Water Heater Disposal

Water Heater Disposal

Water Heater Disposal

Hot water heater disposal can be tricky. Each state has different regulations. Here are some options on what to do with your old water heater.

The most common cause for water heater disposal, is the crack in the internal glass lining of the old water tank that occurs due to the accomplishment of the ten year lifecycle. This crack of the liner provokes a water heater leaking.

It’s likely you’ve never given water heater disposal or recycling any thought prior to needing to replace your home’s water heater. Hot water heaters generally last roughly ten years give or take a few years, so this isn’t something homeowner’s encounter on a regular basis.

If you’ve hired a plumber to replace and install your new hot water heater, it is likely that they will haul away and properly dispose of your water heater. This is the fastest solution to dispose of your water heater.

If you are interested in the quickest and easiest solution it may be wise to check with the company installing your new water heater first. There are regulations set forth for these companies to ensure they are not simply dumping your old water heater, but properly hauling away and disposing of old materials. There may be an additional fee for hauling away, but not usually.

So the possibilities when are studying here are the following:

  • If a professional plumber or company is doing the installation, they often can pickup your old at the same time.
  • If you want to make some easy cash you can scrap your old water heater as a whole or taken apart to increase your payout potential.
  • You can potentially donate the hot water heater if it is still in good working condition.
  • If you are the creative type, you can turn the old water heater into something new and useful to you and your family or make a cool home art project.

Step by Step Water Heater Disposal

Step 1: Disconnect The Power

Your first step will be to disconnect the heater from its energy source, either the gas or electric line.

If it’s a gas heater, there should be a cutoff valve next to the tank or unit. Use the cutoff valve to shut down the gas line and prevent gas leaks

For electric heaters, you’ll need to shut off the power at the main service panel. Flip the breaker in your service panel to completely shut off the power. The appropriate circuit breaker should be labelled “Hot Water Heater” or something similar.

If you can’t find the right circuit breaker, cut the main power using the toggle switch at the top of the service panel. Once the power is off, attach a voltmeter to the copper wiring on both the white and black wires. If the voltmeter shows no reading, it is safe to disconnect the heater’s wiring.

Step 2: Shut Off the Water

Removing a water heater requires removing the water already in the tank. Start by turning off the water supply using the cold-water intake valve.

Next, open all the hot water taps in your house to let air into your pipes. This will force any remaining hot water back into the tank.

Turn the water-intake valve all the way off to keep the tank from refilling. The intake valve is located on the pipes connecting to the water heater. Once the water is turned off, go around your house and turn on all your hot water faucets. It sounds strange, we know, but it makes the hot water still in the pipes drain back into the tank and helps drain the tank quicker by allowing air to get into the tank when you open the drain valve and release the water.

Step 3: Drain The Water Tank

Drain your water tank thoroughly to reduce the weight and make sure it will be accepted for recycling or disposal.

Your hot water heater must be disconnected and drained before we proceed forward with the water heater disposal process. 

Once you’ve opened the faucets, locate the drain valve at the bottom of the tank. It’ll look like a water hose connection. Attach a water hose to the valve and direct the water to an appropriate drainage area like a curb drain or bathtub. Open the valve and let the tank empty. It will take several minutes for the tank to drain completely. Once the water stops flowing, double-check that the tank is empty. Remaining water adds extra weight and may exceed weight limits for disposal locations.

Therefore the main activity here is to connect the garden hose to the drain valve at the bottom of the tank, making sure the end of the hose is placed over a drain or in some other location where the water coming out won’t damage anything. After you’ve opened the drain valve, the tank should empty itself out in 3 to 6 minutes.

Step 4: Disconnect The Empty Water Heater From The Piping

Now you need to disconnect the pipes connected to the water heater. Some pipes will have connections that can simply be screwed off, but others will be hard-plumbed, when pipes run directly into the tank without connections.

If the pipes run directly into your tank, known as “hard-plumbed,” you’ll need to saw them off before removing the tank. If the pipes are connected with unions, all you’ll need is a wrench and a little elbow grease to finally disconnect and remove your water tank. Likewise using a hacksaw is possible too, leaving a few inches to connect the new water heater.

