Although a good quality home theater system will last for years, there’ll still come a time when it needs replacing. It’s understandable that you might ask what to do with old or broken home theater systems, so I’ve put this article together to give you more information.
So, what do you do with old or broken home theater systems? The best thing to do with old or broken home theater systems is to either donate or recycle them. That said, if you’re simply upgrading to a better system, you could always keep your old setup as spares for another room.
This article looks at the different options you have for disposing of your old home theater equipment, along with ways you can repurpose it in your own home.
Disposing of old or broken home theater systems
My emphasis on these options will be on the most environmentally friendly, as incorrectly recycled electronic goods is a massive problem. There are plenty of safe (and free) recycling options or plenty of places that’ll take old home theater equipment off your hands.
Whatever option you choose, please dispose of your home theater equipment properly. The UN claims that less than 25% of electronic waste is recycled in the USA, although recycling saves a significant amount of time and money for manufacturers.
Here are my top picks for the best ways to dispose of your old or broken home theater equipment.
1. Donate it to a local community organization
You’d be surprised how easy it is to donate your old electronic goods to a local welfare organization. It’s best to make contact through a church or school organization, as they’ll likely already have lists of people in need of goods.
While there’s nothing stopping you from donating any old home theater equipment, it’s worth thinking about what you plan to donate. For example, a local needy family might not benefit from an AV receiver on its own but might appreciate a set of speakers with it.
TVs and speakers are probably your best bet here, along with old DVD players (or even VHS if you have some). Whatever you choose to donate, speak to the organization first to make sure they’re happy to take it. And obviously don’t donate any broken stuff!
2. Give it to Goodwill or the Salvation Army
Much like the first option, another good place to donate is to national charities like Goodwill, as the equipment can then be sold in their thrift stores. Also, Goodwill run online auctions that are ideal for this kind of thing.
Simply take the equipment to your local thrift store, although it’s also worth checking if the charity does collections in your area. It’s probably sensible to discuss your donations with one of the volunteers so they know exactly what they’re getting and can price it appropriately.
Similarly, some thrift stores might not take electronic equipment, or might direct you to a store that specializes in it. Either way, it’s worth doing a bit of research before you donate.
It’s also definitely worth noting that if you donate enough to a charity then you can apply for tax deductions through the IRS. While there isn’t a set amount that qualifies for this, you might hit the mark if you donate enough electronic goods.
3. Recycle broken equipment
For the most part, your options are more limited for broken home theater equipment, as it’s unlikely a charity will have the means to repair it. Instead, find the best place in your area to recycle the equipment.
Your best option will entirely depend on where you live. For example, Best Buy run a recycling service that covers all e-waste, including kitchen appliances. Their system not only has collection, but a function that allows you to check the value of your item before arranging collection.
They also take working equipment, but it makes the most sense to donate or reuse something that still works. I’d only recommend recycling if the equipment is broken and there’s no reason why it should be fixed.
Similarly, major electronics producers run their own national recycling programs. This includes names like Samsung, Panasonic, and Toshiba, whose programs can be found with an easy bit of Googling. Some sites even cross over with the Best Buy program.
4. Check out Greener Gadgets
Greener Gadgets is a national environmental awareness campaign run by the Consumer Technology Association. At its most basic level the website as a recycling center locator that gives different results depending on what you want to recycle.
The website also offers a comprehensive function that allows you to check your household’s energy consumption based on gadget use. While this isn’t really related to disposing of old equipment, I find it’s helpful to know for when you plan your next purchases.
Greener Gadgets doesn’t run its own recycling scheme but instead acts as an information source for your recycling needs. It’s a good place to start and should hopefully give you some useful facts for building a greener home theater in the future.
5. Use it as a backup system
One of the most obvious ways to reuse an old home theater system is to simply put it in another room. This, of course, works best if you’re simply upgrading for a better system, as there’s not much point in keeping broken equipment.
The practicality of this option also depends on what part of the system you’re actually replacing. Speakers are the best choice for reuse around the home, as you can put them to use in your office, bedroom, or even outside.
Another thing you can do with your old speakers, and it’s one of my favorite home theater projects, is to create zones in your home. To create multiple zones in your home, you simply need a receiver with more than one zone input.
Plugging several sets of speakers into your receiver allows you to output audio in different rooms of the house. The first time I did this, I hooked the speakers up in my kitchen so I could still listen to records while I cooked.
