Mercury Free Only! It’s time to replace that Mercury Thermostat
Mercury poisoning is very ugly. It can result from exposure to water-soluble forms of mercury, by inhalation of mercury vapor, or by eating food contaminated with mercury. Exposure at high levels can harm the brain, heart, kidneys, lungs, immune system and nervous system; and often the damage caused cannot be reversed.
In July of 2003, Washington State passed a new law (HB 1002) that would at first restrict, and then ultimately completely ban many things in our homes and business that have ‘Mercury’ in them. Even though most of the environmental contamination from mercury comes from large scale industrial use (like processing in gold mines, etc.), and human exposure and poisoning comes through eating contaminated fish and other seafood, the dangers of getting poisoned by the ‘quick-silver’ form of mercury found in in switches, thermostats, and relays etc. is still very real and we need to be aware of it. Since January 1, 2006 there has been a complete ban on devices like thermometers and thermostats in our state, if they contained mercury. And, if an existing unit is replaced with a mercury free one, those old units need to be re-cycled in an approved manner as well. Common brands include Honeywell and White Rogers products.
The typical thermostat or thermometer has only a tiny amount of mercury in it (usually 2 to 4 grams), so how much mercury will these laws actually divert away from our environment and our food chain? In 2001 the amount of mercury used in new thermostats alone was a little over 14.6 tons annually (in the U.S.) … 10 years later that was reduced by over 99%. That means it went from 29,200 lbs. of mercury per year, to 292 lbs. per year. It seems worthwhile to me…
No one really knows how many thermostats containing mercury are still in use right now, but it’s easy to see that since it was the standard solution and used prolifically for decades, millions of pounds of mercury are going to need to be re-cycled over the next 10 to 20 years. Most likely all of these devices will need to be replaced someday.
So, are there options to mercury thermostats? Plenty. These days it seems everybody is getting into the arena of ‘Home Comfort’. Technology is so advanced, we can now wirelessly connect to our appliances by simply getting on our smart phones. Thermostats are no exception. It’s easy to find a thermostat that’s programmable, intelligent, and mercury free. For the most part mercury thermostats for consumer use are virtually obsolete.
If you’re ready to upgrade, and it’s time to “leave” your mercury thermostat behind, there are a few things you should keep in mind. First, not all thermostats are the same, so make sure your retailer and/or contractor can advise you properly about your system’s needs and fit you with the right device for your home. Second, and I think just as important, know that not all contractors are ‘plugged into’ an E.P.A. approved re-cycling program.
We recycle mercury thermostats through the Thermostat Recycling Corporation. I think it’s the responsible thing to do for our planet, and for the future. I hope that wherever you purchase your new thermostat, you’ll make sure they’re also part of and/or sponsor a mercury re-claim/re-cycling program.
Bruce Davis, Sr.
Licensed Journeyman Plumber
Licensed Electrician, HVAC/R
Electrical Administrator, HVAC/R
Certified WA State C.E.U. Instructor
Bruce Sr is President of Day & Nite Plumbing & Heating,
a 60-year old family owned and operated plumbing and heating
business in Lynnwood, Washington.
Bruce can be contacted at:
Day and Nite Plumbing and Heating Inc.
16614 13th Ave. W.
Lynnwood, WA 98037
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