What Are The Pros and Cons Of A Garbage Disposal Air Switch?

Brigid Levi
by Brigid Levi

Garbage disposals offer a quick, easy method of disposing of food scraps. You don’t have to leave them in your trash bin until the next pick-up. And while composting is the best way to save the planet, it has its odorous downsides as well.

Traditional garbage disposals need to be hardwired into a switch that runs on your electrical grid. This can often mean an inconvenient placement of the power switch. A garbage disposal air switch, however, might be a more convenient option.

Because no hardwiring is involved, a garbage disposal air switch is usually an easy DIY installation. The disposal is activated by air rather than electricity, offering extra safety measures against electrical shocks or injuries.

However, installation costs can be 30% more than traditional disposals. Not all disposals have air switch capabilities. Air switch disposals tend to clog more often as well.

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Garbage Disposal Air Switch

Traditional garbage disposals are turned on and off by a switch that’s hardwired to the unit. The unit is also plugged into an outlet. For a garbage disposal air switch, the disposal still needs to be plugged in in order to power the unit. But that’s the only electricity required.

Instead of a power switch, the unit is activated by a button that releases a puff of air through PVC piping. The air travels to the control box where the pressure switch is located and activates the unit.

Depending on the model, the air switch can be located in a more convenient place than a hardwired switch. Sometimes the air switch is on the countertop, other times it can be mounted to the wall with a switch plate.

Garbage Disposal Air Switch Pros

In addition to its convenience, this disposal method offers safety and a simple design. Installing it is also a fairly easy DIY project.

Reduces Risk of Injury

Most disposal switches are on a multi-switch plate to maximize the GCFI installation. On one switch plate, you might have several different lights and a garbage disposal. In a situation like this, it’s common to flip the wrong switch.

If that should happen, you risk injury to yourself or damage to anything that accidentally slipped down the drain. I can’t tell you how many utensils I’ve unintentionally ruined.

When the disposal is activated by a button on the countertop, everyone knows what that controls. It sets it apart from the other switches, reducing the risk of injury or error.

In the same vein, a garbage disposal air switch has an extra safety measure against electrical shock. It’s not tied to electricity, so it doesn’t need a current to activate it. The only electricity is what powers the appliance. A puff of air is much safer for a user, especially around water.

As an added bonus, an air switch can go in places a traditional disposal switch can’t because it’s not affected by water the same way.

DIY Installation

While there are some caveats that we’ll cover later, garbage disposal air switch installations are relatively easy. You don’t need electrical knowledge to install one which makes it a perfect DIY project.

Assuming you have a convenient outlet for the appliance, you don’t have to add wiring to a circuit. The air switch ties directly into the outlet used for the disposal.

Garbage disposal air switches are often installed when a disposal is in a kitchen island. That’s not to say it can’t be installed elsewhere. It’s simply a convenient way to install a disposal on an island because no hardwiring is needs.

Simple Design

Even if you’re not installing one on an island, the simple design of the air switch means you have many placement options. As long as the disposal outlet is grounded, you can place the switch as near to the sink as you desire. Water will not affect it. You don’t need to cut into walls to add an entire switch plate and outlet box.

It’s just as simple to use as it is to install. Hold the button to release air and let go when all the scraps are ground. There’s no risk of accidentally leaving it running either. It stops when you release the button.

Sanitary Disposal Method

In general, garbage disposals are a quick and sanitary way to get rid of food scraps. Whether you’re composting or tossing your scraps in the trash, leftover food brings with it fouls odors. It also draws bugs and other pests either into your composting pile or—yikes—your house!

The garbage disposal whisks these odors quickly away and leaves nothing behind to attract critters.

Garbage Disposal Air Switch Cons

Not everything about a garbage disposal air switch is sunshine and roses. For one thing, it can be an expensive install. Other issues include frequent clogging and dulling of blades in addition to not being accepted by all disposal models.


Air switch disposals cost about 30% more than traditional disposals. The average cost of a traditional garbage disposal ranges from $50 to $250. The installation runs from $120 to $600.

Because a garbage disposal air switch isn’t hardwired, it needs to have a special installation point. This might require some extra construction to pull it off which is where the DIY caveat comes in. You may also need to a drill hole in the countertop for the button. This can affect the integrity of the entire structure.

On top of that, there may be some electrical work after all. Even for a garbage disposal with an air switch, you still need a wired circuit near your sink in which to plug the disposal. If you don’t have one, the appliance installation will cost whatever your electrician charges. Meaning, they shouldn’t charge you much more to install the disposal and add an outlet.

If you already have an outlet, the only way to avoid an installation charge is to DIY it.


Jamming or clogging happens more often with air switch disposals than with traditional ones. Traditional garbage disposals clog and jam if you try to grind something that shouldn’t be there. This can be things like coffee grounds, fruit or vegetable peels, popcorn, or rice.

It happens more so with air switch disposals because the unit starts with a lower wattage of power. Therefore, it doesn’t cut through the material at the same speed, making jamming inevitable. Because of their slower RPMs, air switch disposal blades may dull faster than on traditional units. Dull blades especially take longer to cut through and dispose of food which can contribute to clogging.

You can avoid these malfunctions by being careful what you put down your disposal. Never put grease or other expanding foods down any garbage disposal. They tend to cause problems with the drain when they congeal.


Not all disposals have the capacity to work with an air switch, especially older models. If you want to update your current disposal to an air switch, first check to see if it’s compatible.

If you don’t have a garbage disposal and want to install one with an air switch, it’s less like you’ll have a problem. Most modern garbage disposals are compatible with air switches but check before purchase to be sure.

Related Questions

Do you still have more questions about garbage disposal air switches? You’re in luck! Below are some things other people asked regarding the pros and cons of garbage disposal air switches.

Where should I place my air switch?

You can technically place the switch anywhere. However, for ease and convenience, it’s best to put it right next to the faucet preferably on the countertop. That way you can press the button quickly while you’re at the sink and continue with your work once the scraps have been ground.

Who installs your garbage disposal: a plumber or an electrician?

If you’re not comfortable installing a garbage disposal yourself (air switch or otherwise), you could call either a plumber or an electrician…or both! You would need an electrician if you didn’t have a convenient outlet to plug in the disposal. A plumber wouldn’t necessarily know how to add an outlet.

If you do have an outlet, then it’s best to call a plumber for the disposal installation. A plumber has a better understanding of how the disposal communicates with the sink.

Side note: if you ever experience issues with your disposal, call the plumber! While they can’t install an outlet, they’ll be able to deal with any minor electrical problems related to the disposal.

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Summing It Up

For the most part, garbage disposal air switches are a positive update for your kitchen. Their simple design makes them easy to use and install yourself. Because the actual switch isn’t connected to electricity, they are safe to have in close proximity to water. They also reduce the risk of injury.

Garbage disposal air switches do have some disadvantages. They don’t rotate as fast as hardwired disposals, making them prone to clogging, jamming, and faster dulling blades. They can be expensive to install as well, especially if you enlist the help of a professional.

Brigid Levi
Brigid Levi

Brigid Levi is a wife, mother, and freelance writer who enjoys a good DIY project and creating beautiful spaces within her home. From cleaning and organization hacks to home decor ideas, she loves helping people in their quest to turn a house into a home. Her hobbies include pretending to be Joanna Gaines while updating her home with her husband and performing in local theater productions.

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