How To Scrap A Refrigerator

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100 0434 How To Scrap A Refrigerator

I received a question not too long ago, and I thought I would share my answer. Please send in your questions to dan@scrapmetaljunkie.com and I will try to answer all the questions I can. Please check that I havn’t covered the topic in the Scrapper’s Handbook, or ask your fellow scrapper in our Forum

Here is the question I received:

Just wanted to say thanks for such a great blog. I have learned so much from reading it!

A question I had for you..

I just picked up a great black side by side refrigerator to scrap. It is a newer model. Can’t be over 10 years old. It doesn’t work.The back of it appears to be stainless. Just wondering what you do when you get a refrigerator. I cant find much info online about them. I know there is freon in there, but what is safe to take out, strip, etc.

Thanks again!

Hello! and thanks for the great question! I’m glad you like by blog, and I hope you keep reading! With that being said, here is the deal with refrigerators:
The problem with refrigerators is the refrigerants, aka freon. Some people have the illusion that it is like breathing mustard gas, which couldn’t be farther from the truth! Freon is not that bad for people to breath. Yes, it isn’t good to breath, but it isn’t any worse than second hand smoke; so don’t worry about getting hurt if you break the freon lines.
The real concern with freon is its detrimental effect on the ozone when released. IF you are EPA certified, and you have the necessary equipment, only then can you legally pull the freon out of any scrap appliance, including scrap AC units. The EPA law forbids cutting the lines, even if you know they are only full of regular air, or the refrigerants have all leaked out. 

Now the question most important question you can ask yourself is “Do I want to unsafely let freon out into the atmosphere?”

If you do, and get caught by the EPA, then you will have to pay a serious fine; Over $25000. (I haven’t heard of somebody getting into trouble for this while scrapping… yet.)

The freon lines are the copper lines in the bottom and back of the refrigerator, and the black condensor/evaporator coils. If you cut one of these lines with a bolt cutter, the refrigerants will come pouring out of them, along with some of the lube/oil from the compressor. If you cut the lines, you will want to have the fridge in a place where you can let that oil pour out if it decides to. Then harvest the copper lines… The condenser coil is usually made of something other than copper, but check that for copper too (sometimes aluminum).

Inside of the compressor (the hollow black steel ball) is a motor with some copper windings, and a whole lot of oil. If you have the will power, take an angle grinder, sawzall, ect, and cut that sucker open along the welding joint. Sell the motor as is, or cut out the copper for scrap.

If there is any non-magnetic stainless on the refrigerator, PULL THAT OFF!

I have found on occasion the inside of the refrigerator (the rails and shelves) to be aluminum. PULL THOSE OUT!

Any wire you can manage to find should get cut off too.

The magnet test is invaluable. Always use your magnet! Here is a list of some common scrap metals.

but what if you don’t want to let the freon out…?

My scrap yard, and possibly yours too, will take all refrigerators with the freon still in them. In that case, take anything valuable that you possibly can off the refrigerator without breaking the freon lines. This just makes for a cleaner work space, a cleaner environment, and cleaner conscious.

If your scrap yard will NOT take refrigerators with freon, you will need to make a decision. You can cut the copper tubing lines, and possibly get a fine (I’ve never seen anybody get a fine, however), or you can call around to other scrap yards… In my experience, they will usually buy it when you bring it in, but not if you ask over the phone.

The most time-consuming, but most profitable option, is to see if it works and sell it as a used fridge! Plug it in and see if anything is wrong. If not, you can always try to sell it on craig’s list. In almost all of my experiences, however, there is something seriously wrong, and its only value is scrap.

Remember, that if you can sell it along with the mixed metal, to fill the inside with metal too. That way the refrigerator won’t take up too much volume.

Thanks for the question and Good Luck Scrapping! If you or anybody else has any questions, and you think I may be of assistance, please ask!

Comment and discuss in our Forum!

{ 33 comments… read them below or add one }

Mark February 1, 2011 at 2:53 pm

My brother found a nice side by side stainless on Craigslist. Went and picked it up, then called to see if it was still under warranty. It was. So he got a new compressor put in.

Something to think about for the future. They sure don't build them like they used to, I am coming across quite a few newer appliances.

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ivy_huffer February 14, 2011 at 10:45 am

husband is certified. he did it for his job someone had to be certified so he was the lucky one. Do you have any recomendations on where to get the tools?

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John King February 15, 2011 at 11:07 am

Correct me if I am wrong but when I was younger there was a guy scraping refrigerators that would rip apart the freezer box because there was a lining of aluminum in it.

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The Irrationalist February 15, 2011 at 11:46 am

@ John King definitely possible, as appliances have slowly become cheaper and cheaper over the years. I still have the refrigerator my parents bought in 1967 in my basement, works fine. The refrigerator I bought 10 years ago for my kitchen broke a little over a year ago. That being said, it wouldn't make much sense to make the lining aluminum because it is a horrible insulator. Usually everything is just steel. Industrial grade refrigerators and freezers are usually are aluminum or stainless. It doesn't hurt to check everything!

