How To Scrap Transformers

How To Scrap Transformers
If you haven’t read the post on optimization, please be sure to check it out. It helps you determine how much money you are making vs how much time you are wasting. Definitely useful when you are trying to find the best way to make money.Scrap transformers. Until not too long ago, these things would get thrown in along with shred steel. Now, because of the rising price of copper, transformers along with other types of copper breakage (motors, alternators, magnetrons etc) are slowly becoming more and more valuable.

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.

mobile-phone-chargerIn 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!

  1. Build a nice hot fire
  2. Fill a metal bucket with transformers
  3. Set the bucket above or in the fire
  4. Heat the transformers until they are nice and hot, about 20-30 mins, maybe less.
  5. Fill a bucket with ice cold water.
  6. Carefully pull out the metal bucket with transformers out of the fire
  7. Very quickly, pour the ice water into the metal bucket, cooling the transformers very quickly.
  8. 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:

  1. The tar in these transformers adds quite a lot of weight
  2. Each transformer is different, so you will not know how much copper is inside of the transformer
  3. You can heat these on a burner or over a fire until the tar is melted
  4. Pour off the tar to get to the insides.
  5. 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!
  6. Don’t do  this. It is not a good idea to mess around with tar. Just sell it “as is” for mixed metal

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How To Scrap Ferrite

What is Ferrite?

Ferrite can be described most generally as a compound containing iron; Rust is a ferrite. But ferrite can also contain other metals or non metals, like zinc and magnesium.

As a scrapper, you will often come into contact with ferrite and not even know it. For example, ferrite is used as a permanent magnet material or as the core of many different types of transformers. A ferrite core is used in transformers because like steel, ferrite can be tailored to have a very high magnetic permeability.

Magnetic Permeability

Magnetic permeability is the property of a metal that makes it attract to a magnet. Air, for example, has a magnetic permeability of 1, meaning it doesn’t attract to a magnet any more than a vacuum.  Lead has a magnetic permeability of 1 as well.

Iron, Nickel, and Cobalt however, all have large magnetic permeabilities. These are what make our magnets stick to Steel (iron alloy), Mu-Metal (nickel alloy), and Carbide (tungsten carbide in a cobalt mesh).

What is Ferrite Worth?

Ferrite is worth whatever you can sell it for! When you bring it to a yard, they may take it or they may reject it.

It is a fact that ferrite contains metals. But weather or not these metals can get recycled is going to be up to the discretion of whatever yard you are trying to sell it to. After all, if they can’t sell it they won’t want to buy it

Unfortunately ferrite may not be worth anything at all, and usually can’t be sold for anything more than shred/mixed metal.

HINT: If you just slip your ferrite in along with your shred steel, the yard will not know or care for the most part.

What is Ferrite Used For?

Ferrite can be used in anything from weights, to transformer cores. It can draw a magnet (usually), and can carry a magnetic field very well.

Good Luck Scrapping!

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How To Scrap A Television

Take, for example, old televisions; They are generally worth less than the scrap metal contained inside of them. So before you send them to your local landfill, pull out the scrap copper, scrap aluminum, and scrap circuit boards! Here is how to break them down for their scrap metal value. If you are unhappy with how much money you are making from scrapping TVs, I suggest you try scrapping Computer Monitors instead. They have less glass and more metal. Tools you will need

  • Screw driver / power drill with screw bits
  • Nut driver / hex (socket) head bit
  • Side cutters, or wire cutters of your choice.
  • A razor knife
  • A few 5 gallon buckets (for sorting metals at the end)
  • Gloves
  • Patience

Remove The Scrap Television’s Back Cover

In most models, this is just a molded piece of plastic on the back of the TV with a few fasteners holding it on. Every TV is different, so it requires a little trial and error. (If you’ve ever disassembled an old tube tv, you know exactly what I am talking about.) Often times the fasteners are 3/8” hex head screws, and there is at least one in every corner of the back cover. Once you remove these screws, the cover will usually just pop off. If this is not the case, and you have a larger style TV, my only universal suggestion is to keep removing screws until you can see the “guts” of the TV. In some TV models, the power cable may need to be cut off before the cover comes off. Either way, cut the copper power cable and set it off to the side.

