Water Heater Disposal: Junk It, Recycle It, or Repurpose It

Water Heater Disposal

Water heater disposal isn't something you think about everyday. In fact, it likely didn't enter your mind when you were purchasing your new tank. But now you need to figure out how to get rid of your old water heater. Taking it to the landfill is often the first thing homeowners consider, but you might be surprised to find that you have a number of different options available.

If you hired a plumber to install your water heater, there's a good chance that this won't be an issue. Many company's offer water heater disposal as part of their service, and they simply haul it away when they finish the job.

But if you chose to do the install yourself, you'll need to figure out what to do with your old water heater. Regulations vary from state-to-state so water heater disposal can be tricky, however, there are a number of options. Some can even help offset the price of your new unit!​

Water Heater Disposal Options


Junk It

Landfill

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. 

Garbage Service

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!

Junk Removal Service

Company's such as 1-800-GOT-JUNK? will arrange to pickup your water heater at your convenience . . . even today! 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.

Using these types of services will not resolve your water heater disposal crisis, but you can do a little extra cleaning as well. What better way to get rid of all the added junk around your house than to have it hauled off with your old water heater!

Recycle It

Recycling Centers

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! 

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.

Donate to Charity

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.

Local Government

Some areas offer residents a means of disposing of their water heaters. Contact your local government for information. Don't be surprised if they charge you a fee. 

Recycle it Yourself (Scrap it)

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. ​

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! 

Advertise

Run an ad in your local paper or on Craig's List, or you can even put it outside with a sign stating that it still works. You may be able to sell it for a few dollars, but more likely, you'll simply give it away.

Even if it isn't working, this method is a good way to dispose of your water heater.​ There are many people who are looking for old appliances to scrap.

Repurpose It

Solar Water Heater

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. 

Grill or Smoker

Cut the tank horizontally or vertically depending on your preference. Weld legs, hinges and a handle.

This video shows a compressor being repurposed, but a water heater could also be made into a grill. 

Other Creative Options

There are as many creative projects to build with your old water heater tank as you can come up with. From wood stoves, to water barrels, to flower pots. If you enjoy a do-it-yourself project, you can create some amazing things!