Scrap metal theft isn’t going away anytime soon, and scrap thieves still have a favorite target: your air conditioner. The copper and aluminum coils, fins and other parts in your outdoor AC condenser are only worth a small fraction of the cost of the entire unit, but some thieves will still steal and destroy vulnerable condensers for a pile of scrap metal worth as little as $20.
Even if your air conditioner condenser is insured against theft, it may still be worthwhile to take proactive measures to discourage or prevent this from happening to you. Some of the upgrades that could safeguard against theft may be less expensive than the deductible on your homeowner’s coverage, and preventing theft in the first place will ensure that you’re not sitting around in a steamy home while you wait for a replacement to be installed.
If reports of air conditioner theft are common in your area, it’s especially important that you bolster your defenses now.
Lock It Up
Perhaps the single most effective theft prevention device is a sturdy cage surrounding your entire condenser. These can cost a few hundred dollars and usually require professional installation, but a quality enclosure makes it difficult and time consuming to steal a condenser -- and therefore makes it unworthy of thieves’ time.
There is one very important factor to keep in mind when buying or designing an AC condenser cage: air circulation. The standardized cage models are designed to allow maximum airflow, but you must take care to design custom or DIY cages thoughtfully. If your condenser can’t efficiently expel hot air, it will drag down your energy efficiency and could lead to premature equipment breakdown.
Light Up the Night
Experienced air conditioner thieves can make off with a condenser in mere minutes, but even a brief heist is high risk under the glare of security lights. Install a couple of motion detector lights on the exterior of your home and train them on your air conditioner to make sure no one can steal your unit under the cover of darkness.
If you have a home security system, look into products that can help your air conditioner communicate with it directly. There are a few simple products that constantly monitor the flow of electricity and/or coolant through your air conditioner and send a signal to your security system if there’s a sudden interruption. Whether your system sounds an alarm, notifies the police or both, this can help keep your air conditioner safe even when you’re not home.
Out In the Open
Take a good look at your air conditioner’s location and make sure there’s nothing surrounding it that would provide adequate cover for a condenser heist. Things like bushes or lawn furniture can be relocated to another area so that there are always multiple lines of sight between your air conditioner and your neighbors.
Make Your Mark
While copper theft from an AC condenser can result in serious damage to the unit, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s a total loss. So to give yourself some chance of being able to recover your condenser after a theft, etch your last name and the unit’s serial number into the metal in an inconspicuous spot. If you report these unique markings to the police, you might see your air conditioner again someday.
Your air conditioner makes summer life livable, so take steps now to keep it where it belongs! And if you need any assistance with moving or installing a new unit, the pros at your local One Hour Heating & Air Conditioning are always ready to serve you.