• Old appliances turn into cash
  • 2011-05-27 14:15:33  
  • The latest energy-efficiency program offered by FirstEnergy Corp. began recently, paying people $50 for turning in an older refrigerator or freezer and $25 for an old room air conditioner.

    The program is among a number being offered or soon to be offered by the Akron-based electric company as it complies with state law to reduce energy usage. The company is also in the midst of giving away free compact fluorescent light bulbs to customers who call and request them. The utility in the last month distributed 2.1 million bulbs to discount retailers such as Marc's and Dollar Tree to sell to customers at a reduced cost.

    Employees with Jaco Environmental, a Washington state-based company, last week began picking up old refrigerators and freezers turned in by FirstEnergy customers for a new recycling program. Jaco recently opened a location in Stow to take apart used appliances.

    Michael Dunham, Jaco director of environmental energy and environmental programs, said the center in Stow will employ 25 and process appliances for FirstEnergy as well as Columbus-based energy company AEP. The company chose the Stow location to be close to FirstEnergy since it was awarded the three-year contract and will also use the facility to process materials coming from Detroit, Chicago, Pittsburgh and Columbus.

    Jaco breaks down old products into individual parts, such as metals, tempered glass and toxic waste.

    ''Over 95 percent of materials we sent out for reuse,'' said Dunham. Tempered glass can be used for concrete and countertops and roadways, the various metals such as aluminum, steel and copper can be resold and the plastics also can be resold.

    Jaco collects and destroys hazardous materials such as polyurethane foam insulation (there are 10 pounds in each refrigerator) and refrigerants. The foam insulation also has hazardous greenhouse gases within the foam, Dunham said.

    ''There are 5 tons of CO2 equivalent in refrigerants and foam. It's like taking a car off the road for a year,'' said Dunham.

    The Stow facility has the first robotic recycling machine being used in the U.S. The $5 million machine takes a full refrigerator or bundle of refrigerator panels hoisted into the air and drops them into the machine, which then shreds and separates metals, plastics and foam.

    Older air conditioners, refrigerators and freezers from 1990 on are extremely inefficient and use up a lot of energy, said FirstEnergy spokesman Chris Eck.

    Old refrigerators and freezers can take up to $150 in additional costs per year to run, said Eck.

    ''A lot of folks use these as second refrigerators or in the basement or garage. This is a
    pretty easy way for people to save some money on their electric bill and to get a little money in their pocket. A used refrigerator isn't worth much,'' said Eck.

    Customers who turn in a used refrigerator or freezer — in working condition — by Nov. 1 receive $50. The plan filed and approved with the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio drops the price to $35 after Nov. 1. Room air conditioner units will bring $25 through the period.

    Jaco will pick up the appliances free of charge, but will only do pickups if there is at least a refrigerator or freezer to be picked up. Room air conditioning units will only be picked up in addition to a refrigerator or freezer, and there are no dropoffs. The number to call for pickup is 877-545-4112 or pickups can also be scheduled online at http://www.energysaveohio.com.

    According to state law, the costs associated with the appliance recycling program, including the monetary incentives, are recouped from customers or rate payers. The costs to customers are $1.50 per month over three years for the average residential customer using 750 kilowatt hours of electricity per month and cover costs associated with the various energy efficiency programs being offered by FirstEnergy.

    That also includes a program offering $50 to customers to purchase new energy-efficient washing machines, refrigerators, freezers and room air conditioners. The utility will also soon be offering discounted home energy audits, a program for eligible residential customers to use a programmable thermostat that allows the utility to set back the thermostat by four degrees during certain hours.

    The website energysaveohio has educational information. Radio and print public service advertisements also will discuss the programs.

    The light bulb energy program is more familiar to consumers.

    The controversial program for bulbs called CFLs was proposed in 2009. But customers and politicians sharply criticized FirstEnergy's initial plan to distribute two CFLs door to door in a mandatory program.

    The revised program, approved in March, offers a pack of six CFLs free to FirstEnergy customers by calling 888-846-2235.

    About 250,000 bulbs have been claimed by customers calling into the utility, said Eck. About 132,000 have been sent to customers who have called to request the bulbs, while 4,000 have been requested by small commercial industrial customers and the rest have been sent to customers who called in to discuss how their bills can be reduced.

    Within the last three weeks, the utility has also distributed 2.1 million bulbs through discount stores throughout Northeast Ohio, said Eck. Originally, the utility thought it would be distributing the bulbs through home-improvement stores, but Eck said it was more difficult to get the inventory into those stores, and the company is still negotiating.

    In the meantime, 1 million bulbs were sent to Marc's; 500,000 to Discount Drug Mart; 500,000 to Dollar Tree and 100,000 to Goodwill stores, said Eck. According to the proposal approved by the PUCO, the bulbs can be sold for up to 50 cents each. Any bulbs sold in retail stores will count toward the utility's requirements for distributing the bulbs, he said.

    That still leaves about 1.5 million CFLs left from the original 3.75 million bulbs the utility originally had to distribute, Eck said. There are no requirements for how many bulbs must be given away directly by the utility and how many can be sold at stores, so the availability will be on a first-come, first-served basis.

    The costs associated with the CFL program are part of the $1.50 per month that is being charged to all customers to fund the energy-efficiency programs as well as any ''lost distribution revenue'' that the utility loses by customers using less electricity. That totals $54 over the three-year period, and the actual costs for the bulb program is 30 cents per month.

    Eck said FirstEnergy is aware that the collection from rate payers of the costs associated with the state-mandated programs is a sensitive topic.

    ''It's tough for us to comment on that,'' he said.

    State law requires investor-owned utilities such as FirstEnergy to reduce energy usage by 22.2 percent by the end of 2025 and reduce peak demand by 7.75 percent by the end of 2018.

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