Air conditioner thefts have become the hottest crime of the summer. And we’re not talking about thieves absconding with your window unit. Across the southern part of the nation, huge central air conditioning units are being taken or dismantled for their copper coils, which fetch a pretty penny on the scrap metal market. There are a few things you can do to make your unit less of a target. After all, summer’s not over yet.
In Cobb Country, Georgia police stopped a maroon van only to find six air conditioning units inside, according to the Atlanta-Journal Constitution. The three occupants were arrested. At Illinois State University, 56 central air-conditioning units were stolen from a warehouse. And in humid Houston, a church that had served as a cool refuge lost nine industrial-size units when thieves gutted them for the copper. The damage amounted to $60,000 for what was likely about $400 worth of scrap metal, says The New York Times.
In Atlanta, the police department has a special task force dedicated to tracking down copper robbers and the city’s heating and cooling businesses are doing what they can to help their customers deter these crimes. Here are some recommendations from the Atlanta HVAC Guide and Coolray and Mr. Plumber.
Install an air conditioner cage. Air conditioner cages are anchored to the ground to stop thieves from stealing the cage and the unit inside. They should be welded and not bolted together and have a non-corrosive finish.
Install a fence. You can also box the unit in with a chain link fence that you can padlock. Make sure you leave enough space around the unit for it to be serviced.
Install an alarm. These alarms are attached to the working parts of the unit so if it is taken apart, the alarm will sound. They’re usually installed by a professional who will place the control box indoors and out of harm’s way.
Get a watch dog. A barking dog is a pretty good deterrent. If you aren’t a dog lover or can’t afford the costs, try a “Beware of the Dog” sign, suggests the HVAC Guide.
Add lighting. Floodlights and motion-sensitive lights placed near the AC unit will surprise the intruder as well as alert the homeowner.
Be a good neighbor. Ask your neighbors to keep an eye on your home and do the same for them. Being neighborly can help protect a lot more than your air conditioner.
If you become a victim of central AC theft, you might want to consider a window unit to get you through the hot weather. In Consumer Reports tests of air conditioners we found some good performers for as little as $150 and even some large units for less than $300. Of course, you’ll want to make sure it’s installed safely and securely.