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cynthia October 10, 2011 at 1:49 am

found your answerr useful! but where inside the refrigerator other than the bottom compressor can you find copper??? shall I remove the top back??? it it copper there???
New but gettin betta ScrapGirl

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ScrapMetalJunkie October 10, 2011 at 1:31 pm

In most newer model refrigerators, the evaporator coil in inside of the box, and can be broken out from the inside. The thing is, like most of the coils in a fridge, they are usually just made out of painted steel or aluminized steel. Occasionally I find some that are made of copper aluminum, or all aluminum, but in general, pulling them out can be very tedious. If you end up doing it, I suggest you use a large hammer.

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Patrick October 13, 2011 at 5:39 am

My nieghbor just moved, and they gave me their small fridge. Turns out that it does not work. I live in an apartment, meaning I don’t have the extra room to do all that wicked scrapping stuff. (Would love to, sounds fun.) My question is; Would a scrap yard pay $$ money $$ for a small fridge that is whole? If yes, what would you say a fair price is?
-Thank You!
Patrick

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ScrapMetalJunkie October 13, 2011 at 8:18 pm

A fair price is USD$0.11 per lb. A small fridge would just be a few dollars ($5 maybe)

The problem is, if there is still freon in the refrigerator, they will not want to take it. I don’t think any scrap yard can legally accept appliances with freon without first having them discharged… The thing is, many scrap yards take them anyway. So you may want to consider just listing it as scrap on Craigslist for free.

Best of luck!

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Roundman October 26, 2011 at 12:30 am

Let’s talk FREON in refrigerators.
1st Freon is a brand name of refrigerant. Refrigerators contain about 3 oz. of R-134a refrigerant (same as cars and not harmful to the ozone). Not much to be concerned about. If you tried to recover it, it would not be enough to fill up the recovery hose.

Some states have laws against dumping it, most don’t

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ScrapMetalJunkie October 26, 2011 at 5:18 am

I appreciate the info, Roundman, but R-134a has been around for less then 20 years, and has only been common place for the last 10 years or so. As a scrapper, a majority of the junk refrigerators I come across are made over 10 years ago, so the atmospheric inertness of R-134a has little bearing on my actions. And as a matter of fact, neither does R-12, or R-22.

The main reason scrappers who are not 608 certified need to stay away from refrigerants is that the release of ANY refrigerant, (even R-134a when used as a refrigerant) without a certification is illegal and can land you in prison because of the Federal Clean Air Act…. So it doesn’t matter if state laws exist or not.

Even more of a pressing matter is that the federal government has a whistleblowers reward of $10,000 for reporting any release violations that result in convictions… So would you mind sharing what you do with your refrigerants with us?

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Bob Marley November 10, 2011 at 5:19 am

Yes, If anybody wants an extra $10,000, please tell on me!!! My email is aharfo56@suddenlink.net.

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ScrapMetalJunkie December 12, 2011 at 9:47 am

Well, I dont think anybody can be reported on without proof. But good try!

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MikeP November 27, 2011 at 5:09 pm

To the people asking for a good place to find tools….I likes em cheap! Harbor Freight Tools is an awesome resource. Decent tools for a fraction of the cost you’ll pay elsewhere. Last week I nabbed a 4 1/2″ angle grinder for 10 bucks, 90 day warranty, and a stack of 10 cut blades for 6 bucks. They offered me a 2 year warranty on it for 6 bucks, but at the price of the grinder I passed (though I have used their replacement warranties on pricier items in the store and they are fantastic).

I’ve yet to find any source better for low price tools than Harbor Freight.

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J. Yarbrough September 10, 2013 at 3:37 pm

As I agree on your comment about HBT having the best prices, i have to go the other way when it comes to their tools’ quality and durability. If one is looking for specific tools for a one-time project or doesn’t plan on heavy use of the tool(s) then this is a great place to get them. On the other hand, the professional tradesman will find that these are merely use a few times tools which fail often and thusly are viewed as disposable. I know personally of at least six, over $100 tools that have failed me either during warranty period (which btw, HFT will swap out no questions asked) or in most instances, a few days after, grrrr! Their Chicago Brand is complete crap and I played hell trying to get the right cutting wheels which accompanied an electric chainsaw chain sharpener but were broken in half (both of them) so HFT informed me that the only two options were to wait almost 4 weeks for their backlogged shipment arrived or just return for refund. Probably can guess which of the two evils i chose, lol…main point here, of course IMO, is to weigh the importance of either savings money and buying again the same tool or to pay for quality and durability that wont fail under heavy use and will result in your getting paid for your work.

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Leia March 12, 2012 at 8:54 pm

Is there an easy way to remove the foam insulation from the refer unit??

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Leia March 12, 2012 at 9:16 pm

I have a few “kegerators” to scrap and wanted to know how to get the insulation foam off the exterior metal?

