Energy Adviser: Recycling appliances really pays off

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Is it time to “unfriend” that old freezer laboring away in the garage? Or how about the refrigerator in the basement that’s started humming? And then there are those fluorescent tube lights in the shop that burned out. What’s the best way to get rid of them?

For refrigerators and freezers, Clark Public Utilities can help by scheduling a free pickup of the old one and giving you a $30 credit on your bill.

As for newer CFL bulbs, utility customers can bring as many as six old ones into a utility location and receive one free new bulb for each one recycled. The utility doesn’t accept burned-out fluorescent tube bulbs, but some local recycling sites do.

In 2011, Clark Public Utilities took in 11,737 recycled CFL bulbs for a savings of 316,889 kilowatt-hours, reports Barb Westley, part of the energy-efficiency team at the utility. In addition, the agency recycled 375 freezers and 3,561 old refrigerators.

Total estimated kilowatt-hours saved from recycling: more than 2.4 million. That’s enough savings to power more than 200 households for a year.

The savings underscores why the utility is committed to recycling and to energy efficiency as a way to hold down power costs. Less demand for more power means less money spent building expensive new generation plants or purchasing power on the market. That helps keep rates lower.

Freezers, refrigerators

Some appliances continue to run long after they should have been unplugged. Old refrigerators and freezers from the 1960s, ’70s and even ’80s, while still operating, can use three times the energy to keep items cold than new models. Buying old appliances at garage sales or passing them on to relatives just compounds energy inefficiency.

In addition, refrigerant used in old refrigerators and freezers is classified as a greenhouse gas and should be kept out of the environment. Proper decommissioning means the refrigerant gas in these old units does not escape into the atmosphere.

If you live in Clark County, are a residential utility customer and have an old refrigerator or freezer that you no longer want, the utility will pick it up from your home at no charge and see that it is properly decommissioned by its contractor, CFC Recycling. It must be at least 10 cubic feet in size and operational. Sorry, no broken refrigerators or freezers are accepted.

Call 360-992-3000 to schedule a pickup and arrange for the $30 credit on your power bill.

Fluorescent bulbs

Proper disposal of CFLs is important because bulbs contain a very small amount of mercury. Each CFL holds up to five milligrams of mercury, about 1 percent the amount in a thermostat or dental amalgam, says the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency. A standard fluorescent light tube can contain up to 46 milligrams of mercury. Locally, fluorescent tube bulbs and CFL bulbs can also be recycled, at no charge, at these sites:

• Central Transfer and Recovery Center: 11034 N.E. 117th Ave., Vancouver: 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.

• West Van Materials Recovery Center: 6601 N. W. Old Lower River Road, Vancouver: 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays.

• Philip Services Corp., 625 S. 32nd St., Washougal: 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., first Tuesday each month.

Computer components, TVs

While not a utility program, Clark County residents still can recycle their old computers, computer monitors, laptops, televisions, and monitors for free through the E-Cycle Washington program managed by Clark County. To locate one of the more than 25 electronics recycling locations in the county, visit the website http://www.clark.wa.gov. Use the search box to enter the word “recycling.”

So far, the E-Cycle program has collected 120.2 million pounds of electronic material.Energy Adviser is written by Clark Public Utilities. Send questions to energyadviser@clarkpud.com or to Energy Adviser, c/o Clark Public Utilities, P.O. Box 8900, Vancouver, WA 98668.