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Water heaters tend to go out at the worst possible times: when you’re ready for a hot shower after a long day of work, have a sink full of dirty dishes, or need to wash laundry before the stains set in. While you can quickly get a new one at McCoy’s, what do you do with the old one? Here are some easy steps about how to remove and dispose of an old water heater.
First, cut off the power and disconnect the water heater from the energy source. If you have a gas water heater, use the cutoff valve to shut down the gas line and prevent gas leaks. For an electric water heater, flip the breaker in your service panel to completely shut off the power. Always consult a professional electrician or plumber if you’re unsure of where or how to turn off your power source or gas line.
Next, turn off the water and drain the tank. This is much easier than it sounds. 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. Now, when you disconnect your water heater you won’t be surprised by a sudden flow of water coming through the pipes!
Once the water in the pipes finish draining back into the tank, 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.
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 (pipes run directly into the tank without connections). If your tank is hard-plumbed, the only way to remove it is to saw off the pipes using a hacksaw. Be sure to leave enough pipe connected to the wall to install the new water heater.
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. You and your partner will need to remove the tank from your water closet. 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 it 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.
So now that your water heater is removed and loaded up, where do you take it? You have two main 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 pickup 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.