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Disposing of a Water Heater

According to Environment America, even though it’s “home to only 4% of the world’s population, America is responsible for 12% of the planet’s trash.” They go on to say that “our country’s system of consumption and disposal is polluting our environment, threatening the health of our wildlife and wreaking havoc on our planet.”

That’s a sobering assessment.

The answer isn’t rocket science, though. We need to “reduce material consumption first and foremost. Next, we need to ensure that we make every effort to reuse, refurbish and repair everything we create. Finally, we’ll need to prioritize recycling or composting all remaining materials.”

The United States Environment Protection Agency is totally on board with what Environment America has reported. They’ve made their National Recycling Goal 50% by 2030.

It’s encouraging to read their five strategic efforts to “create a more resilient and cost-effective national recycling system:

  1. Improve markets for recycling commodities.
  2. Increase collection and improve materials management infrastructure.
  3. Reduce contamination in the recycled materials stream.
  4. Enhance policies to support recycling.
  5. Standardize measurement and increase data collection.

Of course, you may not be able to wait until 2030 to get rid of your old water heater and may be looking for responsible ways to dispose of your heater now.

Before we walk you through the process of getting rid of your old water heater, let’s make sure it’s really come to that. After all, getting rid of one is not as simple as wheeling it out to the curb for the weekly garbage truck to cart away.

Can Your Old Water Heater Be Saved?

If having a broken hot water heater in summer is inconvenient, turning on your tap to discover all your water comes out of the tap cold as we’re heading into winter is a big problem. Even with the predicted temperatures expected to be average for the rest of the year, that’s still too cold for cold water showers.

The first sign that your hot water heater is no longer functioning as it should be is when you notice a puddle of water at its base. The older the heater gets, the more chances there are that something will crack and let the water out.

Leaks happen when excessive mineral sediment builds up. Once they calcify (and they will), stress will build up inside and cause cracking. This can happen to the heating elements, piping, controls, valves, or tank.

Somewhere in your heater, there’s damage. If the damage is with a faulty thermostat, the fix is relatively simple to do by replacing the thermostat. The same holds true with a faulty temperature-pressure relief valve. Replace and go back to the luxury of a hot shower.

Repairing a Water Heater

Other fixable hot water heater issues are:

  • Water discoloration can be caused by high mineral levels. Deposits of lime will first cause the water to discolor and, if not dealt with, can block the flow of water and cause the pipes to rust. A simple solution to this problem is to install a whole-house water filter or a water softener.
  • Smelly water could be due to high mineral levels or bacteria growing inside your tank. First, flush the water tank thoroughly to see if that takes care of the issue. If it doesn’t, the anode rod might have corroded and can be replaced.
  • Odd noises coming from your hot water heater can be due to an excessive buildup of minerals and sediment. Proper maintenance, like flushing out the tank once a year, should prevent this. Sometimes the sediment burns out the heating element, which, once replaced, should solve the problem.
  • Your water heater won’t work properly if the burner is dirty or damaged. First, try relighting the pilot light; if that doesn’t work, you may need to replace the thermocouple.

But if you see a leak that doesn’t appear to be a loose valve, the sad news might be that your water heater tank is cracked or damaged and will need to be replaced after you get rid of the broken one.

If you need to call a plumber to install a new hot water heater for you, there is a good chance you won’t need to worry about getting rid of the old one. Many plumbing companies offer water heater disposal as part of their service and take it with them once they’ve installed a new one.

Not Every Old Hot Water Heater is Broken

If you have an old hot water heater that’s not broken, but you need to get rid of it, that’s an easier job. You may have to upgrade your water heater because you have more people in your home, and your previous water heater simply can’t keep up with the demand.

If your water heater still works, you may be able to give it away. Contact your local Goodwill (or another donation center) to see if they accept used hot water heaters that work.

Fixing a Water Heater

You could also run an ad in one of the local newspapers:

  • The Beacon-News
  • Chicago Sun-Times
  • Chicago Tribune
  • Hoy
  • The Courier-News
  • Daily Herald
  • The Herald-News
  • Kane County Chronicle
  • Naperville Sun
  • News Sun
  • Northwest Herald
  • Post-Tribune
  • The Southtown Star

Or on:

Upcycling Old Water Heaters

We’ve talked in previous posts about our commitment to recycling and donating anything and everything we pick up from our client’s homes. If we pick up items that are unsuitable for donation, we will bring them to our warehouse, where we will still try to find a home for them when possible.

Unfortunately, donating your old water heater doesn’t really work. There doesn’t seem to be a big market for water heaters that no longer work.


We always keep our eyes open for new and creative ways people deal with unwanted items and have stumbled across the concept of upcycling. 

An Upcycled Water Heater

According to Wikipedia, Upcycling is the “process of transforming by-products, waste materials, useless or unwanted products into new materials or products perceived to be of greater quality, such as artistic value or environmental value.”

Even old hot water heaters? Yes, indeed.

We found unique and amazing ways people have taken these broken appliances and transformed them into something useful, fun, and beautiful.

You can imagine all sorts of ways a bit of artistic talent (and a few tools) can turn an old water heater into a new piece of art.

Links we used in our search for upcycling hot water heaters:


Donley Service


My Blessed Life

Breaking Down the Components of a Hot Water Heater

Back to getting to the business at hand: getting rid of your old water heater.

