Thinking of water heater disposal is, more often than not, the last thing on a homeowner’s mind while installing a new one. But, you do need to figure out how to get rid of the old water heater. You might be pleasantly surprised but there are a number of options available to repurpose old water heaters. 

If your old water heater has worked beyond its life expectancy of 8 – 12 years, or if it’s showing some signs that it’s on its way out (gritty or discolored water, smelly water, insufficient hot water, faulty valves, or a leaky hot water tank), it’s time to replace it at the earliest.   

Planning for water heater replacement? Get the best estimate with our tool!

If you’ve hired a licensed plumber for the hot water heater installation, there’s a good chance that they will help you get rid of your old water heater. Many companies even include water heater disposal in their service.

The average cost of removing an old water heater runs about $35 to $160, and can go as high as $700 (or more if it’s a large underground tank). Its disposal ranges between $10 – $30 — depending on your location and size of the heater (30 gallon, 40 gallon, 50 gallon).  

While there are steps to properly dispose of a water heater, it’s a great idea to repurpose an old water heater, and give it a second life by transforming it into something new, something spectacular! 

When it comes to repurposing your heater, it pays to get creative – quite literally. Don’t skip straight to the thought of throwing it to the curb for some local wildlife to make a new home of. Instead, try out these unique ways to repurpose your old heater. 

Read more: Hot water heater financing for good & bad credit

1. Turn it into a solar water heater

Yes, you read right! With some clever engineering, you can easily convert your electric water heater with a good tank into a solar water heater. Simply remove the sheet metal case along with the insulation and then remove the electric controls. The next step is to paint the tank flat black for it to better absorb heat. 

Then, construct a box with a transparent top or front. Insulate it and cover the inside with a reflective material. Finally, mount the water tank as well as the box horizontally. 

Such a heating system can help you preheat water for your regular hot water usage.  This will help you save money and reduce your energy consumption. Moreover, if you have a solar system that makes excess energy, you can also replace the water heater’s heating elements to use the extra solar energy. 

2. Use your old water heater as a tempering tank

Simply connect your cold water line to your old tank’s inlet and connect the old tank’s outlet to the inlet of your new water heater. This way, you can plumb your old water heater tank in line with your new water heater. 

What will happen is that, as the cold water comes, it will collect in the old tank — to gradually warm up to room temperature. This too will reduce your energy consumption, and hence money in the long run. In addition, this type of heating system provides an extra reservoir of water while providing you fresh water that keeps circulating.

3. Convert your heater into a wooden stove

If you’re an enthusiastic DIYer who’s handy with a torch and a welder, you can use your old heater as a wood stove. Begin designing the structure by supporting the tank horizontally on a set of legs. 

Construct a feed box for wood on the upper half and attach a hinged cover at the top. On the other side, cut a vent hole and weld pipe vertically for a flue. Then, cut a hole through the top of the tank and insert a steel pipe horizontally. Don’t forget to drill a series of holes along its length for the air intake. You can use a cover at the end of the pipe with an adjustable lid in order to control air for the combustion. 

Important tip: Do make sure that your stove complies with the local building codes in your area.

4. Turn your heater into a cool grill

Keep your old heater tank horizontally and cut it in half. Stand it on a set of legs, add a handle and hinges for joining the top and bottom halves. Use an angle iron to support grills for cooking. Add a flue at the top and a fire box at the bottom. Use charcoal and your slow-cooking grill or smoker is ready.

5. Cut your old heater down into an outdoor fire pit

Using your old water heater for a fire pit is a great way to repurpose it. Simply cut the heater down to the height you want for a fire pit and drill some holes at the bottom for airflow. For a more fancy fireplace, you can cut angles and shapes and give your hearth some legs or a stand. 

6. Convert your water heater into a garden heater

If you love a do-it-yourself project, you can create some amazing things! A garden heater is one of them. You can repurpose your old heater by keeping it upright in your garden and then cutting a square hole with a cover for your fuel source. Attach a flue at the top of the structure to let out the smoke and waste gases.  

7. Shape your heater into flower pots

For a true blue gardener, nothing brings more joy than designing unique planters. Surprisingly, you can create flower pots out of your repurposed old water heater!

Simply cut it in half vertically and you’ll get two long, half cylinders. Plant some flowers and vegetables in a way similar to traditional clay pots. 

8. Donate your old water heater to a charity

If you feel slightly more virtuous and less experimental, you can donate your old heating system to charities. The only stipulation is that your heating unit will still need to be in good working order for you to be able to do this. Alternatively, arranging for a pickup of the old system could keep you from worrying about finding ways to transport it yourself if you don’t have a car.

9. Scrap your water heater properly

If none of these options appeal to you, and you simply want to be rid of your old system, 

you can make some money to help offset the cost of your new water heater. Recycle it yourself and sell the non-ferrous metals. You can expect your old water heater to bring in about $7 to $30 depending on the prices at scrapyards in your area.

Interestingly, due to a regulator, gas models have more value. 

Do you want to know the cost to replace a water heater? Try our estimator tool.

Last words

How many of us have imagined ourselves as creative geniuses? Well, repurposing your old water heater could be a chance to let your creativity shine. These ideas will help you convert your old heating appliance into something really unique.

Unique Ways to Repurpose an Old Water Heater was last modified: October 14th, 2022 by Sally Keys
Your opinion matters, leave a comment
1 Comment
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

I saw a lot of designs of grills that are great. But don’t get me wrong, I am talking about thermostats integrated or humidity meters. When someone makes a grill in form of a star wars imperial walker from an old water heater or gas cylinder you have ruined the project.