Air Conditioning Theft Prevention

Copper prices are making a comeback and that raises the risk for thefts of air conditioners. After staying closer to $2.50/pound throughout 2016, prices rose above $3/pound again this year according to data published by International Wire Group. At more than $3/pound, copper has historically become a big target of thieves. While many thieves try to avoid detection by stealing pipes and wiring from old buildings, the last time copper prices stayed above $3/pound brazen thieves hauled air conditioning units away from homes, churches and businesses. We’ve seen it in Rock Hill and Huntersville, NC in the past.

Copper Prices and Theft Graph showing higher copper prices result in increased theft of metals

Legal Efforts to Prevent Copper Theft Not the Complete Solution

In 2011, South Carolina passed a law targeting copper theft from air conditioners and irrigation systems. The law requires any transporting or selling copper (or certain other metals) to obtain a free permit. This allows police to more easily identify copper that may have been stolen. Moving copper or selling it without a permit is either a misdemeanor or felony, depending on whether prosecutors can prove the person knew the copper was stolen.

However, in the years after the law was passed, utility companies and others have reported mixed success in preventing copper theft in South Carolina.

Steps You Can Take to Prevent Air Conditioner Theft

Losing an air conditioner to theft can be expensive and uncomfortable. Insurance deductibles can cost $1,000 or more and if the theft happens during peak cooling season in the summer, you could be sweating for weeks while the claim is processed. Not to mention that news outlets have reported insurance companies cancelling policies over repeated A/C unit thefts. There are some simple steps you might want to consider to help prevent your air conditioner from being stolen and a few more advanced options.

  • Take the same steps you would use to prevent a burglary. Make your home look like someone is home as much as possible. Thieves will pick an easier target if they think they might get caught in the act by a homeowner.
  • Use motion sensor lighting to draw attention. Solar options that can be attached to the side of your home without wiring are available.
  • Add a motion sensing video camera that keeps your A/C unit in its view. Battery or solar versions are not pretty affordable ($200) compared to the cost of replacing the unit.
  • Keep bushes trimmed that you may be using as a screen around air conditioning units. Overgrown shrubs can block the thief from view along with the AC unit.

More advanced options for protecting your AC unit from copper thieves include installing special alarm systems that sound if a unit is tampered with. Some of these alarm systems can be set to dial the homeowners cell phone or can even be hooked into an existing home alarm system so the police are notified. Panther Heating and Cooling can install this type of alarm if you are concerned about air conditioning theft.

Another option may be a specially designed crossbar or cage that makes it much more difficult for a thief to remove your unit.

Police in some areas also recommend using spray paint, engraving or other ways to distinctively mark the copper tubing in your unit so that thieves will have a much more difficult time selling it.