Air conditioners have two major components – the indoor air handler and the outdoor condenser. Both of these must work together to remove heat and humidity from the air inside your home. Unfortunately, many outdoor condenser units contain metals that can bring thieves a pretty penny, which makes them targets. Here are a few different ways to secure your outdoor AC unit and prevent theft.
Why Do Thieves Want Condensers?
Air conditioner condensers serve a very important purpose. Heated refrigerant that has traveled through the air handler in your home enters the condenser as a vapor under high pressure. The condenser’s job is to allow the refrigerant the opportunity to pass its excess heat through air moving through its fins. This cooling allows the refrigerant to return to a liquid state, where it can then re-enter your home to collect more heat and humidity from the air.
Most outdoor air conditioner units contain a significant amount of copper, which has proven to be one of the best materials to allow for this transfer of heat. Though the price of copper fluctuates, it has gone up significantly in recent years. As of the time of writing, copper prices were just over $3 a pound. Condenser units contain 15 to 20 pounds of copper tubing, which means for every unit stolen, thieves can make $45 to $60. Considering that your condenser costs much more than this, it is worthwhile to protect it.
How to Protect Your Condenser
There are a few different steps you can take to protect your condenser, and each one makes it increasingly more difficult for thieves to gain access to your unit.
- Lock the electrical panel. Most of today’s modern condenser units have outdoor electrical panels that allow you to safely disconnect the unit from your home’s electrical supply. Because thieves must disconnect the unit to prevent electrocution, if you block access to the panel, they will likely just move on.
- Light up the area. Thieves don’t want to get caught, so they will typically target homes with condensers that are in dark parts of the yard. By adding some additional lighting around the area, you will discourage them.
- Lock your property. If you are lucky enough to have a high fence around your property, be sure that you lock the gates at night with a padlock to keep intruders out. Though they may be able to jump the fence, it will be incredibly difficult for them to hoist the unit over the fence when they can’t open the gate.
- Use a cage. The most common means of preventing condenser theft involves building a locked cage around it. Cages come prefabricated in many sizes, but there are a few things to keep in mind. The cage should be large enough to allow for adequate airflow, and it should be secured to the ground with concrete. Simply sitting the cage over your unit doesn’t work; thieves can easily pick it up and move it to the side.
As copper prices continue to climb, there is little doubt that thieves will continue targeting outdoor air conditioner units to make some quick cash. The tips above will help you secure your unit and deter the thieves, potentially saving you hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars.