How To Scrap A Refrigerator

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I received a question not too long ago, and I thought I would share my answer. Please send in your questions to 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!

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