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Sink disposal was hard wired into the wall before I moved in. Is this correct and/or is this an issue?

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    All those splices must be in junction boxes.
    – crip659
    Nov 27, 2023 at 19:08

2 Answers 2

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Yes, a hardwired disposal is OK. But not like this.

A previous owner installed something like this Insinkerator air switch from Home Depot:

Air Switch

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:

Disposal cord/plug

  • 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.
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  • Making this right seems fairly easy with a new receptacle in a junction box and a couple of plugs on the ends of those cords. If the receptacle goes in the obvious place, that short cord will suffice. Half an hour and $20. I'm curious why you are recommending new cord sets, requiring disassembly of both units, possibly voiding their warranties and then requiring further skills like soldering or more, and likely hours of work?
    – jay613
    Nov 27, 2023 at 19:49
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    Definitely no soldering - that is not the norm (in the US at least) for cord replacement. In the case of the disposal, it is trivially easy - disposals are designed for replacement of cord with permanent cable and vice versa. In the case of the air switch, it may not be designed for easy replacement (I suspect it isn't) so yes, plug replacement there makes more sense. Arguably the switch warranty was voided when the cord/plug was butchered. The disposal wouldn't be affected because the cord/plug can be (and is designed to be) easily replaced. Nov 27, 2023 at 20:10
  • You may be right. For contrast, we've seen here a corded dryer in Quebec that could not easily have a longer cord installed because local regs allowed $3 to be saved in the manufacturing with proprietary connectors. At any rate it's a lot more work .. remove the whole thing from the sink, find a strain relief for the new cord that fits, etc etc.
    – jay613
    Nov 27, 2023 at 20:16
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    remove the whole thing from the sink??? To change the cord on a disposal? No way. The cord end is normally in an integral junction box on the disposal - a couple of screws, remove the cord and replace it with a new cord or cable, etc. Nov 27, 2023 at 20:23
  • You may not like air switches, but removing it means filling a hole in the sink, which has a high pain versus gain relationship, imo. Nov 28, 2023 at 16:04
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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.

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Photo credits homedepot.com

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  • This demonstrates that you could solve the problem. It doesn't actually show up ow to solve the problem, though. Half an answer.
    – keshlam
    Nov 28, 2023 at 1:28
  • @keshlam I thought the photos were quite self-explanatory but I accept the feedback and have added steps that I hope are at an appropriate level of detail. I do think that anyone who can't be guided by just the pictures probably needs an electrician or at least some tutorial books or videos first.
    – jay613
    Nov 28, 2023 at 1:38
  • This is specifically a how-to site. If you don't think anyone asking the question should do the work you can say so, but unless it's Immediate Danger To Life And Health you should still tell them what they should expect to see s pro do. Listing an unexplained pile of parts really isn't helpful and us likely to get down-voted as such. You may want to read more of the existing answers, and the welcome document, to get a better sense of how we do things here.
    – keshlam
    Nov 28, 2023 at 1:53
  • Ok, I'll read the Welcome and see if I can get the hang of it.
    – jay613
    Nov 28, 2023 at 2:05

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