Copper Theft – Why Copper?
With increasing regularity home and business owners are finding their air conditioners ravaged by thieves. Not that they are taking the entire unit to use for their own comfort, rather they are only removing the copper tubing and selling it for scrap. When the economy falters and unemployment rates increase there is usually an increase in theft. With the higher demand of scrap copper, air conditioners have become a prime target.
Consider that copper weighs about 550 pounds per cubic foot and the typical thief hears that scrap copper is fetching between $2.50 and $3.00 per pound at most scrapyards, it’s easy to see how they can become excited at the prospect of ripping apart an air conditioning unit and taking their haul to the local scrap dealer. However, they are often disappointed when they see the final tally of their effort being just four of five pounds of copper netting them somewhere around $12.
The price of scrap copper is also affected by the quality of the material. The easiest way to determine the quality of the copper is if it has soldered joints, it will be classified as #2 copper. Tubing without solder is considered #1 copper and carries a scrap price about 10 cents per pound higher.
When thieves open the case of an air conditioning unit, they may also take off with the aluminum fins that can increase their ill-gotten gains by as much as 45 to 60 cents per pound. This could increase their overall gain for a few minutes of work to $15 to $16. This may not sound like a lot of money considering the chances they are taking, but authorities point out that the theft of metal from an air conditioning unit is mainly done to support other habits.
Those who believe their air conditioning unit is in jeopardy of being attacked by thieves may want to contact their heating and air contractor to find ways to protect their units from being destroyed by thieves. Consider that when a whole-house unit is destroyed and the copper stolen, it can cost up to $3,000 for repairs and depending on the homeowner’s insurance policy, may or may not be covered.
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Secure cages have been designed to help protect units from being attacked so easily. With most systems designed for ease of installation and maintenance someone can remove the case and cut out the copper tubing and be gone in less than 10 minutes. Since these units are located outdoors it is not likely they will be heard or seen in the middle of the night. Secure AC cages may make thieves realize that the return on their venture may not be worth the extra effort needed to get into the unit.
Large air conditioning systems are not the only targets of unscrupulous thieves. Even the smaller window units and portable air conditioners use copper tubing and they have also been removed from unsecured windows for thieves looking for the few extra dollars they can get by selling the scrap copper.
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