 Discharge the TV’s capacitor

All devices containing  large capacitors – microwaves, TV, etc – can hold an electrical charge that is powerful enough to hurt you! (Some would even say kill you.) It’s danger is often exaggerated, but it could still give you a very nasty shock! If the TV you plan on scrapping was plugged-in any time during the previous week, then it could still hold a charge. Conversely, if it was unplugged for over a week, then you can pretty much expect the capacitors to have lost their charge. So no worries. This is a really great guide to discharging a CRT. If you electrocuted yourself while scrapping a TV, please leave a comment at the end of this post so we can learn from your mistakes!

 Cut Out Scrap Circuit Boards

There are at least two circuit boards in a scrap TV; one of them is attached to the narrow top of the tube (the “electron gun”) and the other is the large board that usually rests at the TV bottom. Both boards can get separated from the TV usually by hand, but sometimes it requires cutting zip-ties or undoing screws. The printed circuit board connected to the electron gun just above the copper yoke is usually held on with some soft calking that acts as an electrical insulator. Pull this board off carefully, without breaking the glass on the TV. Once you have isolated the scrap circuit boards from the rest of the TV, you will be able to pull off any attachments that you think are more valuable, for example: small scrap transformers, small inductors, small aluminum heat sinks, and small precious-metal-bearing IC chips.

 Disassemble the Scrap Copper Yoke

The copper yoke is a cone-shaped coil of wires at the end of the tube. It’s easy to pull all the copper out once you separate it from the tube. Most scrap copper yokes have 1 or 2 stainless steel screws/clips holding them onto the tube. If you simply undo these screws, you will we home free. Just give the scrap copper yoke a firm twist, and it should slide off the tube. (Sometimes it’s a bit sticky, but just keep twisting, and it should come off just fine). As a LAST RESORT you can use a hammer to break the yoke off of the glass. This is horribly messy, and dangerous. Once the glass is broken, it will be difficult to dispose of without cutting up your gloves or hands. Don’t break the yoke from the tube with a hammer. Once it is removed from the tube, however, that is a different story…

 Breaking Apart the Scrap Copper Yoke

After removing the yoke from the tube, you will want to separate all of the copper from its ferrite core. Ferrite is a type of magnetic ceramic, and will break very easily when hit with a hammer. Use this to your advantage! My method for separating the copper is simple: Set all of the copper yokes you have on their side in a wide based bucket. Then, with a sledge-hammer, firmly tamp down on them from above with the top of the sledge-hammer pointing down, just like you are leveling a foundation. (Actually, if you have a tamping tool, that would work just as well.) Pulverize the black ferrite that the copper is wound around; This will make separating the copper from the rest of the bucket’s contents much easier. After you have broken the yokes completely apart, it only takes a second to pull the copper from the mess that’s left. Your scrap yard may or may not want anything else that is in the bucket, but check before recycling it’s contents.

 Separating And Stripping The Scrap Degaussing Coil

The scrap degaussing coil is a thick gauge wire that runs around the front of the tube. The degaussing cable is normally covered with a thick, sticky, black electrical tape. It is generally copper, but can be made of aluminum. (If it is aluminum, then it will feel much lighter than equivalent copper wire) Near the degaussing cable will be some tinned copper wire (It is usually braided). This is worth copper #2 at most scrap yards, so cut it from the tube with your wire cutters along with the degaussing cable. The copper degaussing cable is, in most people’s eyes, worth stripping to the core. This can be done with some time and a razor cutter. Do not unwrap the electrical tape by hand; it is a waste of time.  After carefully (and patiently) cutting a slot down the extent of the degaussing cable (without cutting yourself), pull the copper out! It will most likely be sticky from the electrical tape. I have found, after extensive trial and error, that most of the small gauge wire is worth the same at my scrap yard whether it is stripped or not. If your scrap yard pays great insulated wire prices, then it may not be worth stripping.

 Disposing of the Leaded Glass TV Tube

Now that all of the salvageable items are out of the TV, you will want to get rid of the tube. This may be tricky in some states, which require businesses to dispose of their CRT tubes in an environmentally conscious manner. If you are not technically a business, then you have nothing to worry about! In general, it will be just fine for you to wrap them in a trash bag and set them to the curb with the rest of your trash. (After all, you were going to set it out there anyway.)

 Don’t Forget to be safe!

  • Leave the CRT unplugged for a while before scrapping. This will assure the capacitor has enough time to bleed its charge away.
  • Always were gloves! This is especially important when dealing with any broken glass.
  • Don’t break the glass! Be careful not to smash anything against the tubes.
  • Place finished tubes in a safe area, away from where you are working. If you were to fall on the tubes, you could seriously hurt yourself, or impale yourself.

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