Providing your old system isn’t broken, but you’re replacing it anyway, this is probably the best option for reusing the equipment. Obviously don’t put yourself out of pocket by buying a second receiver; if this is the case then you might as well donate it.
6. Take it to a local electronics store
Rather than giving your old home theater system to a charity, consider taking it to a local electronics store if you have one. They can then decide whether it’s worth them selling on, or whether they’ll donate it on your behalf.
Part of the reason why this is a good option is that you could donate both broken and working home theater equipment. It’s highly likely that someone running an electronics store has the means to either repair it themselves or use it for parts.
Have a quick look online to see if you have any stores in your area that are worth using. I’d recommend contacting them before you take your stuff over, as they might not want it but might be able to suggest the best place for you to take it.
This is probably one of my preferred options and is what I often do with my equipment. The person who runs my local electronics store is something of a tech whizz who likes to keep himself busy breaking things down for parts.
7. Sell it on eBay
Never underestimate what people will buy on eBay. If you’ve ever used the site, you’ll understand some of the stuff people are willing to try and sell on there. In fact, it’s a great place to sell your old home theater equipment, working or otherwise.
I’d recommend using the bidding option, as opposed to buy now, as there’s a greater potential you’ll make more money. It’s worth doing some research first to see what similar equipment is selling for, as you don’t want to set your expectations too high.
Like everything else, getting the most from eBay takes a bit of practice. If you’ve never used the site before, check out this article on some top tips for new sellers. They should be enough to give you a head start in the cut-throat world of online auctions.
8. Build yourself an internet radio
This project isn’t for the faint-hearted but is actually fairly easy if you’ve got the right equipment to hand. Building an internet radio might not be the most useful thing, but think how impressive it’ll sound when you tell people you built it yourself.
This is a good way to reuse old (but working) home theater speakers. You’ll also need a Raspberry Pi processing chip, but they’re not too expensive. Here is a really comprehensive guide on how to build one of these, complete with video.
Alternatively, you could use a similar method to build smart speakers. This process is a bit more complex but uses very similar equipment. That said, both are good projects for those with a bit of electronics knowledge.
If you decide to repurpose your speakers into something else or fancy a different DIY project, then it’ll help to know how to take speakers apart. This article is a good starting place for some general steps.
That said, you might benefit from checking if there are any specific tips for your brand of speakers. At the most basic level, all speakers work the same, but wireless or high-end speakers might contain other parts that are worth keeping.
9. Continue using the speakers
One of the most frustrating systems to own when it comes to a breakdown is a home theater in a box. These systems are popular with those just starting out in the home theater world, but with more experience, you’ll be able to build a much better system on your own.
The biggest issue with home theaters in a box is that they use proprietary connections, which means they can only be used with this particular system. Therefore if something breaks (DVD player or receiver, for example), you’re limited on what you can do.
However, this isn’t the case if you’re willing to get stuck in. To reuse the speakers, you simply need to rewire them so you can attach different connections. Just cut off the old connectors and use the bare wire to hook them up to a new system.
The main thing to be aware of here is that most home theater in a box speakers only work at 4 Ohms, while most receivers are 6 or 8. Connect your speakers and do a sound test at below 50% volume. If they sound like they’re rattling, disconnect and just buy new speakers.
This option only really works if your speakers are still functioning. If the speakers give up, then I’d recommend getting rid of the whole system and starting again. The receivers aren’t really powerful enough to be used in another system.
10. Sell the equipment yourself
One option I haven’t really discussed is to sell the equipment yourself. Obviously you can try eBay, but there are also websites like Craigslist and Gumtree, which are ideal for selling used electronics locally.
Alternatively, donate the equipment to a friend. Perhaps someone has shown interest in your home theater setup when you’ve wowed them with your immersive sound and Ultra HD picture quality. They might be interested in taking your old equipment away.
Plenty of people would appreciate a donation of something like speakers or a receiver, as it’ll knock a big chunk of the initial setup of a home theater. There’s nothing stopping you from selling them either, as second-hand will always be cheaper than brand new.
Some final thoughts
As you can see, there are plenty of options for disposing of your old or broken home theater equipment. Whatever option you choose, please dispose of equipment sensibly because there’s plenty that can be recycled in a set of speakers.
Jason is a home theater expert with over 10 years of experience in setting up home cinema rooms and systems. What started out as a hobby soon transformed him into an authority in the audio-visual field. He is passionate about providing readers with accurate and up-to-date information on the latest audiovisual technologies and their applications for home theaters. Read more about Jason.