Sink disposal was hard wired into the wall before I moved in. Is this correct and/or is this an issue?
Yes, a hardwired disposal is OK. But not like this.
A previous owner installed something like this Insinkerator air switch from Home Depot:
but whoever installed it clearly had no idea what they were doing.
This particular switch is designed for plug/cord operation, in two ways:
- The switch is supposed to plug into a receptacle. Instead it is hardwired.
- The disposal is supposed to plug into a receptacle on this switch. Instead it has a cord spliced into a cord/plug which is plugged into the receptacle.
So there are 4 clear problems:
- Switch is hardwired. Since it comes with an integral cord/plug, I am fairly certain that is violating the installation instructions.
- Disposal cord is spliced. A disposal should be connected either with a permanent wiring method (NM cable, where allowed; wires in conduit; wire whip) or with an intact cord/plug. This is a mess and definitely not allowed.
- Splice in disposal cord, if it were valid (e.g., NM cable to box, cord/plug to switch) must be in a junction box.
- Splice in switch cord, if it were valid (e.g., NM cable to box) must be in a junction box.
Assuming you want to keep the air switch, you need to:
- Replace the disposal cord/splice/cord/plug with a new cord/plug. Something like this from Home Depot:
- Replace the switch cord/splice with a cord/plug and a proper electrical box with a receptacle. Based on current code, I would recommend a GFCI/receptacle unless this circuit is already GFCI protected. The catch is that, unlike the disposal itself, this switch does not appear to be designed for replacement of the cord/plug. It may be an easy fix with a standard appliance cord (but make sure it is rated for the power needed by the disposal) or it may require special order from Insinkerator - in which case it might be cheaper to replace the air switch altogether. Actually, you may be able to simply replace the plug. The cord will be shorter than normal, but if you reposition the switch and mount the junction box with a receptacle so that the cord/plug can reach it then that will work.
I've never been a fan of air switches. I think that, particularly with GFCI protection, an ordinary toggle switch is a much simpler solution. To change to a regular switch, you would need to:
- Replace the disposal cord/splice/cord/plug with an appropriate cable.
- Install a junction box where the switch is currently spliced into the cable from the wall.
- Add a cable to a switch and route it through the wall to an appropriate area above the sink.
- Install a box and toggle switch above the sink.
- If the circuit is already GFCI protected then connect the cables in the box appropriately (ask for details if you need them).
- If the circuit is not already GFCI protected then install a GFCI/deadfront (i.e., it has a GFCI, Test and Reset switches, but no receptacles) and connect the cables in the box appropriately.
Hard wired disposals exist but yours isn't one. You can go from horrendous to excellent with very little work or money.
Turn off power at the breaker.
Where the white cable is sticking out of the wall, mount a one-gang handi box. Attach the box to the cabinet, the cable to the box with a strain relief connector, the bare ground wire to the box with a green ground screw. You'll need to make the hole in the cabinet bigger to accommodate the cable connector.
Install a GFCI outlet and cover. Remove and discard all the wire nuts. Install a 3-prong plug on the end of the two power cords. Plug the air switch into your new outlet and the disposal into the air switch as intended.
Photo credits homedepot.com