Dana Dalton of Energy Trust loads recycled refrigerators collected in Medford under the Energy Trust of Oregon's recycling program, which pays $40 for each qualifying unit. Bob Pennell / Mail Tribune photo - Bob Pennell

Cold cash

By recycling two, decades-old refrigerators, Medford residents Lonnie Peyton and Jill Milazzo spent money to replace them but saved hundreds of dollars on power bills.

Even better, the couple was paid a cool $80 to allow free pickup of the old clunkers that, Milazzo says, they would have been hard-pressed to force someone to take for free at a planned, summer yard sale.

"We couldn't have given these away," Milazzo says. "They're really old, and they cost so much to run."

"Years ago, there was a place over in White City, but we had to pay for them to take it, and you usually had to take it to them," Peyton says.

As participants in an Energy Trust of Oregon program to help state residents recycle inefficient refrigerators and freezers, the couple received $40 each for their old energy guzzlers. The program runs through the end of this year.

Energy Trust says that refrigerators and freezers built before 1993 use two to three times more energy than new, high-efficiency models and cost $100 more per year to operate.

Despite the extra costs, more than a quarter of homes in the United States keep an old, secondary refrigerator or freezer in the basement or garage, and that number is rising by 1 percent each year, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

Launched in August 2008, Energy Trust's appliance-recycling program has taken some 58,000 old, energy-wasting refrigerators and freezers off the grid, says planning project manager Lakin Garth.

While it's common for large families or rural residents to have a second fridge for extra space, to chill summer drinks, to store bulk buys of groceries or to preserve fish or meat gathered in the wild, newer units pay for themselves in a short amount of time, Garth says.

"In terms of cost savings, that number of units has saved participants about $3.5 million on energy bills, which is enough energy to power more than 2,700 average Oregon homes for a year," Garth says. "Those older units waste so much energy, so it's definitely a good idea for the homeowner and for the state to get those old units off the grid."

In addition to free pickup service, provided by JACO Environmental, which recycles 95 percent of the components from the old units, an additional incentive of $100 is offered to state residents who purchase new Energy Star refrigerators or freezers from participating retailers by Dec. 31.

"So if they buy one that saves more energy than some of the other models on the market, they get another $100 incentive, which is more than it costs to run the old unit for a couple years," Garth says.

Applications for Energy Trust's rebate must be received electronically, by mail or fax by March 13, 2013. Payment typically takes six to eight weeks.

Milazzo says she is excited to have two new refrigerators and be rid of the old units. Plus, she pocketed enough money to run the two new units for the first full year.

"We couldn't have sold them, not that we even thought about it because they used so much energy," Milazzo says. "Right when we stopped using them, we noticed the bill go down a lot, and it was right away, so we knew that's what it was.

"We live out in the country, so we have always needed a second refrigerator. But this way, they both cost less to run. It was pretty much like we got paid to run the new ones just by getting rid of the old ones."

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