One major barrier to participation among heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) contractors in the industry-run thermostat collection program is a lack of motivation. To determine whether a financial incentive can drive substantially greater contractor participation, dialogue stakeholders agreed to design and implement financial incentive pilots in Oregon and Indiana. The financial incentive was provided by thermostat manufacturers in Indiana and by an electric utility in Oregon. HVAC contractors in the two states received a rebate coupon for $3 (in Indiana) or $4 (in Oregon) toward the purchase of a new, non-mercury, ENERGY STAR® qualified thermostat. HVAC contractors collected the old thermostats and delivered them to a participating wholesaler in exchange for a rebate coupon. The contractor then purchased a new energy-saving thermostat, mailed the coupon along with proof of purchase to TRC, and received a rebate check. The Thermostat Recycling Corporation (TRC) acted as the third-party administrator to handle the incentive transactions and program promotion.
PSI Role and Current Progress
To complete the design, PSI facilitated 12 workgroup conference calls, providing guidance on design parameters, data needs, program logistics, and promotional materials. PSI monitored the project during its year-long implementation (from January through December 2006), provided opportunities for periodic sharing of information, and resolved issues as needed. PSI also convened several conference calls among project participants to develop a strategic approach regarding the use of incentives to increase contractor participation, and completed a final report in November 2007. The report concluded that a financial incentive can be an effective motivational tool to increase mercury thermostat recycling for those contractors requiring additional motivation.
By the end of the pilot, the number of thermostats collected increased from 2,052 in 2005 to 4,587 in 2006, an increase of 124%. The associated amount of mercury collected increased by 139%, reflecting the return of thermostats in 2006 with multiple switches. The pilot team had set a performance goal of 4,000 thermostats for Oregon, which represented a four-fold increase in the amount collected on average from 2002-2004.
Conversely, Indiana showed only a 4.2% increase in the number of thermostats collected in 2006 as compared to 2005. The increase in thermostat collection was much higher in Oregon than in Indiana. Factors contributing to this differential in performance include the relative maturity of the Indiana program, fewer thermostat brands eligible for the rebate in Indiana, and the lower amount of the rebate in Indiana ($3 compared to $4 in Oregon). Another contributing factor was the greater level of education and outreach conducted in Oregon as compared to Indiana, including the temporary use of a dedicated intern in Oregon who made personal contact with wholesalers and contractors.
PSI obtained thermostat collection data for Oregon and Indiana covering the first six months of 2007 when the incentive was no longer in effect. During this post-incentive period, the number of thermostats collected significantly decreased in both Indiana and Oregon. These post-incentive results are consistent with results following the King County, Washington, incentive pilot project, which experienced a 40 percent decrease in the number of thermostats collected.
Promotional Materials (January 2006)