Bbottom lines matter. Doing the right thing is Cory and Janette Eckert’s bottom line. They are in the business of energy efficiency and environmental awareness is one of their core values. The Eckerts own Alpine Ductless Heating and Air Conditioning in Tumwater and decided their fundamentals took the lead. Recycling every eligible scrap is a daily practice for every employee. Very little recycling is actually necessary, but keeping recyclables from the landfill is a choice the Eckerts make quite easily.
Recycling has been a priority from the start, and the Eckerts celebrated 10 years of their business practices in March 2022. Cory says they knew they could either recycle or throw things away. Thurston County Solid Waste offers a business valuation service and business location recycling advice. The Eckerts contacted Thurston County for additional support who introduced them to Dart, a polystyrene recycler in Tumwater. Internal recycling is part of the broader energy efficiency and conservation theme of Eckerts’ business.
“The environment has always been one of our core values,” says Cory. “Choosing ductless was easy. A ductless heat pump uses a lot less electricity. The reason utilities will give you a discount for using less electricity is because it’s cheaper for them to save money than trying to do more, especially when you’re looking at nuclear or a new dam and windmills Seventy percent of all new energy in the last 10 years and the next 40 years comes from conservation. So if you use less of them, they have more to use for new housing estates that are being built.”
The Eckerts’ environmental concern over cost is real. When asked if the expense is higher for recycling than for disposing of the waste, Cory says he has never calculated the actual costs and thinks environmental concerns outweigh this cost.
Conservation and less waste is a theme at the Alpine warehouse and workshop. Installers unpack new heating and cooling units which are encased in polystyrene blocks and packed in large cardboard boxes. After unpacking a new unit, an installer turns the box upside down to make it a waste and garbage bin. The routine allows for systematic and streamlined sorting when employees return to the store. Materials collected from the day before are sorted by installers and repair technicians, and large recycling receptacles are conveniently lined up for this daily process.
Each scrap is discarded in its designated bin. Two cubic yards of cardboard and four cubic yards of polystyrene are recycled each week. Metal is a material that companies can recycle, which provides a financial return, and the Eckerts can send several hundred pounds to a recycler per week. “We knew we could recycle the metal, but as we assimilated it, we discovered how we can do a better job, making it easier for the metal recycler,” says Cory. “They give us more money to keep it clean.” Copper, steel, aluminum and brass bonded together in a heating and cooling unit are considered dirty metal until they are separated into their unique elements or made clean.
The scrap is from the entire heating and cooling unit, fan motor and compressor inside. “If we have a heat pump, old furnace, or duct work, we bring it in and tear it down,” Cory explains. “We cut all steel from copper and aluminum. We try to dispose of everything ourselves so that when we take it to the recycler we get the most money for it. » Waste is collected from piping and ductwork between an indoor unit and an outdoor unit. Extra lengths of wiring, copper pipes stripped of their insulation, brass caps and connectors and the metal casing of the outdoor unit are all recycled. The old engines are dismantled and the oil from the inboard compressors drained and transported to the Thurston County HazoHouse in Lacey. Even hole saw blades are collected and unit motherboards are removed and sent to a recycling resource.
Only one item needs to be recycled. Federal law requires that refrigerant gas be collected in designated cylinders and turned over for proper treatment. Old refrigerants, such as R22, have been banned due to their harmful properties for the ozone layer. The new R410A are more environmentally friendly. Alpine uses the even newer R32 and was one of the first heating and cooling companies in Washington State to do so. Unfortunately, not all items are yet recyclable. Plastic covers of indoor units, plastic straps around cardboard boxes and foam coverings around copper pipes do not have a recycling destination.
Recycling is a natural partner of the type of equipment Cory and Janette’s company installs. Both aim to save energy. Cory estimates the company saved enough electricity to power 1,100 to 1,300 homes of about 1,200 square feet from the estimated 3,500 installations it completed. Alpine’s mini-duct heating and cooling systems and recycling practices help reduce human impact on the environment and promote the reuse of viable materials. For more information, visit the Alpine Ductless Heating and Air Conditioning website.