Step 5: Removal Of The Water Heater From The Cabinet

We’re almost there, but the next step can be challenging – grab a buddy to help. Water heaters, even without water, are incredibly heavy, sometimes well over 100 pounds depending on the size and brand.

Even a small mobile water heater or one of those tiny 20-gallon units, can be very heavy to carry it around easily.

You and your partner will need to remove the tank from your water closet or platform. The most important part of this step is to take it slow and easy. If your closet has a door on it, it helps to remove the door. The easiest way to move the tank is to carefully tilt it on its side and roll it. There may be some residual water leaking out of the tank, so having towels available for cleanup is a great idea. If possible, take the water heater directly to the vehicle you plan to transport it with, so you only move it once.

Step 6: Actual Water Heater Disposal

So now that your water heater is removed and loaded up, where do you take it? You have two choices.

The first option is to recycle your water heater. Many local recycling centers or scrap metal collectors accept water heater tanks. They can scrap them for valuable metals like steel, copper and brass and reuse the materials. Some recycling centers will even pick your water heater up from your house, so before you make the trip out there give them a call and check.

If recycling the tank is not doable, your second option is to dispose of your water heater at a landfill. Your city may offer a bulk collection service or community clean up, where they come by and pick up large or heavy items that don’t fit in a trash bin. Before you take it to the curb, call your city and make sure they can pick up old water heaters and find out which day to set it out. If your city is unable to pick it up, or you live outside of city limits, you can load it up and take it directly to the landfill to dispose of it for a fee.

Now that your old tank is uninstalled and off your property, it’s time to install the new one and enjoy a working hot water heater! If you have any additional questions about disposing of a water heater, please consult an electrician or plumber and they can give you resources specific to your area.

Donation As A Water Heater Disposal Method

Water heater disposal can be easy if your unit is still operating. Frequently homeowners need to upgrade their water heater in order to meet their household hot water demands. This leaves a functioning unit that can be donated, especially if it’s in good repair.

Contact donation centers such as the Goodwill. They often accept working water heaters and you’ll be able to claim it as a charitable tax-donation.

Many people need to upgrade their water heater because they need more hot water than their unit can deliver. If your water heater still works and is in good repair, you may be able to give it away. Contact your local Goodwill or other donation center and ask if they accept working water heaters. If they do, you will not only help someone in need, but you will also be able to make a tax-deductible donation.

If you can’t find an organization that will accept your donation, you might try running an ad in a local newspaper or on Craig’s List. Running an ad may also work if your old heater is no longer working. You may be able to find someone who will take it for the metal scrap.

If you’re replacing your water heater simply to upgrade to one that is more efficient or can handle your needs better, you can try donating your old hot water heater. There may be an organization or people in need in your community.

Your curbside collection service may offer bulk waste collection on certain days or weeks. However, you should call or look up their service info before placing your water heater on the curb. Some services may charge an additional fee.

It makes the most sense environmentally to continue using the working hot water heater instead of disposing of it. It only takes a moment to post a craigslist or newspaper ad for a free working water heater.

Another way to donate your old hot water heater may be through a larger charitable donation center in your area such as The Salvation Army or Goodwill or a local Habitat for Humanity center. Not all of these centers accept large donations like these, but some will, as long as they are in working condition.

Here I include some links to contact them below

Don’t rush to dispose of your water heater if it’s still working. Instead, check to see if there are donation centers around you that will accept it. A few organizations to check out:

Remember to follow carefully the steps and if needed, call an electrician. Some electrical work we described in the past, such as analyzing the aluminum wiring before buying a new house or the connection of a water heater in a mobile home, can require the service of a professional electrician.

If you have no experience working with electrical wiring, always consult an electrician before removing a water heater or other hard-wired appliance. Better still, have an electrician or HVAC professional disconnect the water heater for you.

