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Air conditioner condenser thefts - how to protect your system

Destroyed Outdoor AC Unit

Skyrocketing prices for metal, especially copper, have turned a minor problem into an epidemic.  With the economy in shambles and unemployment rate continually rising air conditioning/air conditioner units are being stolen for their scrap value.  No one is immune since air conditioning units are being stolen from residential, commercial and industrial customers.  The thefts have been to both ground and roof mounted units. 

There are some preventatives measures you can put into place that are made specifically to deter theft. Air conditioning alarms and cages can cost you several hundred dollars, but the investment is worth the money you'll save in replacement costs.

Air conditioning cage

  1. Buy a steel or iron work air conditioning cage that cannot be cut with bolt cutters or sawed through with a miter saw.  If you opt for a different material, such as polymer, make sure it can withstand cutting.  All cages should contain a UV coating to prevent rusting, fading and cracking.
  2. Determine cage size.  Air conditioning cages are made for ground and window units and come in sizes to accommodate both large and small residential and commercial air conditioning units.
  3. Install the air conditioning cage.  Assembly requirements will vary, so contact the manufacturer for installation instructions.

Air conditioning alarm

  1. Do your research.  Air conditioning alarms feature pressure-sensor technology, which can vary by brand.  In some cases, consumers have reported false readings and false signals.  Find out the average percentage of false signals for each alarm system in which you are interested.  Choose a system designed to prevent false readings and has the data to support such a claim.
  2. Consider the location of the alarm system.  A system installed within a home or commercial building lowers the possibility of a thief bridging wires or bypassing the alarm system. Determine where and how wiring is concealed before choosing an alarm system company.
  3. Report all true signals to the police and complete an incident report.  Complain if a false signal occurs and get it on record.

There are some additional preventative measures that can be implemented and will depend on the location of your unit and you budget.

  • Lighting - Installing lighting on the air conditioning unit will deter theft.
  • Obstruction - Hiding the air conditioning unit behind hostile bushes.
  • Padlock & Chain - Will slow down theft of entire unit, but will probably not prevent stripping of the unit.
  • Fence - Fencing in the unit will delay and possibly prevent theft.
  • Moving A/C Unit - Relocating to a less accessible or visible area.