Thursday, February 24, 2011

Thermostat Recycling

What do we do with all these old mercury bulb thermostats? Very few contractors still install new mercury bulb thermostats, but they remove them every day. When I asked a local wholesaler a few years ago about thermostat recycling they proudly said “we don’t sell any.” I congratulated them on their eco stewardship and forward thinking and asked, “so what do I do with the mercury bulb thermostats that I take OFF?” One suggestion was to leave them with the customers. That makes it their problem, not mine. However, that probably increases the likelihood that the thermostat will be tossed in the trash. Besides, our customers expect service; that is what we are paid to provide. Service includes more than fixing machines and changing parts. Many thermostats, including digitals, include the little paper admonishing us to “dispose of properly” without giving a clue as to how to do that. That is where the Thermostat Recycling Corporation comes in. TRC is a non-profit corporation voluntarily founded by thermostat manufacturers Honeywell, White-Rodgers and General Electric for the purpose of collecting and properly disposing mercury-containing thermostats. TRC now represents nearly 30 manufacturers that historically distributed mercury-containing thermostats in the US. TRC’s commitment to collect and properly dispose of mercury-containing thermostats reflects its members’ commitment to keep those thermostats out of the solid waste stream. The program is simple. Participating wholesalers receive TRC collection bins. You just put the old mercury bulb thermostats in the collection bin at the wholesaler. The wholesaler sends the thermostats to TRC and TRC sends the wholesaler back an empty bin. TRC then arranges for the mercury in the mercury bulbs to be recycled. The HVAC contractor’s sole responsibility is simply to take the thermostats to a participating wholesaler. The program does not cost the contractor or wholesaler anything; TRC picks up the tab for the cost of the bins and shipping. HARDI, Heating, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration Distributors International, is a partner in promoting thermostat recycling through TRC (read about it). For more information on the thermostat recycling program, check out the TRC website or ask your local wholesaler about the program. We all have a stake in this. Not just to prevent pollution caused by discarded air conditioning parts, but to promote our industry as a clean industry acting responsibly to take care of our own mess.   

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