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How to Dispose of a Water Heater

Last Updated: October 12, 2023

How to Dispose of a Water Heater

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A hot water heater is an indispensable part of comfortable and safe living. No one likes cold showers, and hot water helps keep our homes clean. From bathing to cooking to cleaning, having ready access to hot water is a must.

Understanding how to dispose of water heaters is important, especially when its time to change out your old one. While complications exist, water heater disposal can be done efficiently with the right steps!

Why are Water Heaters Difficult to Dispose Of?

A while ago, I was running some bath water for kids when I noticed a slight reddish tinge to the water coming out of the faucet. I actually thought I was imagining it. But the more water filled the tub, the more obvious it became.

Turned out that our water heater had a corroded anode rod, causing rust to form in the tank. It was time for a new water heater. My husband was able to do the replacement himself, but we still had to get rid of the old unit, as we couldn’t just put it on the curb for pick up with our regular trash.

Hazards of Improper Water Heater Disposal

Water heaters typically come in two types: tank-based and tankless. Neither of these should be placed in with your trash or even put in a dumpster. This can make it a challenge to properly dispose of your old water heater.

According to ENERGY STAR, a program run by the EPA, over 27 million household have water heaters that are more than 10 years old, about the average age when they need to be replaced. Every year, about 8% of U.S. households replace their water heaters, resulting in almost 8 million water heaters that need to be disposed of.

Water heaters are banned from most landfills in the U.S. One reason is the pilot light sensors in these units. They contain mercury, a chemical element that can have negative consequences when released into the air or water. Hot water heaters may also contain asbestos insulation and extensive accumulation of rust and sediment. These materials are hazardous and should be kept out of landfills to prevent contamination of the nearby air, ground, and water.

Hot water heaters are also bulky and take up lots of space in a landfill. Since landfill space in many communities is limited, the ban on water heaters conserves space for future use. The empty space in an old water heater can also collect hazardous gases, leading to an unsafe explosion or leak into the air.

How to Dispose of a Water Heater Properly

An infographic detailing how to dispose of a water heater
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1. Recycle Your Old Water Heater

Your local recycling center may accept an old water heater. These facilities separate the parts and recover copper, steel, aluminum, and brass components for recycling and then dispose of any hazardous materials. You’ll need to haul the water heater there yourself, and some charge a fee.

2. Ask About Take-Back Programs

If you are having your new hot water heater professionally installed, ask about any available disposal options. Some manufacturers or retail installers will take your old water heater away for recycling.

3. Take it to a Community Collection Event

If your city or county offers a community bulk trash collection event, check to see if they will allow hot water tanks. Most have prohibitions on these types of waste, but you may get lucky and find one near you that can handle hot water heaters.

If you’ve removed your hot water heater to replace it with a more energy-efficient model or with a tankless system, your old water tank may still have life left in it. If so, consider donating it. Reach out to local groups such as Habitat for Humanity or other charitable organizations.

5. Sell or Give Away Online

Your useable water heater may be the perfect bargain for someone in your area looking for a replacement. If you are having trouble selling it, it might be worth it to offer it for free on platforms like:

  • Craigslist
  • Next Door
  • Facebook Marketplace

You’ll get someone to pick it up quickly, saving you the time and hassle of figuring out where to take it.

6. Scrap Your Old Water Heater

Call your local scrap yard to find out if they will accept components and scrap metal from old water heaters. You won’t get a lot of money, as most of the metal is just aluminum and steel. But it can be an easy way to dispose of the unit and make a little pocket change.

7. Use a Professional Waste Hauling Service

If you have no other option, you can find a local junk removal service to take your old water heater away. This is likely the most expensive option, but it is quick and easy.

Find the Best Disposal Method for Your Water Heater

Because you can’t toss an old water heater into a dumpster, finding the best way to dispose of it can be challenging. It takes up a lot of space, is heavy, and may contain toxic materials. One thing you shouldn’t do is illegally dump your water heater. Improper waste disposal can be dangerous and cause long lasting issues for a locality.

Call Us for Advice on Water Heater Disposal

At Discount Dumpster, we understand the importance of responsible waste disposal. While old water heaters are not allowed in our dumpsters, we can you connect with a recycling or disposal facility near you.

Give us a call to discuss your disposal options and to get advice on affordable and practical solutions for all your waste management needs!

Give Us a Call for Hazardous Waste Advice! - (888) 316-7010

About Monica Mayhak

I am an expert content writer with a depth of experience in the waste management and dumpster industry, with over 25 years of experience writing about construction, home improvement, property management, and education topics. As lead research writer for Discount Dumpster, I have expanded my knowledge and understanding of waste management, construction, and environmental issues over the past several years.

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