Water Heater Disposal Through Recycling

Contact city or county officials or the local waste management department to find out if your area has an appliance recycling program. If it does, take the hot water heater to the designated location. Alternatively, find out if you can place the hot water heater with your regular trash on a community recycling day.

water heater disposal
Not the best water heater disposal procedure. This Rheem model was abandoned in the street, All the bottom is completely rusted. I am sure that it started to leak at some moment, and the owner decided to replace it.

Call your local recycling facility and ask if it accepts hot water heaters. Take the hot water heater to the facility. Find out if the recycling facility pays cash for the piece as most facilities profit from stripping and reycycling the metal components of the unit.

There are many recycling companies that will take water heaters and scrap them for the metal. Most water heater tanks are made from steel, and have copper and brass attachments. Recycling centers will often pay you the going rate, however, some may charge you a fee to dispose of the appliance. There are even some recycling centers that will arrange to pick up your old heater at your home.

The laws vary from state to state that regulate scrap metal recycling so be sure to contact your center prior to delivering the unit. Many states require the seller to be at least 18 years old and provide a valid ID.

If you can’t find a recycling center to accept your old water heater, you can check with your local government. Often they have plans to help residents dispose of appliances such as water heaters.

The best disposal option for a water heater is to recycle it. Although you can technically get rid of your water heater in a landfill, that should be an absolute last resort. Water heaters contain valuable metals that can be recycled for money like steel and copper. Since metals don’t decompose, it’s always best to recycle them.

Local energy companies often have appliance recycling programs where they offer to pick up old appliances for free. In some cases, you could receive a credit on your next bill, or even a cash rebate. Check with your local utility provider for more information about their appliance recycling programs.

You can also try Earth911, the EPA’s Responsible Appliance Disposal (RAD) program to find disposal options nearby, or a professional junk removal company.

Water Heater Disposal Through Curbside Garbage Pick Up

Contact your garbage service. Some areas offer curbside pick-up for large appliances, and will often attempt to refurbish or recycle the unit. You’ll likely pay extra for this service, but if your garbage company offers this program, disposal is as simple as draining your water heater and moving it to the curb.

Many areas offer curbside pick-up for water heaters and other large appliances. Some will even attempt to recycle or refurbish the unit. Be prepared, there are generally additional fees involved for the convenience.

You may need to schedule a pick-up time, but if this service is available to dispose of your water heater,  it can save you the headache of hauling it somewhere else. Don’t forget to drain the tank.

Take Your Water Heater to a Landfill

If you are unable to find a recycling center, contact your local landfill. They will usually accept water heaters and dispose of them for a fee. Sometimes they have a recycling program available. Of course, it’s always best to try other methods first.

Most local landfills offer water heater disposal services. Be prepared to pay a fee to drop it off and always try to find other methods first unless your landfill offers a recycling program. 

Some facilities may prohibit water heater disposal due to the empty space inside the tank, which can collect hazardous gases and possibly damage the landfill.

Be sure to call your local recycling center before bringing in your old water heater because while most will pay you the going rate for scrap metal, some may charge you a disposal fee.

Contact your landfill if you cannot recycle the water heaters in your area. Take the unit to the landfill. Pay the disposal fee that often is based on the weight of the item.

Hire a Junk Removal Service to Haul Your Water Heater Away

A junk removal service such as 1-800-GOT-JUNK? will schedule a pickup and dispose of your water heater for you. They offer same day pickup and will collect your water heater from where ever you have it located. In fact, you won’t need to do much more than make the call (although we recommend you drain your heater), because they will even clean up leaving the area nice and tidy!

1-800-GOT-JUNK proudly tries their best to keep from disposing of collected items in landfills and they make a point to recycle or donate whenever possible.

They do their best to donate or recycle all of the items they collect and only, as a last resort will they use a landfill for disposal.

For a small fee, you can get a junk removal service such as 1-800-GOT-JUNK or Junk King. They will come to your home and remove your old heater and any other junk you need to get rid of.

Community Cleanup Days

Many cities host regular community cleanup days that allow residents to throw out those items they can’t dispose of in their trash can. Check to see if your city or county has one of these events on their calendar.

Scrap Water Heater?

