Home » Reuse Ideas » What To Do with Old Water Heaters – Bright Ideas

What To Do with Old Water Heaters – Bright Ideas

Water heating is a thirsty business, which is why it’s important to have a water heater that’s up-to-date.

That way, you can keep your household or business warm without running up the utility bill.

Now if you’re thinking of a replacement, you’ll need to first have an idea of what to do with your old water heater once the new one arrives.

Some people will simply send the unwanted item to a landfill as it’s the easiest option.

But we can do better than that.

With the amount of waste increasing tremendously, landfills are never going to be a permanent solution as it creates several problems that can be avoided.

According to EPA, the average American sends nearly five pounds of waste to the landfill every month.

The first problem is space and landfills are filling up quickly, as we throw away millions of tons of waste every year.

Landfills take up a lot of space and are susceptible to flooding, leaching, and contamination.

The United Nations estimates that by 2050, there will be approximately ten billion people on Earth and the amount of waste will grow by 3 times its current levels.

As such, we need to be responsible in the way we dispose of our waste.

What to do with old water heaters

After many years of service, it may be time to do away with your old water heater and turn to a new model.

Whether you need to replace your existing unit or simply need to upgrade, these ideas will help you deal with unwanted devices.

Donate it

In case the heater is working well, you can turn to donations for a great cause.

As a homeowner, you’ll more than likely have a heater in your basement or garage.

Instead of leaving it there to collect dust, you can donate it to the nearest thrift store or charity.

These organizations regularly need items such as water heaters, household goods, and clothes all year round.

A lot of people are not fortunate enough to enjoy the comforts of modern heating and so turning to charity organizations is a great way of helping those in need.

Habitat for Humanity, Goodwill, The Salvation Army, and even your local church would happily welcome the donation of an unwanted heater.

Reach out to Home Depot or Lowes

If you’re not sure how best to handle the situation, you can always seek out information from a retailer that deals with home appliances.

Both stores offer free advice with regard to unwanted items.

Home Depot will happily take the water heater and then recycle it appropriately.

The same goes for Lowes as well.

These megastores sell high-efficiency and energy-efficient models and are always on the lookout for new customers.

In that case, if you get a brand new water heater from one of these brands, they’ll accept to take the old one off your hands and recycle it.

You won’t have to worry about shipping details or any other logistics.

They’ll simply collect and recycle.

Sell it online

Times are tough and whenever you can, it’s always best to make a few bucks.

A water heater is always going to fetch a few dollars on sites such as Craigslist and eBay.

There are a lot of people who are in need of cheap devices and there’s no reason why you shouldn’t profit from it.

Selling the device may not really break even, but it could help you to get rid of it for a few bucks.

If you’re lucky, you may even be able to sell it for a few hundred dollars to someone who finds the offer hard to resist.

Understandably, not everyone will afford to fork out lots of money to finance the initial investment of a heater.

This makes second-hand water heaters an attractive option.

Offer it to a family member or friend

The market is packed with impeccable water heater models with added benefits.

So if you have a friend or family member who doesn’t have one, offer them your old one that’s still working perfectly.

Hot water reliably keeps the house warm and at times when you’re not at home, it’s always best to have it on.

You could have a friend or family member use it for a few years until they need their own.

They’ll love their new gadget and they’ll be glad to have help in keeping their home warm during those cold days.

Scrap it

Water heaters have a long lifespan and depending on the model, they could last for as many as fifteen years.

So don’t beat yourself up when it completely breaks down and no longer works.

In that case, you can always go to any recycling center or scrapyard and would end up getting a small sum as compensation.

For example, if you bought the unit for $500 dollars, it would be worth around $250 dollars as scrap metal.

If you have an old water heater right now, check out the list of recyclable items in your area and it’ll help you to gauge how much money you’ll get.

Most heaters are made of valuable metals such as brass, copper, steel or aluminum.

These metals would surely fetch a decent price at a local scrap metal center.

Though, the best part is that you’ll be protecting the environment as well.

Every year, around 2 million units are discarded all across the U.S.

and if you’re in New York, California or Oregon, you could get around $0.10 per pound of metal.

It certainly isn’t a lot of money but it can definitely help when you need to pay for something important.

Turn it into a vertical or horizontal smoker

You’ll be surprised how many ways you can put to good use the carcass of your water heater.

Whether it’s to convert it into a smoker or a storage box, you’ll find countless ideas on the internet.

First of all, you can easily convert the extra space into a vertical smoker by simply building a frame and covering it with aluminum foil and wire mesh.

