Questions About Appliances

Smoke Detector

Vacuum Cleaner

Hot Water Heater

Satellite Dish


I’m about to replace two smoke detectors in my house with new ones but I don’t know how to responsibly get rid of the old ones. Will RWS take them at their next hazardous waste drop-off day? If not, how should I dispose of them properly? Thanks for your help.

From EPA:

From Arlington County’s site: rviceswpcphouseholdhazmat.aspx

Both photoelectric and ionization smoke alarms contain plastic and electronic circuit boards, and batteries (alkaline or lithium). The ionization technology also includes a chamber containing radioactive material incorporated into a gold matrix. Because of the long half-life of americium-241 the amount of radioactive material in the smoke alarm at the end of its certified useful life will be about the same as when you bought it. Virginia does not have a program for smoke detectors and it is recommended that you first attempt to return the smoke detector to the manufacturer to see if they will accept it back. If they will not, than your only alternative is to place the item in with your regular trash as the County has no other option for this item.

My family just bought a new vacuum cleaner, and we were wondering how we could dispose of the old one besides throwing it away. Do you have any suggestions for recycling vacuum cleaners, preferably in the Charlottesville-Albemarle area?

Great question! I have looked into this and it appears that Best Buy recycles old vacuum cleaners for you if you are able to drop it off there!

The church has found itself in a need to purchase a new hot water heater for not our main building but one of our out parcels. The current one we have is leaking and is gas. This is the only appliance that uses gas currently- there has been some discussion to purchase an electric one- and I have gotten tons of recommendations- but I wondered if you could point me in a good direction to find ones that would be the most efficient and environmentally conscience etc.

Generally speaking tankless NG is the most costly and most efficient. A small demand might not warrant the investment though… A power vented unit would be next and an atmospheric replacement (if it is installed correctly would be most sensible). If there is evidence of drafting issues with the present model now then I would go to electric, least cost but more expensive to run.

What can we do with an old satellite dish? Can it be reused or recycled?

These are the bane of roofers and people who don’t like to landfill! Currently, Dish Network offers no recycling choice for its customers. So beyond writing the company a letter encouraging better corporate responsibility, I would post on recycling website as some techno-savvy folks may be able to use your dish as another type of receiver.

Also, I have noticed on various web forums that some say satellite dishes make great solar cookers if you sand them out and place reflective film inside.

I have 2 portable dehumidifiers that I need to recycle or dispose of as they have been recalled. I tried BestBuy and they do not recycle them and I also tried earth911 and they list a place in Harrisonburg called Wise recycling but when I called them they said they do not take. Is there anywhere close to Charlottesville I can safely dispose or recycle these?

It seems getting rid of dehumidifiers and similar appliances is quite a challenge! Here a few suggestions from Betty:

1) Donate

Even if you do not have any use for your old appliances, someone else might! If your dehumidifier is still operating, consider donating it to the Habitat for Humanity Restore, Goodwill, or Salvation Army. However, keep in mind that if your appliance is near the end of its life, chances are it is incredibly energy-sucking and should be put out of its misery before it is improperly disposed of by someone else.

2) Disposal Due to the harmful nature of refrigerants, federal law requires that all refrigerant be recovered prior to dismantling or disposal. Do not attempt to do this yourself. The City of Charlottesville curbside pickup will take dehumidifiers. They require a $35 large item pickup (call 434-970-3830 to schedule). After collection, the appliance is stored in the city until someone from Petersburg, VA, can come down to remove the Freon. Once the refrigerant is separated, the remaining parts are sold for junk. In accordance with federal regulation, the City removes hazardous chemicals and refrigerant. However, they do NOT recycle the remaining parts. This is unfortunately the case in many municipalities, which is why the EPA has launched the Responsible Appliance Disposal (RAD) Program. You can read more about it here.

3) Contact the Manufacturer

Who knows your product better than those who made it? Often, if you contact the manufacturer of your appliances or electronics, they will have information about the proper disposal of your product. Sometimes, they even offer a take-back program in which they will dispose of the item for you. Inquire with your manufacturer about any such program.