When you need to get rid of your old hot water heater, the more you can break down the component parts, the easier it is to dispose of and the better it is for the environment.

Modern hot water heaters are made of steel with some type of lining. The lining helps protect the steel from corroding as it’s in constant contact with water. The lining may be made from glass, enameled porcelain, enameled vitreous, or enameled blue silicon, with the most common lining being glass.

Breaking Down a Water Heater

The main parts of any gas and electric water heaters include:

  • Flue
  • Cold water valve
  • Electrical supply
  • Temperature-pressure relief valve
  • Draft diverter
  • Overflow pipe
  • Hot water outlet
  • Anticorrosion anode
  • Dip tube
  • Upper element
  • Upper thermostat
  • Insulation
  • Lower element
  • Lower thermostat
  • Drain valve
  • On/off switch, pilot
  • Temperature control
  • Burner
  • Thermocouple
  • Air shutter
  • Shutoff valve
  • Gas supply pipe

Once you strip all the parts of your old hot water heater off, you’re left with a steel shell that can be sold as scrap metal.

Will the City Help Your Get Rid of Your Old Hot Water Heater?

Chicago has a program to pick up your bulky items. If it’s non-working and non-useful, you can call 3-1-1 and request a Bulky Item Pick Up Service. “The City will pick up oversized items, including furniture, major appliances, and mattresses, for free.”

The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency posts the following guidelines on how to get rid of your appliances:

“Items that fall under the classification of appliances include refrigerators, freezers, ranges, water heaters, air conditioners, humidifiers, and other similar domestic and commercial large appliances. These items, also referred to as white goods, that have not had their components removed were banned from landfills on July 1, 1994. These components are mercury switches, chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) refrigerant gas (Freon), and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).

The only landfills permitted to receive appliances are those that:

1. Remove the white goods components prior to sending them to a landfill, and

2. Have an Illinois EPA-approved operating plan and permit for white goods disposal.

Rather than placing the appliance in a landfill after its components are removed, you can arrange to have the appliance hauled to a scrap yard where the metal can be reclaimed.”

The site doesn’t specify what they’ll do with an old water heater, but nowhere does it say that they’ll break it down into components and appropriately dispose of separate parts. Instead, it seems the entire appliance might end up in a landfill.

Getting Rid of a Water Heater

Alternatively, you can load up and bring your broken down water heater to a scrap metal yard.

Scrapman Chicago

3837 West 127th Street

Alsip, IL 60803


Scrapman Chicago accepts all ferrous and non-ferrous metals at this site and will have a drive-through service if you want to bring your water heater to them. They’ll weigh your scrap on an indoor scale and pay you immediately. Hot water heaters can be sold as-is for scrap.

Central Metal Recycling

5681 West Fillmore Street

Chicago, IL 60644


Central Metal Recycling prides itself on having friendly staff who will “guide you through the process while helping you segregate your items to ensure you receive the most money for your scrap materials.”

Gilberts Recycling Center/Iron Yard

46 East End Drive

Gilberts, IL 60136



Elgin Recycling Center

660 Schiller Street

Elgin, IL 60123



Elk Grove Township Recycling Center

145 South Weiler Road

Arlington Heights, IL 60005



Crystal Lake Recycling Center

5114 Terra Cotta Avenue

Crystal Lake, IL 60014


Elgin Recycling locations accept scrap metal that’s pre-sorted by type. So, if you’re handy enough to pull your hot water heater apart, you can get paid for any copper, brass, aluminum, lead, zinc, silver, and molybdenum inside.

We’re Here for You

If none of the suggestions you’ve read about above are right for you, we’re here for you.

We like to think JUNKRelief’s sweet spot is right in the middle of Environment America’s mandate: “reduce material consumption first and foremost. Next, we need to ensure that we make every effort to reuse, refurbish and repair everything we create. Finally, we’ll need to prioritize recycling or composting all remaining materials.”

We’re not here to just mindlessly pick up and haul away Chicago’s junk to the nearest landfill. Our entire process is built around making it as easy as possible for you to let us know what you need to get rid of and do just that. Only as a last resort will your junk end up in the landfill.

Junk Relief Junk Removal

We care too much about our environment, and we know you do too. Give us a call, and we’ll give you a hassle-free quote and schedule a pick-up for the same day or as soon as it’s convenient for you.

And if you drive by a house that features a stunning upcycled water heater a few months after we’ve picked your old one up, we may or may not have tried our hand at turning something that was potentially headed for the landfill and given it a new purpose and a new life.

If you ever have any questions about anything related to junk removal, please do not hesitate to reach out and contact us through your preferred contact method! We’d love to help you out however we can, whether that be through simply answering your questions or getting your unwanted junk out of the way. Additionally, if you’re seeking any further information about junk removal in Chicago, we urge you to check out our other articles. These articles will provide information like how to get rid of an old boat or old trampoline, answer questions about landfills and dumpsites, and much more! If this interests you at all, head on over to our blog page over here!


Joe Weidman

Joe is a Chicago native, born and raised in Elmhurst. He founded Junk Relief more than 10 years ago and has worked with more than 20,000 homeowners and businesses throughout Chicagoland. His passion for starting a business in junk removal stemmed from seeing the need to do things differently. He prides himself on his company's model to provide unexpectedly professional service.


If you’ve got junk in Chicago or the Chicagoland Suburbs, we can help. CALL US or TEXT US at (312) 800-1940.


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