Illinois banned the sale of mercury-switch thermostats after July 1, 2006, but thousands remain in service in residential, institutional and commercial locations across the state. The older, mechanical thermostats typically contain mercury in one or more sealed glass bulbs that serve as an on-off electromechanical switch in heating and cooling systems. Each bulb or tilt switch contains roughly 3-6 grams of mercury.
Beginning July 1, 2011, no person may knowingly dispose of an out-of-service mercury-switch thermostat in municipal waste. After that date wholesale distributors of thermostats in the state may not offer to sell or distribute any kind of thermostat, unless the wholesaler serves as a collection point for the used mercury-switch thermostats.
HVAC contractors or service technicians must also return all mercuryswitch thermostats that they remove from service to a collection point for recycling. HVAC contractors may serve as a collection point if their business is located in a rural area. HVAC contractors located in a metropolitan area may serve as a collection point for if they employ at least seven technicians.
The major thermostat manufacturers have created a non-profit organization, the Thermostat Recycling Corporation (TRC), to facilitate the collection of all brands of mercury-switch thermostats for recycling. This collection program has been in place since 1996 and 30 thermostat manufacturers currently support the program. TRC currently charges a one-time fee of $25 to obtain a collection bin. With this fee, TRC will pay for the transportation of the bin to a processing facility at no additional charge to the HVAC wholesale distributor. The elemental mercury from the thermostats collected through this program is reclaimed.
Penalties are included for any person violating the law.
For more Information on how to participate in the mercury-switch thermostat collection program is available at www.thermostat-recycle.org, or by calling 1-800-238-8192.information, please contact Becky Jayne, Illinois EPA, at either Becky.Jayne@illinois.gov or 217-524-9642.
The Smart Energy Design Assistance Center (SEDAC) provides advice and analyses enabling private and public facilities in the State of Illinois to increase their economic viability through the efficient use of energy resources. SEDAC is sponsored by the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity in partnership with ComEd and Ameren Illinois Utilities and provides valuable services at no cost to for-profit businesses and public facilities. SEDAC is managed by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and supported by the 360 Energy Group.