You can scrap your old hot water heater. Many recycling centers will accept your water heater for scrap metals.

There are a few necessary steps prior to taking in your old water heater to a recycling center. Make certain your old tank is fully drained, this is usually all that is required at larger recycling centers and scrap yards.

If you are willing to do some work, you can scrap your old water heater yourself and sell the non-ferrous metals. Gas water heaters have more value because of the regulator, but the electric models are also worth your time.

Start at the top of your tank and check the fittings and pipes going into your water heater. Use a magnet. If the magnet locks onto the metal, the pipes are made of iron. If not, they are likely copper or brass and can be resold. If you are unable to remove them with a pipe wrench, try hitting them with a hammer. If nothing else works, you can cut them off with a saw.

You’ll usually find heavy gauge copper wiring throughout the water heater.

If you recently replaced your anode rod in your heater, you may be able to remove it as well. Most anode rods are made from aluminum, magnesium, or a aluminum/zinc/tin combination, sometimes you’ll even find copper. The rod is designed to breakdown and sacrifice itself in order to lengthen the life of the steel tank. As a general rule, it probably isn’t worth the effort to attempt to recover the anode rod for resale unless it was recently replaced.

If your water heater was a gas unit, it will have a gas regulator on the outside of the tank near the base. The regulator is made from mixed metals, usually cast zinc or aluminum and brass. It’s also not uncommon to find brass knobs on the regulator.

The best option is to remove and resell the gas regulator on your own. This will likely give you the best price, especially if you have some know-how. However, if you don’t feel comfortable selling it on your own, many scrap yards offer special rates for regulators. Either way, the regulator will likely fetch the highest price from your scrap.

Electric water heaters have heating elements that are frequently made with zinc plated copper or stainless steel. They are located behind the top and bottom access panels on the tank and should be fairly easy to remove.

Before you finish, be sure to double check all of the fittings with a knife or screwdriver. Often brass fittings will become unrecognizable due to corrosion. Sometimes they are difficult to remove with a pipe wrench but generally will yield with a few hits from a sledge hammer.

Scrapping seems to be a very convenient way to dispose of the water heater, earning some money and also being environmentally friendly at the same time. If you are hoping to get more for your old water heater and taking it to a scrap yard that recycles all types of metal, you may want to take apart the old water heater and separate parts. There is copper, brass, aluminum, and steel that can be removed from a disassembled tank.

This may be required to receive the highest payout for your old scrap water heater. For example, nearly all older water heaters have a copper coil inside, it may be worth the effort to remove the copper coil and recycle on its own.

Clearly, scraping a water heater isn’t for everyone, but with a little effort, it can help offset the price of your new water heater.

Water Heater Scrap And Recycling Centers

If your water heater is at the end of its lifecycle, then recycling it is the next best option. How do you recycle a water heater?

Many recycling centers will accept water heaters. These centers typically dismantle the water heater and then sell the scrap metal to another vender where it will eventually be used for other products.

Most of tanks are made from steel and have brass and copper attachments. A recycling center frequently will pay you a set rate and then scrap the unit.

It’s not uncommon for recycling centers to charge you a fee to drop off your water heater. Although, you may be lucky, some centers will actually arrange to pick it up! 

The first place you should look is your city’s waste management department, as they may offer a recycling program for appliances. If these aren’t available in your area, start looking into:

  • Local recycling centers: Facilities that accept a variety of materials for recycling may also take old water heaters.
  • Scrap metal collectors: Scrap metal companies often recycle water tanks and other appliances with high-value metals.
  • Retailers & buyback programs: Check with local retailers, such as the one you’re buying your new one from, to see if they’ll take your old one for recycling.

Many states require the seller to provide a valid ID and to be at least 18 years old. Although, regulations to scrap metal vary from state-to-state, it’s a good practice to  contact the recycling center prior to dropping off your heater.

Materials Obtained Through Water Heater Scrape Process

If you are up for the challenge, you can make some money to help offset the cost of your new water heater by recycling it yourself. Scraping your water heater isn’t as difficult as it sounds, and you can sell the non-ferrous metals. 

