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(National) April 20, 2004 - Consumer Reports' Bob Karpel designed a two-story set-up for testing garbage disposers. Once he loads the garbage, it passes through the disposer and into clear pipes, so he can see if any sludge gets trapped.
The disposers are also hooked up to monitors, so Bob can keep track of how much electricity they use and how much water. All of the disposers are subjected to the same tough test, grinding up bones, which have been carefully weighed and measured.
Bob says of the tests , "We were looking for two distinct things. One: to see how much they would grind in a minute, because if these things run a long time they're really annoying to listen to, and the other was to see how finely they would grind the particles to make sure it wasn't going to get stuck in the plumbing."
Once each disposer finished grinding, Bob collected the results in a sieve. Then an electric shaker sifted the debris. Bob says some of the disposers didn't do a very good job, "You actually see some large pieces that didn't get ground at all."
But the top-rated disposer ground all the bones very finely, "You can see in the large sieve there is almost nothing. And, everything is ground very finely in the last two sieves." The one that did such a fine job is from Viking, the Continuous Feed Disposer. It's also the most expensive at $420.
There are other far less expensive disposers that rated very good. Consumer Reports named one a Best Buy, the Kenmore 6011. It costs $70 and did a decent job on bones and the two other foods Consumer Reports used for testing, carrots and corn.
Consumer Reports says people with young children may want to consider a safer type of disposer, called a batch-feeder. It only operates when a lid is covering the disposer, so a child can't get near the whirling blades.
Both batch-feeders Consumer Reports tested rated very good. The one from Waste King costs $230. In-Sink-Erator's batch feeder is $250.