Air Conditioner Theft
It may not be as rampant as identity theft, or as sensational as an elaborate art or jewel heist, but air conditioner theft is a real and all too common phenomenon that occurs every day. It fails to make even minor headlines, although it succeeds in causing major headaches for property owners. Criminals don’t discriminate between small window units or the behemoth condenser in your backyard. Crooks aren’t looking for an inexpensive way to chill out during a heatwave; by and large, they want only the copper components within the unit.
With current copper prices just north of $2 per pound, the payoff for copper scrapped on the black market can be anywhere from ten to a hundred bucks. While that payout isn’t exactly the stuff of legend, it is sufficient for an addict to get his “fix.” It’s true, the prime motive behind scrap metal theft is attributed to our nation’s drug epidemic. Though states have adopted differing measures to stifle black market sales to scrap yards, such as photographing the metals, issuing checks rather than cash, etc., there are scores of unscrupulous business owners and “fences” who operate outside the law.
Now that you’re aware of this scourge you can prevent falling prey to it; forewarned is forearmed. There are a host of simple and relatively inexpensive methods to ensure you’re not victimized. After all, you likely take the time to lock up your bike that’s worth a few hundred dollars, wouldn’t it be prudent to safeguard your A.C. that’s worth a few thousand? Here are some time-proven techniques to ward off any wrongdoing.
Unit Cages - These are the most secure means to stop theft, but they are usually the most costly. Just like a fence, they are a protective barrier that allows air to circulate freely. They can be a DIY installation or an HVAC tech can do the job. Be sure you don’t let leaves and debris buildup that could hinder air circulation.
Cameras - Nowadays, cameras are everywhere and home security monitors are commonplace. They are a cost-effective means to help protect your property and possessions. If a thief spots a camera there is a high likelihood they’ll simply move on in search of a less secure area. Should a theft occur regardless, recorded footage can help authorities find the perpetrator and your property. There are even fake cameras that come cheap; they don’t record anything but their presence alone is often enough to make a criminal keep walking.
Lighting - Thieves prefer to operate under the cover of darkness. A well-lit area is sufficient cause for them to continue their search elsewhere. Motion sensor lighting is an efficient method to help shine the light on dark deeds.
Lock the Disconnect Box - This box is where a unit is hooked-up to electrical power. Most thieves (at least, the one’s with “experience”) want to cut the juice in order to “operate” safely. A harsh reality is that some would-be crooks meet their ultimate demise when they unwittingly handle live copper. A padlocked Disconnect Box is a cheap and subtle deterrent.
Unit-specific Alarms - These alarms are attached to the unit itself. They monitor things like system power, refrigerant pressure, and other metrics. The instant that feedback is interrupted, or an anomaly is observed, the homeowner is notified and an alarm connected to the apparatus sounds off.
GPS Tracking Device - Realtors and contractors are increasingly utilizing GPS to monitor and locate materials, appliances, and equipment. Not only do these track materials, but they are usually accompanied by a written warning that notes the equipment is employing GPS. Again, this is sometimes enough to thwart theft.
Dogs - If you don’t already have a dog, maybe go ahead with your plans to adopt one. They don’t have to be the second-coming of “Cujo”, small ones that constantly howl are enough to annoy and dissuade crooks.
Thorny Bushes - You might annoy your HVAC technician, but planting roses, firethorns, or any prickly type of bush around the perimeter of your unit will give any rogue pause.
Window Units - Oftentimes window air conditioners are simply jimmied out of place and carried off by scoundrels. They are also inviting to home burglars as a means to enter a house if the window A.C. can be moved. There are a number of ways to reinforce or buttress the air conditioner so that it cannot be displaced without significant time and effort by a robber.
Even if a criminal can’t complete an attempted robbery they can still incur hundreds of dollars in damages to an HVAC system. Regardless if the unit is covered by home insurance, an owner may still have to cough up a steep deductible for repairs. In our day-to-day lives there are plenty of other things to fret over besides air conditioner theft, but this is certainly one circumstance where an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.