You could also turn the bottom of the unit into a barbecue grill by removing one of its legs and build something that mimics what you get at your local backyard store.

It’s an excellent way of getting the most out of the unit and it’ll surely make you some new friends at your next party.

Use it as a solar water heater

Solar energy has been picking up a lot of momentum in recent years as people realize how lucrative it can be.

From regular homeowners to governments, people all over the world are trying to turn to solar power for a lot of practical reasons.

If you don’t want to throw your heater away, you could always use it as a solar water heater.

With this, you’ll never have to worry about those high utility costs and you’ll be doing your part for the environment.

The solar water heater utilizes energy from the sun to heat the water that’s going into your home.

You’ll need a few engineering skills to carry it out but don’t fret; you can always hire a company that specializes in such work.

Basically, you have to remove the tank casing along with the insulation.

Then, paint the entire tank black to ensure it absorbs the full potential of the sun.

Construct a housing unit for it and cover the tank with reflective material.

Finally, insulate it and connect the solar water heater to your home’s water system.

You’ll save up to $16,000 on utility bills in the first eight years.

Not bad!

Turn it into a storage tank

This is another DIY project that you can try out on your own.

It’s simple enough because you won’t need any special skills or experience to carry it out.

Essentially, all you have to do is connect an inlet and an outlet with a pipe.

The carcass of the old unit will still be useful in holding water for domestic consumption.

You’ll need to move the outlet and the inlet to somewhere outside so that the sun will be directly heating them.

This way, your water heater will get warm quickly and you won’t have to run it constantly.

You can also buy a solar heater which is connected to your water system for the same effect.

Use this water to wash your car, fill the inflatable pool in the backyard or simply to keep you warm in the winter.

Create an outdoor planter

This is a simple project that anyone can do on their own.

Simply remove the tank from the casing and turn it into an outdoor planter for plants.

You could use it to create a simple vegetable garden in your backyard or to grow flowers.

It’s one of the best ways to utilize the extra space and you’ll certainly be surprised at how much you’ll grow.

Just get the old heater and cut it horizontally or vertically in the middle.

Use the two halves to plant anything you desire including tomatoes, kale, spinach, bell peppers, carrots, flowers or even your favorite herbs.

It’s an excellent way to recycle the water heater along with adding value to your garden.

Convert it into an outdoor fire pit

If you’re looking for a way to enjoy a nice and warm bonfire without having to deal with the smoke, build a quality fire pit using the carcass of your former water heater.

You can use it as a place to sit, cook or simply relax on those cold and windy nights.

It’s also portable so if you’re heading out somewhere with friends or family, bring along the fire pit and make the most of your night.

It will definitely surprise and impress your guests.

Turn it into an outdoor wood stove

If you’re looking for a way to heat your home in the coming winter, convert your old water heater into an outdoor wood stove.

You can find information and plans online that will help you to construct a very effective wood stove.

Just be sure to know your local building codes and then adhere to them when constructing the unit.

Also, watch out for the weather so that you don’t burn down your house.

This is a very effective way to warm up your home without adding heat in the house.

Also, you could use this to cook on and it would also be more efficient than your conventional oven.

Time outdoors will surely be a lot more enjoyable if you have the outdoor wood stove to warm up in front of or prepare a meal to enjoy with your friends and family.

Final Thoughts

There are a number of ways you can repurpose the old water heater.

You could simply throw it out when you get your new one or use it to sell in your local community yard sale.

Whichever method you decide, you’ll be helping yourself save money and the environment at the same time.

For instance, recycling an old water heater will help you not only protect the environment but also reduce the amount of toxic waste that’s produced every year.

That alone can make a massive difference in our surroundings.


Can you cut up a hot water heater?

Yes, you can cut up your hot water heater.

If you want to separate it into two parts, you can cut the large tank vertically.

You’ll see a metal sheet between the two parts.

This sheet is there to prevent any damage done by the heat but if you want to separate them then all you have to do is remove that metal sheet.

How do I dispose of a water heater in NYC?

Donate your water heater to a local facility that can use it such as Habitat for Humanity or any similar organization.

You can also donate it to a local shelter that provides hot showers for those in need.


  • Jen Wheeler

    Jen Wheeler, co-founder of Recycling-Revolution.com, holds degrees from UC Berkeley, Yale, and Stanford. A renowned environmentalist, she's championed sustainable practices at global events and leads EcoBright Solutions, focusing on recycling education and eco-friendly products.

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