The amount of money you can get scrapping a water heater will depend on many factors; while you can scrap a whole water heater, valuable components within it, such as copper pipes, can earn you more money separately at the scrap yard.
Below, we explain how much you can expect to get for a scrap water heater and how to find a place that will buy it.
Average Price for Scrapping a Water Heater
The easiest way to dispose of an old water heater for scrap is to bring the entire unit to a scrap yard, but this will also get you the least amount of money. When you bring a whole water heater into a scrap yard, you get the going rate for light iron, light steel, shred, or mixed metal.
The average selling price for light iron, light steel, and shred scrap at the time of writing is around $112 per ton, which translates to about $0.06 per pound. Over the last ten years, light iron scrap prices have varied widely, usually falling between about $200 per ton and $600 per ton.
Since these quoted prices are often the rates at which scrap yards can sell their product, you can expect the scrap yard to offer you less than this rate — around $0.04 to $0.05 per pound — in order to make a profit. Most traditional, tank-style water heaters weigh around 150 pounds when drained, so based on the average 2020 rate, you can expect to make about $6 to $9 at the scrap yard.
Note the exact price you get for your water heater will depend on the current spot price of scrap metal, the weight of your water heater, and your location. Prices in the scrap market fluctuate daily.
How to Get the Best Price
There are several valuable elements that you can separate from the water heater that have higher scrap prices than light iron, shred, or mixed metal. This will help you get the most money from your water heater.
The weight of only the copper, brass, and aluminum elements of the water heater will be lower than the weight of the full tank, and the total you make from these metals will still be dependent on their quality and quantity. However, by separating the water heater, you can get the highest possible value for each element and should still be able to scrap the rest of the tank as mixed metal, increasing your total profit.
Keep in mind that scrap values change frequently and vary based on the type of metal, the purity of the metal, and your location. You can get up-to-date prices for component metals like copper, brass, and aluminum on sites like ScrapMonster and Scrap Register.
Several parts of a water heater are made of copper, which is more valuable to scrap separately.
Components made of copper include:
- Heating elements (for electric water heaters)
- Pipes, fittings, and tubes
- Mineral deposit sticks
- Drain valves
- Protective caps
- Regulator (for gas water heaters)
- Knobs (which may be on valves, control boxes, and regulators)
- Burner assemblies (for gas water heaters)
Find more details about scrapping brass in our research on scrap brass prices per pound, ounce, and ton.
While less valuable than copper and brass, aluminum is still worth more than light iron or shred at scrap yards.
- Drain pans
- Anode rods
- Valves and valve bodies
How and Where to Scrap a Water Heater
Cleaning & Preparation
Before scrapping a water heater, you’ll need to clean it, particularly if you want to remove certain components and scrap them separately at higher prices.
- Drain the water. Since scrap yards pay by weight, some require you to puncture the tank to prove there’s no water inside.
- Separate any components you want to scrap individually. You’ll need basic tools for this, such as a pipe wrench and hammer. Remove and sort any components that are made of valuable metals like copper.
- Check your state’s laws. States might require things like documentation of ownership, intact serial numbers, or identification from the seller, which is best to know before you visit the scrap yard. You can gather this information from the yard or check state scrap laws online.
Note that requirements for scrap water heaters will vary by scrap yard, so it’s best to ask whether there are any special requirements (like punctures) before visiting.
Finding a Scrap Yard
Most scrap yards nearby will accept water heaters and water heater components.
You can find one near you (or find several to call around to for price comparisons) using the following sites:
Alternatives: Reselling and Recycling
In some cases, you can get more money for your water heater by selling it rather than scrapping it. If the unit still works, you may be able to resell it for more than it’s worth as scrap on sites like Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace.
If your water heater isn’t operational and you’re unable to sell it to a scrap yard, you might want to consider recycling it. You probably won’t earn any money this way, but recycling is a safe way to dispose of an old water heater. Earth911 and RecycleNation can help you find a recycling center in your area. Your city or county website might also include information about local recycling options.