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Leia March 12, 2012 at 9:34 pm

never mind called the yard and got my answer ,,,, umm thx?

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Slippery Pete June 25, 2012 at 12:58 am

I am just starting a “junk” business and tomorrow I do my first job…removing an old freezer. The customer says, “it works but is a little rusted.” My plan is to sell it for scrap anyway.

Just sharing the news.

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crystal June 26, 2012 at 6:31 pm

Is having an apprenticeship license good enough to leak or contain the freon? I have a scrap yard that allows me to scrap copper under my cousins license in heat and air with his written consent, so with my cousin having an apprenticeship license, could he legally contain the refidgerant for me? ? ? ?
Thanks for all your helpful information!!

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cindy July 24, 2012 at 8:19 pm

Hi,
i have a broken Refrigerator..its a Samsung side by side doors like 6yrs old…my freezer still works but the fridge is not getting cold…had a repair guy who only cost me money in ordering parts for it that it didn’t need…so instead of wasting more money on it, I went and found a cheap one to replace it…it could be something simple or maybe not but i’m NOT calling another guy and pouring more money into it…so now what do I do with it? I’m wondering instead of scraping it, someone might be able to fix it…i just need it GONE! any suggestions???

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Tin Can Keith October 3, 2012 at 1:54 pm

I Have a question about dismantling a fridge I picked up a fridge off the street that someone cut the small amount of copper off the bottom but the condenser and coil were in it. I removed this and scraped it but have learned that my scrap yard no long takes fridges do to all the plastic and foam insulation. I figure ill just take it apart and remove the foam and plastic in my spare time. Should I cut it up or take it apart bolt by bolt or just haul it off to the dump and not waste my time. Has anyone else tried this.
Thanks,
Tin Can Keith

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ScrapMetalJunkie October 8, 2012 at 1:55 am

It is very time consuming to separate the steel and foam, so I suggest you find a different scrap yard to sell to.

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Matt nye October 7, 2012 at 7:33 pm

What kind of copper could you scrap from a small fridge? Like tubing? How much of it

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ScrapMetalJunkie October 8, 2012 at 12:27 am

Mostly copper tubing and copper wire. A lot of copper wire is found in the motor within the compressor. Maybe 2-3 pounds.

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Loss October 24, 2012 at 11:58 am

Hi there luking 4 some old compressors if any1 knows where to get some plz plz plz let me know thank you guys.

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Mark Allen November 17, 2012 at 2:57 am

I am EPA certified and have recovered the refrigerant from 12 Residential 1.5-5 ton
Split A/C condensers but I haven’t taken them to the landfill yet because they CHARGE YOU 45.00 dollars
Each to accept them. I live on an island and it costs 365.00 (round trip) to take the
ferry to the mainland. I know most of the A/C compressors weight in at 65-95 pounds
and I have the tools to cut them open for the copper as well as removing the pipes and
condenser coil for scrap. I also have one 55 gal barrel of Clean copper and two 55 gallon
barrels of dirty copper (Cut off soldered fittings)
I have no idea of what all of this is worth and was wondering if it would at least pay for the round trip
ticket off island (365.00). Does anyone have an idea of what I could scrap it for? Thanks, Mark

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ScrapMetalJunkie November 20, 2012 at 10:35 am

if the barrels of copper are full, then they alone would pay for the ticket off the island, and the rest would be, for lack of a better word, “profit.” NO matter what, you need to take them to a scrap yard instead of taking them to the dump!!!

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joe February 20, 2013 at 7:53 pm

ive heard of selling a frig from front yard. scrap yards do pickups? or is this scrappers stopping by? theey payed 50 – 75 bucks.. if so who do i call?

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Mgk December 18, 2013 at 12:06 am

I saw this fridge on craigslist and I was wondering how much you think I could get for it by scrapping or should I just try to sell it. It is a stainless steel side by side fridge. The only thing wrong with it is the ice maker doesn’t work. How much do you think I could get for it by scrapping it? Do you think I would make more money by just selling it?

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Rick December 28, 2013 at 1:58 pm

Ok, Silly question but I have to ask. What does it take to get EPA certified for refrigerant removal and what is involved as far as costs tools etc and getting rid of the refrigerant? Or can you take freezers, AC’s, and refers to someone and have it done cheaply?

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norm June 2, 2014 at 3:21 pm

Just fix the fridge. They are not that complicated and are scrapped way too quick.
You can fix it and resell it for a quick $100.
–if the ice maker doesnt work…remove it….if it works but looks bad..paint it. If the seal is broken….buy a new one, and resell it.

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jay evans June 11, 2014 at 4:17 am

How much can I get for a used hotpoint refrigerator about 64′ inch high. Also scrap

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Ken Lau July 9, 2014 at 8:46 pm

I did collect a few old refrigerators. I took all parts out. I also used pinch tool to cut and seal the compressors copper tubing. So no freon is leaking out.
Now, these refrigerators are only empty box.
My question: Can I still sell these refrigerators to scarp yard? And how much will they pay?

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