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Saving Electricity and the Environment: PECO’s Refrigerator Recycling Program

When Pennsylvanians get new, energy-efficient refrigerators for their homes, old refrigerators often get relegated to a support role in garages or basements. After all, the old models still work, and they can be used to chill drinks and snacks for a basement game room or for bulk-purchased foods that homeowners hadn’t bought before because they lacked the space.

Some consumers like to use things — cars, televisions, home appliances — as long as they can because they take pride in making things last, and, besides, they reason, smart consumers get value for their purchases and don’t buy something if they don’t need it.

There are a lot of old refrigerators out there as a result of this philosophy, and many of them are 20, 30, or even 40 years old. In fact, there are more than 27 million pre-1993 refrigerators still in use, and about 26 percent of all U.S. homes have a second refrigerator, according to 2009 study by the U.S. Department of Energy.

Unfortunately, old refrigerators that keep on working are a big problem for consumers, as well as for utilities, which are trying to avoid having build new power plants to handle the growing demand for electricity. Old refrigerators are terribly inefficient, and can use up to four times the amount of energy as a modern, energy-efficient model for the same amount of cooling. Hanging on to that old refrigerator costs consumers a lot of money — between $150 and $200 a month — and pulls a lot of electricity from power grids like the one owned by Pennsylvania utility PECO Energy Co.

PECO Helping Customers Save Energy

Thankfully, PECO’s new Smart Appliance Recycling program helps customers start saving energy and saving money on monthly bills by giving them $35 for their old refrigerators. The utility will even send a truck to pick it up and have it shipped to a “demanufacturing” facility in Hatfield that sucks out the harmful refrigerant for responsible disposal and prepares the 150 pounds of metal, 25 pounds of plastic, and 3 pounds of glass in an average refrigerator for recycling.

In its first year of operation, the facility has recycled 50,000 refrigerators with an average age of 22 years. Demanufacturing those refrigerators saved 85,000 megawatts of electricity, enough to power 7,000 homes for a year, according to Jaco Environmental, the company that runs the Hatfield facility.

So far, PECO’s Smart Appliance Recycling program has helped customers of the utility recycle 15,662 old refrigerators at the facility, which saved 27,000 megawatt-hours of electricity, the equivalent of planting 30,000 trees or taking 30 million miles of automobile driving off the books, according to PECO spokeswoman Cathy Engel.

PECO’s Smart Appliance Recycling program will also pay customers $35 to recycle freezers and $10 to recycle room air conditioners.

PECO Smart Appliance Recycling Program Requirements

There are several requirement that need to be met in order to qualify for PECO’s Smart Appliance Recycling Program:

– Homeowners must be PECO customers
– Refrigerator and freezer size must be between 10 and 30 cubic feet
– Units must be empty and working when they are picked up
– In order to be picked up, units must be accessible by the removal team by a clear and safe path
– Removal teams won’t risk injury, modify homes (remove doors and railings), or remove personal effects to remove units

Sources

“GreenSpace: Cold War on the Inefficient Old FridgeThe Philadelphia Enquirer, March 21, 2011.

PECO Smart Ideas website, “PECO Smart Appliance Recycling

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