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Water Heater Disposal: How to Get Rid of Your Old Water Heater


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Getting rid of your old water heater was probably not on your mind when you discovered that you needed to purchase a new heater. Yet, here you are with two water heaters: One brand new, and one old. Many homeowners choose to purchase their new heater from a company who specializes in selling and installing water heaters.

If this was the route you took, chances are you won't need to worry about how to dispose of your water heater - the company will most likely haul it away for you. However, if you're a do-it-yourself kind of person, deciding what to do with your old heater can be a challenge.

How to Get Rid of Your Water Heater

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.

Donate Your Water Heater

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.

Recycle Your Water Heater

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.

Put Your Water Heater in the Garbage

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!

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.

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.

Scrap Your Water Heater Yourself

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.

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.

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