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Refrigerator Recycling: A Personal Energy Efficiency Story

One of the goals of this blog is to identify opportunities for energy efficiency. The benefits of efficiency are plentiful, but so are the occasions. They are everywhere – at your business, in your kitchen, even hiding in your basement. Recycling an old, moldy refrigerator just showed me how easy and available energy efficiency is.

Regular readers of this blog know that making simple efficiency upgrades can bring big savings. They also know that energy efficiency opportunities can be found in unexpected places. Over the last year, we have highlighted how energy efficiency investments in supermarkets, holiday lights, doggie-doors, football stadiums, and bridges have helped Americans use less energy and spend less on their energy bills. I look far and wide to bring stories of the most interesting energy efficiency success stories. Although the more exotic stories may be interesting, the most useful examples are places in our own lives where we can make choices to be more efficient. This time around, the success is a little closer to home: my actual home.

Refrigerator Recycling

I’ve written before about making my house more efficient. I replaced my old incandescent lights with LEDs last September and I have been enjoying the reduced energy expenses ever since. Writing that post and our post about efficiency tips for the holidays inspired me to look for more easy ways to improve efficiency in my own life. That search drew my attention to the moldy refrigerator in my basement. After writing about the Energy Star Program and efficient appliances, I was finally motivated to act. Last week, I applied for my utility’s refrigerator recycling program.

Utility companies design refrigerator recycling programs to help their customers replace old, inefficient appliances with newer, more efficient models. Utilities offer to come pick up your old energy hog and haul it away for free. You don’t have to pay for disposal, recycling, or transport. Often, your utility (like mine!) will even send you a rebate check after pickup.

My Experience

The refrigerator in my basement was an easy candidate for a refrigerator recycling program. It was there when I bought the house, part of a tiny kitchenette that we removed during our renovation. I tried to clean the old fridge, but it had seen better days after sitting unused in an empty house for over a year. It ran. It cooled. The freezer worked. But it was gross. After delaying for months, I contacted my utility company to get rid of it.

The process was remarkably simple. I visited my utility’s website and filled out a quick form. A few days later, I received a call to schedule pick-up. The utility representative told me to make sure the fridge worked and had been running for 24 hours before pickup. I plugged in the old machine and listened as it labored to drop the temperature inside. The following week, at the scheduled time, the pickup crew arrived and dragged it away. They were in and out of my house in fifteen minutes. I signed a form and will now wait six weeks for my rebate check.

Refrigerator recycling is not glamorous. Really, I just trashed a moldy pile of metal and electronics. But I also removed an inefficient appliance. I can now rely on a more modern, more efficient mini fridge to cool extra beverages. Energy efficiency can be innovative, like new building technologies that preserve heat. It can be shiny like the new lights on New York’s bridges. Or, in my case, it can be quick, boring, and free (with a rebate!).

Recycle Your Refrigerator

Lime Energy recommends all manner of energy efficiency. It is one of the fastest and least expensive ways to save money and energy. While big lighting projects or HVAC overhauls may generate the most energy savings, smaller projects matter too. If you are a home or business owner with an old appliance sitting around, whether you are using it or not, consider looking into refrigerator recycling (and programs for other appliances too). The Energy Star website has a good resource that can help you. In the meantime, we will continue looking for opportunities for energy savings, both big and small.

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