Air conditioner theft is not uncommon, even in the heat of summer. However, criminals who steal AC units aren’t taking them to keep cool and comfortable. They don’t even want the whole unit. They are more likely to vandalize your system, taking any valuable scrap metal to liquidate for quick cash.

The copper and aluminum coils, fins, and other miscellaneous parts in your AC’s condenser unit are only a small portion of your system. Thieves looking to make a quick buck will often destroy the entire condenser to harvest the these valuable metals. They may only makes a few dollars off the parts, but it could cost you thousands of dollars to repair the damage.

Ways to Prevent AC Theft

It only takes minutes for an experienced thief to ravage a multi-thousand dollar air conditioner to gather a small amount of copper and aluminum. However, there are steps you can take to deter criminals and preserve your AC unit so you can keep cool all summer long.

Make it Visible

It is tempting to completely hide your outdoor AC unit with bushes, shrubs, fences, and other landscaping elements. However, most criminals don’t like to be seen when committing a crime. Keep in mind anything that obstructs the view from neighbors allows criminals to do damage without any witnesses. Make sure your landscaping doesn’t hinder security.

Because criminals like to work in secret, many air conditioning thefts occur after the sun goes down because darkness helps to obscure their crime. Consider adding some outdoor security lighting to deter theft.

If you don’t enjoy lights shining through your windows, try installing motion activated lighting. This type of security lighting only turns on when there is movement around the sensor.

Home Security

If your home has a security system, there are several products that help you monitor tampering with your outdoor AC unit. Aside from obvious security cameras to record activity outside, there are simple products that monitor electricity and coolant flow. If there is a sudden interruption to the system, like when a thief cuts the electrical lines, the security system sounds an alarm. Some systems will even notify the police, sending immediate help to your home.

Install A Locking Security Cage

The most effective theft deterrent is to enclose your outdoor unit in a special cage or wire fencing. These special security cages can be expensive, often requiring an investment of several hundred dollars, and they usually need to be installed by a professional. However, the enclosure makes stealing the metal from your unit much more complicated. Most criminals will usually move along to find an easier target.

One important factor to keep in mind when purchasing and installing a security cage is air circulation. If the condenser on your air conditioner cannot expel hot air, it will negatively affect your system’s energy efficiency. If your unit struggles to cool your home, it can cause expensive breakdowns and shorten the life of your entire system.

Leave Your Mark

Even if your system is vandalized, there is hope of recovering some of the important components. You can engrave your name, address, or the unit’s serial number on all your system’s parts, including the copper tubing.

Inform the police immediately if your system is vandalized and your marked components stolen. This may help them be recovered, saving you some money in repair and replacement costs.


Your air conditioner is an essential piece of summer equipment. In the heat of summer, it is the only thing helping keep you and your family comfortable. Take these steps and you can be sure your system stays right where it belongs, keeping you cool all summer long. If you have questions about howto keep your unit safe from criminals, be sure to contact your local HVAC professionals.