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Recycling Your Old Thermostat

by on October 20, 2015

Congratulations on the purchase of your new smart thermostat! Don’t forget, when you upgrade to an ecobee thermostat, it’s important that you recycle your old thermostat.

Mercury-containing thermostats

As more and more people understand the advantages that come with switching to a smart thermostat, an increasing number of mercury-based thermostats are being replaced. If your thermostat contains mercury, it is incredibly important that you dispose of it properly. It can be toxic if you throw your thermostat in the garbage and the vial containing mercury breaks and leaks. If recovered properly, mercury causes no environmental harm and can be recycled.

Mercury is a potent neurotoxin and if it’s not handled right, pollutes our air and waterways. For example, just one gram of mercury can poison 80,000 square meters of water, affecting the quality of life for the animals and also making the fish unfit for human consumption and the water non-potable. And your old mercury thermostat contains anywhere from 2.5-10 or more grams of mercury.

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Photo courtsey of Switch The Stat, 2015.

If you live in a relatively old building or have had the same thermostat for over 10 years, it is highly likely that your thermostat includes mercury switches. When you take the front cover of your thermostat off (let’s say to look at the wires and check for compatibility with a smart thermostat), see if you can spot a small glass vial with a silver liquid inside. In case you’ve kept it for all these years, you can check the thermostat packaging for an Hg symbol which would indicate that the product contains mercury.

On the other hand, you may be replacing a programmable thermostat. These too need to be handled responsibly. Across the U.S. and Canada, programmable thermostats are designated as “household hazardous waste” or HHW.

Reuse it: Before you consider recycling, think about reusing the thermostat by giving it to a friend, family member, or neighbour who currently has a mercury-based thermostat.

Recycle it: If you don’t know anyone who could reuse your old thermostat, you can always recycle it. Unlike mercury-based thermostats, you can deposit these thermostats at any location that accepts electronics for recycling (such as big box retailers like Staples and Best Buy). Just make sure you remove the batteries to recycle them separately.

Thankfully, recycling your old thermostat is easy. In Canada, mercury-containing thermostats and programmable ones are accepted through a national recycling program called “Switch that ‘Stat“. You can look up the different places in your province to recycle your old thermostat or request a free, pre-addressed shipping mailer to be sent right to your home.

If you’re in the U.S., the Thermostat Recycling Corporation maintains more than 3,400 collection locations for mercury-containing thermostats across the country. Simply enter your zip code to find the closest location to your home. If you are getting rid of your programmable thermostat, just contact your city or county’s local HHW program to coordinate.

Recycling your old thermostat responsibly through programs such as these is free, easy…and important to do!