Skip to Content

Do Water Heaters Have Copper? (Quick Answers)

You might have noticed metal components and fittings in your water heater.

If you intend to scrap the valuable metal out of it, you may wish to know whether waters heaters have copper in them. Because after all, what more valuable metal than copper!

Do water heaters have copper?

Water heaters, both the gas and electric water heaters have copper in the making of the different components. Typically, the amount of copper present in the water heater depends on the type and design of the water heater. Components like pipes, tubes, and heating elements are made of copper.

There is a fine line between the basic operation of a gas water heater and an electric water heater.

While a gas water heater obtains its heating source from natural gas, an electric water heater is aided by electric coils to heat the water.

Due to this operational difference, the interior components and hence the use of copper in each of these heaters vary slightly.

Gas water heaters:

In the subject of gas water heaters, you may find external pipes that are made of copper, particularly ones that are above the cap. However, these pipes may also be made of brass or steel.

One or more drain valves in the gas water heater that you may find at either the top of the heater or at the side of it, are also made of copper. Copper valves in gas water heaters are considered to be quite valuable in scrapping.

At the bottom of the gas water heater, there will be a gas regulator which is mostly made of valuable metal and copper is always a good choice. Even the wires connected to the regulator are made of copper.

Since the copper content in a heater depends on the make and model of the heater, it is also possible that other fittings like knobs or pipes are also made of copper.

Electric water heaters:

In the case of an electric water heater, you will find fittings, knobs, and pipes that are made of copper.

Drain valves are also made with copper. In an electric water heater, the primary difference is in the composition of the heating element.

The heating element in an electric water heater is primarily made of copper, with nichrome wires surrounding it.

The mineral deposit sticks also comprise high copper content, including the tubes and caps inside the heater.

Is copper required for water heater?

Based on an area or national code, certain plumbing rules may require the use of copper in water heaters.  The requirement to use copper for water heaters arises due to safety and health risk.

Other metals like lead react with water and corrode. The reaction releases harmful elements into the water that that be transferred to the human body to cause gradual but permanent damage.

Lead is said to harm both the kidneys and the brain in the long run. It may also cause certain types of cancer.

Unlike lead, copper is both anti corrosive and anti-rust, because it does not react with any form of water. This also means that there is no health risk possessed by copper.

When the pH of the water is neutral, copper forms a thin layer that protects the metal from being corroded. Not only that, the ability to conduct heat keeps the water warm as it travels through.

What type of metal are water heaters made of?

Copper is not the only metal that is used to make water heaters. Depending on the type and the design of the water heater, the use of metal may vary from one component to another.

The price and brand of the heater also determine what metals would be used and in what percentages. Here are some metals used in water heaters.

Stainless Steel:

One of the most common metals that are used inside water heaters is stainless steel. Generally, steel is used within the water heater walls, mostly as one of the 3 layers.

Although the thickness of the steel can be changed according to the water pressure and design of the heater, steel can withstand enough pressure. Steel in water heaters makes it pricey, but incredibly durable as well.


Copper is the second most popular as well as valuable metal used in water heaters. Similar to steel, copper also has a hefty price tag when used in water heaters.

Apart from durability, its ability to conduct heat quickly is what makes it a popular choice as well.  However, when the level of impurity is too high, copper components in the water heater are not a good option.


Brass is often used in water heaters and is a much cheaper alternative than copper or steel. From pipes to knobs, some water heater designs use more brass than any other metal.

Why is copper used in water heaters?

There are several reasons why copper is used in water heaters. Here are a few good ones:

Good conductor of heat:

Copper has been a top metal choice to be used in water heaters, thanks to its ability to conduct heat quickly.

This would mean, that when heat is transferred from the heating element to the water, it would not be delayed to due a metal that does not transfer heat smoothly.

Value for money:

Copper, among other metals gives the most value for money because of the quality that the metal delivers.

It is also priced at around 1 to 2.5 dollars per pound, which means that scrapping a heater made with copper components will have its worth.

Excellent Durability:

Copper is used in even the smaller fittings in a water heater, whether it is gas or electric.

This is because the metal has incredible durability and would last a lifetime. As a result, it would also increase the resilience of the water heater

Rust and corrosion resistance:

One of the properties of copper that makes it an excellent choice of metal to be used inside a water heater is its resistance to rust and corrosion.

Copper does not react with either cold or hot water, nor does it react with vapor. Hence the metal is corrosion-proof as well. 

Non-Toxic and antimicrobial:

Unlike metals like lead, copper does not transfer or leave behind harmful elements in the water.

The metal also does not react to form toxic byproducts. Moreover, copper is said to be antibacterial as it has antimicrobial properties and can destroy viruses or bacteria when it contacts.

How much copper is in a water heater?

There is no definitive amount of copper which you can find inside a water heater. This is because the amount of copper in water heaters largely varies based on the design, type, brand, and even cost.

Certain brands in certain countries include copper in water heaters due to their national code in plumbing. Mostly you would find copper in fittings like extension pipes, valves, regulators, knobs, and in some cases wires.

In electric water heaters, the heating element is also made of copper. Generally, it is possible to scrap about 7 to 20 dollars’ worth of copper of a heater.

How to know if the water heater has copper?

Whether it is for scrapping purposes or to know whether you have the right water heater, you may want to know if your water heater has fittings and components that are made of copper.

There are some ways and a few simple steps that you can follow to know if the water heater has copper.

Step 1:

The first, and perhaps the easier way to find if the water heater has copper is to use a magnet and perform a magnetism test.

Since copper is slightly magnetic, it would be noticeable if you have a strong magnet put to test.

Step 2:

If the magnet is not a good solution, you can always notice the color of the copper. Use a mixture of salt and vinegar and wipe the surface or component you suspect is copper.

If you notice the formation of greenish color, the metal is copper. This happens due to an oxidization reaction between the two.

Moreover, if you are confused if a metal is a copper or brass, just examine the fitting under white light. If it is copper, it should give off a more reddish tint, compared to yellowish brass.

Step 3:

Try to strike the copper fitting and see if it makes a metal sound. If the sound is loud or ringing, the metal is not copper.

Final Thoughts

The water heater comprises copper in the form of knobs, pipes, and valves. In case of an electric water heater, the heating element is also made of copper. Copper is used due to its conductivity, durability, and resistance to corrosion. The metal is non-toxic and safe to be used in water heaters.