Transformers effectively, are copper wires around a steel or ferrite core. The value of the transformer comes from the value of the copper.Many yards will buy them at a special “Copper breakage” price, but that will not always get you the most bang for your buck: Let it be known that transformers out of microwaves have value to repairmen and DIY microwave owners. Some scrappers will save and sell this scrap metal online at auction for over 6x the scrap price. I usually find it to be a bit more hassle than I’m willing to handle.
Where to Find Scrap Transformers
In Microwaves: A microwave’s weight is comprised for the most part of copper breakage! There is a good sized transformer and amagnetron.
In power supply boxes: Power supply boxes are a thing of beauty. They change the voltage, amperage, and often invert the electrical power being supplied to a device. Power supplies are commonly seen at the end of power cords, aka wall wart chargers pictured below at right. The computer power supply is pictured at left. It is much bigger, but has more than just a transformer in it. If your yard is a little more relaxed when it comes to copper breakage, they will take these. If not, then they will not.
Power Line Repair and Manufacturing: This may seem like a completely moot point, but remember that power lines have transformers EVERYWHERE. These transmission lines step up and step down electrical power many times before getting them to out home. The key here is to find an untapped resource in the power line manufacturing business. (I admit, that will be a tough thing to do.) Just one is very valuable, so make sure you go after these if possible. I got a transformer from a man who worked at a power company, and it had $200 of metal after I broke it apart. Below is the transformer.
Small transformers can be found on low grade Printed Circuit Boards (PCBs) like those out of VHS players or CRT computer monitors or Scrap Televisions. These have a large amount of small transformers. In all honesty, they are usually not worth pulling out, so don’t go out of your way to scrap them.
How To Break Down Scrap Transformers
Once you have determined weather or not the transformers are worth the time it takes to break them apart (optimization) you need to find the most time effective way to do so!
METHOD ONE: When pulling apart a transformer, people often make the mistake of trying to attack the STEEL. They will bash and bang and smash the steel; Sledge and slam but only end up bending the steel, then maybe breaking it.
This is a problem. The key to breaking apart a transformer is to attack the COPPER. Copper is very malleable and easy to cut. You can shear or saw through the copper at one end of the transformer coils, then pull or pry the rest of the copper out the other side of the coils. This method works best for larger transformers, similar to microwave transformers.
METHOD TWO: Method 1 doesn’t always work for whatever reason, especially if the transformers are very small. That is when you should apply the next method.
The next method for scrapping transformers is to harvest the copper by attacking them with HEAT!
- Build a nice hot fire
- Fill a metal bucket with transformers
- Set the bucket above or in the fire
- Heat the transformers until they are nice and hot, about 20-30 mins, maybe less.
- Fill a bucket with ice cold water.
- Carefully pull out the metal bucket with transformers out of the fire
- Very quickly, pour the ice water into the metal bucket, cooling the transformers very quickly.
- Pull out the transformers, and they should be very weak. Many of them will just fall apart in your hands.
This method takes a little more time and effort, so be sure it is worth it! METHOD FOR TAR FILLED TRANSFORMERS/BALLASTS:
- The tar in these transformers adds quite a lot of weight
- Each transformer is different, so you will not know how much copper is inside of the transformer
- You can heat these on a burner or over a fire until the tar is melted
- Pour off the tar to get to the insides.
- It may be worth your while to just turn it in “as is” as mixed metal, as you will be getting paid for the tar as well!
- Don’t do this. It is not a good idea to mess around with tar. Just sell it “as is” for mixed metal