This is a valid method of water heater disposal for both gas and electric units, although, because of the regulator, gas models will have more value. The regulator can be scraped or sold on it’s own if it’s still in working order.  You can also take the regulator to a scrap yard and sell it to them.

With a magnet, you’ll be able to determine the type of metal used for the pipes. If the magnet locks onto the metal, the pipes are made of iron. However, if not, there is a very good chance that they are made with copper or brass and can be resold. 

Keep your eye out for heavy gauge copper wiring. It generally runs throughout the water heater and it can also be resold.

Water Heater Scrap Value

How much do you get for scrapping a water heater? Water heater scrap value can vary by area.

The dollar amount is dependent upon a few factors, including your location, size (30 gallon, 40 gallon, 50 gallon), but the range is between $10 – $30 and possibly more if you are willing to get your hands dirty and take apart parts to separate the more valuable copper components.

Scrap metal price for water heater recycling can vary by your location, since different areas have different going rates for valuable elements such as the copper, steel, and brass.

Most water heaters use brass or copper attachments, two metals that sell at a high price. However, the water tank itself is usually not worth much as most are made from plentiful steel.

Always look for corrosion, many brass fittings become unrecognizable.  Check the fittings with a knife or screwdriver, it’s always nice to find these little surprises when you think you have removed all of the valuable metal! 

Water Heater Disposal Near Me

If you are not interested in scrapping your old water heater for cash, you can easily find a water heater recycle center near you. Most cities have large recycling centers that accept bulky items like 40 gallon water heaters, however you will need to transport it yourself.

Choosing A New Water Heater After The Disposal

As part of the National Appliance and Energy Conservation Act (NAECA), energy codes from the Department of Energy mandate that residential water heaters manufactured as of April 16, 2015 improve R-values of the insulation around the tanks. This mandate resulted in new water heaters being taller and wider than older models. Therefore, 30-, 40-, and 50-gallon model water heaters are affected by these changes.

With diameters and heights of many water heaters increasing up to 15%, installation issues may occur when replacing an older model. If your water heater is in a confined space or in a closet, the new model of the same gallon capacity may not fit.

For installations where space is not an issue, you can replace an older model with a unit that has the same capacity but a larger physical size. For installations where space is an issue, a unit with smaller capacity may be the best fit.  A unit that uses a different technology may be a good option.

Water Heater Disposal Through Upcycling

A newer trend in the recycling world is upcycling, taking an old unnecessary item that would otherwise end up in a landfill and turning into something new with a unique use. This idea can work for your old hot water heater as well.

If the small monetary value you may or may not get for scrapping your old hot water heater isn’t important to you and you have a bit of creativity or ingenuity you can do a quick search for upcycling water heater tanks and get some pretty awesome ideas for your garden or landscape.

Remember these tanks are very sturdy, and if yours is free of physical damage you can turn it into any number of things such as: a smoker, a fire pit, a wood burning stove for your patio. You can lay it horizontally and cut out a section to turn it into a large planter. There are endless possibilities to repurpose old water heaters no longer useful.

Solar Water Heater Construction Instead Of Disposal

Making a solar water heater is a great repurpose project, especially if your tank is still in good shape and isn’t leaking.

Dismantle the outer metal casing and remove the insulation and electrical controls. Use flat black paint (will absorb the heat) to paint the tank.

Build and insulate a box, then cover the inside with reflective material. The front of the box should be covered with glass.  Mount the tank into the box.

When hot water is needed within the house, your new tank will “pull” from the solar (old) tank. You will save money and reduce your energy consumption. 

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Photo of author

BY M. Kogan

Hello, I am Marcio. I am an architect and designer, alma mater is Mackenzie. Retired in theory, but an architect never retires completely. Along with architectural projects, I am a filmmaker and have completed some short documentaries. Filmmaking and design are my passions. In HomeQN I write about home decoration and foundations. The goal is to teach homeowners to DYI as much as possible, and when this is not possible, enable them through knowledge, to evaluate service quotations and choose the best service technicians.

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