There are two main types of water heaters that I find on a regular basis, gas and electric.
The Scrap Gas Water Heater
They are a home appliance, and classified as a light-iron/shred/mixed-metal/tin item when whole. But, there is usually a decent amount of non-ferrous scrap metal that you should first be able to pull off.
At the cap part of the heater, there may be one or two Copper pipes that sticking out, or possibly a brass connector. With a magnet, check to be sure they are copper or brass. If it sticks, then the pipe is simple iron. If not, take them off with a pipe wrench. If they are too corroded to come out, then either break them off by repeatedly hitting with a hammer, or cut off with a sawzall.
With a pipe wrench, twist off the valve sticking out of the tank towards the top. This is a mineral deposit stick, and in my experience is often copper in the gas modles.
Every gas water heater has a gas regulator that is set near the base of the tank. These are made of a combination of brass and cast zinc/aluminum and have some brass knobs on them.
My yard has a special price for these gas regulators (you also find then on scrap gas grills and scrap ovens and stoves) and they are worth pulling off as they are worth at least 2x shred price, up to 4x shred steel. They are expensive to replace, so they may be worth reselling if you have the know-how. An example regulator is pictured left, and you can see that it is quite valuable, almost 1/3 of the price of a new heater!
To remove these gas regulators quickly, all it takes is a few heavy whacks with a sledge hammer.
Electric water heaters don’t have gas regulators, because they don’t have use gas. (duh.) But, electric water heaters use heating elements to heat water instead of gas.
The electric heating elements are usually made of zinc plated copper or stainless steel sheathing around a nichrome wire. They are located inside of the water heater and need to be pulled out by disassembling through access bays located on the side of the appliance.
Water heaters also have what is known as “anodes” which are there for the sole purpose of getting corroded away, thus keeping the steel container from getting corroded (self sacrifice if you will). These are often made of magnesium/aluminum, and will be very corroded if you want to try pulling them out. It is my preference to not even bother.
- Don’t bother trying to fill these with water in order to trick the scales. You will only make about roughly $30 extra, and it is so easy to catch this trick. If you are caught, your scrap yard will (or should) press charges.
- Don’t pass up fittings. Some brass fittings may be very corroded, and can therefore be hard to distinguish, and/or hard to remove. Be sure to check all fittings with a file. And if you can’t seem to get the fittings off with a pipe wrench, then I recommend setting the heater on the ground and pulling out your sledge hammer. Most brass fittings will break of after a few good hits.
- Don’t get caught with your pants down! Some Water heaters are made of very valuable metals (copper, brass, ect) more often then not if they are very old. DON’T forget to check everything!