turns even though it hums, he concurred with me that it was possible the motor was partially burnt out. He also tried turning it manually and found that there was no obstruction to the motor turning. The motor had just given up, and it was time for me to give up on the disposer.
Next it was time to put the new disposer in place. The fittings that attach this disposer to the sink are a little different from what were used for the Insinkerator. This is not surprising since every brand probably uses proprietary, and perhaps patented, fittings to attach it firmly to the sink and prevent leaks. Insinkerator is by far the best-selling garbage disposer, so plumbers are much more familiar with installing those than any other brand. The plumber had to refer to the installation directions that came with my new disposer several times during the installation to get it all squared away.
Next came the process of hooking up the drains. This took a long time because the outlet of this disposer was lower than the outlet of my previous disposer. This meant that all the under-sink plumbing had to be adjusted to make sure that the drains worked as before. He had to extend one section of pipe (well, actually that simply meant he had to replace the existing pipe with a slightly longer section of pipe), and some others had to be cut down to size. I am not going to hold this against the new disposer because I would have probably had the same problem simply by going from my original 1/2 HP disposer to a 3/4 HP disposer, even if I had stuck with the same brand.
Then came the process of hooking up the disposer to the electric system. Here, I think GE could have definitely done a better job of things. The problem was that the new disposer did not come with all the hardware to hold the electrical connections inside the body of the disposer. The old disposer had come with a nut that holds the electrical connections in place. This disposer did not, and the old nut would not fit on the new disposer. The plumber had to use a lot of electrical tape to simulate what the nut did by taping the electrical connections securely to the disposer so that they don't eventually come apart.
Finally, it was all done, and it was time to test the disposer. We did not have actual garbage to test it with, but we filled the sink with water (the disposer comes with a sink drain plug that can be used to plug up the drain and therefore fill up the sink), and then pulled the plug while running the disposer. There were no leaks anywhere, and the disposer itself ran quite well. Like all garbage disposers I have used, this one also has motor overheat protection, that trips a fuse when the motor gets overheated. You can reset it after the motor cools down by pressing in a small switch on the side of the garbage disposer opposite the water outlet.
It is much quieter than the old disposer. Most of the time, all you hear is a faint humming sound from the electric motor. The actual grinding mechanism is well-insulated and you don't hear it most of the time. However, the problem this disposer has is that if the motor is slowed down from its usual speed because of the load it is under, the whole disposer starts vibrating violently. This vibration is then transmitted to the sink, and from there to the entire counter-top.
Most of the time that I use the garbage disposer, I am very happy with its performance. But when it gets a little overloaded and it goes into this vibration mode, it produces quite a racket with everything in the sink, and most of the stuff on the counter-top jumping around because of the vibration. Once the disposer is able to get back to its normal speed, it quiets down, but in the meantime, it is quite scary. I don't think it is healthy for the sink and counter-top either to be so violently shaken every time this happens. If you have breakable stuff on the counter-top, better move them well inside from the edges of the counter-top before switching on this garbage disposer.
The user manual suggests never to let garbage get into the disposer before it is switched on. That way, the disposer deals with the garbage while it is spinning, and never gets into a situation where it tries to start up under load. And I have noticed that this slowdown and vibration occurs only on start-up, not after the disposer has started spinning at speed. So, if you are very disciplined about making sure that your disposer is not clogged with garbage before you switch it on, you may never have to deal with this vibration problem.
The next thing to note is that this garbage disposer does not come with an allen wrench to turn the motor externally. If the motor is stuck, the advice in the user's manual is to use a broom stick inside the garbage disposer to try and get it unstuck. Personally, I think the allen wrench to turn the disposer from outside is a much better, more practicable idea.
Also, the garbage disposer has a very narrow opening from the sink. I am not a large man, and I have smaller than average hands, but I can't put my hands into the disposer through the opening in the sink. I used to be able to do this quite easily with the old disposer, and regularly used to do so when something was stuck inside, and had to be taken out to the garbage rather than being disposed off down the drain. My wife and kids, who have smaller hands than I do, can reach in, but the disposer seems to be designed to prevent most normal-sized hands from being inserted into the body of the disposer.
What do you do if something that does not belong in the disposer does get stuck inside the disposer? The user's manual's suggestion is to use long tongs to fish out such offenders from the body of the disposer. Well, so far, I have been lucky that things like spoons or forks have not fallen into the disposer. But I can tell you that I don't like the prospect of fishing for things like that with tongs. Can you imagine manipulating a spoon or fork using tongs carefully enough to retrieve it through the narrow opening of the disposer? My advice would be to be very careful about what goes into the garbage disposer so that you never have to take anything out.
So, what is the bottomline? For the cost, this is a very solid garbage disposer. It is powerful, and quiet. It has never jammed or had problems disposing of any garbage so far. However, installation was a bit of a problem, not only because plumbers are unfamiliar with this brand, but also because it does not have the correct hardware included for securing the electrical connections.
Even though it is quiet when running at its normal speed, any slowdowns caused by extra load result in excessive vibration that could be damaging to the sink, the counter-top and the plumbing under the sink. There is no way to get the disposer unstuck by using an allen wrench from the outside of the disposer. I am not entirely sure how successful poking around the inside of the disposer with a broom handle will be. And more importantly, the sink opening of this disposer is designed to prevent most adults from being able to reach inside the disposer to retrieve stuff that does not belong in there. The user's manual suggests using long-handled tongs to do this. I would say, good luck doing so!
But it is early days still, and I don't know how durable it is going to be. If it works like it does right now three years or five years from now, I would have no complaints about it whatsoever. I will update you on any problems that it develops down the road. For now, there are no insurmountable drawbacks to this disposer except for the vibration under load. I would therefore give this a 3.5 or 4 rating out of 5. If the vibration problem were fixed, it might merit a 4.5 out of 5.