You’ve decided to do a few home improvement projects this year. As a part of replacing the old with the new, undoubtedly you’ll have a few things in need of disposal. The easiest way and often the most common way to get rid of it is to place it in your trash can and have it hauled to the dump with the weekly pick up service. But as we learn more, that isn’t always the safest thing to do for our environment.

Mercury can be found in many consumer and commercial products. When a mercury product breaks, the exposed mercury can evaporate and become invisible, odorless toxic vapor. And while most of us think of very few things we have in our homes that contain mercury – thermometers and barometers for instance – very few of us know the full extent of how many things in our lives contain mercury. Here are a few things to take into account when you’re replacing them, and proper disposal methods to reduce the overall impact.

 

Disposing Of Old Plumbing Parts

 

Electric Appliances

In years past, washing machines, chest freezers, space heaters and clothes dryers were made with a mercury tilt switch. Mercury tilt switches were built into the lids of washing machines and chest heaters, functioning as on-off switches for lights and other functions. Tilt switches were built inside space heaters to be a shut off switch in case the space heater tipped over. While appliances today are made without mercury tilt switches, if you are trying to dispose of an older model, it is something to keep in mind.

Gas Appliances

Mercury containing thermostat probes were placed in older gas appliances that have pilot lights, such as ovens, water heaters and furnaces. They were sometimes placed as part of the safety valve that prevented gas flow if the pilot light was not lit.

Gas Flow or Gas Pressure Regulators

In homes built before 1961, they often had mercury regulators attached to the gas meters. While the devices do not create spill risks while in service, they do run a risk during the removal and disposal process.

Heating and Cooling Systems

Some heating and cooling units contain mercury switches within the thermostat for climate control devices and switches that start and shut off the systems.

Plumbing

In your home’s plumbing, mercury can reside for many years in sewer pipes, sink traps and sump pumps. Mercury can enter pipes in a variety of ways, including if items were ever broken, discarded or spilled into the plumbing system. Mercury in plumbing can settle at the low points of the system, such as the sump pump or sink trap, and remain there indefinitely.