Don’t Be A Victim: Simple Solutions To Prevent Theft On Your HVAC Units

While commonly associated with a simple penny, copper is a valuable metal that has been a target in recent thefts across the world. Present inside your unit's condenser and necessary for the efficient heating and cooling of your home, the use of copper will continue to grow. Unfortunately, this increase has also created an interest for many criminals. Between 2010 and 2012, 96 percent of the 33,775 metal theft claims were due to stolen copper. Fortunately, protecting your outdoor units from theft is possible using these simple solutions.

Chores and Maintenance

Make your house less appealing to criminals by enhancing its lived-in feel. In most cases, theft of an outdoor unit occurs at a new construction home or a property that is for sale. Since most of these homes are vacant, criminals believe they are easier to vandalize and steal from. 

While you are at work or running an errand, be sure all mail and newspapers are brought in from the mailbox. Move trash bins back towards your home immediately after pickup. When leaving your home, be sure your automatic garage door closes so passerby do not see it as an open invite to steal. 

If you plan to be away on vacation, ask neighbors and local police to conduct a community watch. This is especially important if there has been recent crime in your area. Set a few indoor lights and your outdoor lights on a timer. When the sun goes down, a few lights should come on so your home does not appear vacant. In addition, be sure to mow your grass regularly. Overgrown landscaping is a common factor of foreclosed and abandoned homes that are appealing to criminals.  

While these are minor tasks, your house will not appear vacant. 

Use the Pros

Hiring professional heating and air conditioning technicians can be a smart investment, as well. Depending on your specific unit and the area you live in, technicians may offer one of the following solutions to lower your risk of theft:

  • Lock Up Disconnect – Removing the unit is impossible without cutting power to the system. By locking up the disconnect box on your system, electricity will still flow through the unit. If the thief tries to steal the unit without turning off power, they will most likely be shocked and badly hurt.
  • Unit Cages – Prefabricated cages, designed to fit around your outdoor units, are becoming a popular option. The cage should fit perfectly around the unit, but it should offer breathing space for proper ventilation and air circulation. You can access your unit by unlocking the top of the cage. Unit cages utilize a key and locking mechanism, which criminals can easily pick. However, the added time necessary may deter them.
  • Alarms – Removing your outdoor unit will require cutting refrigerant lines. Removing or cutting the refrigerant lines will trigger a sensor and cause a siren to go off. This alarm is an excellent investment that most criminals do not know exist.
  • Paint – Discuss the possibility of painting your copper wires and lines black. Since most thieves who want HVAC units know what copper looks like, they may choose not to steal a unit with unrecognizable lines. If they do take the unit, recyclers will most likely question the material during an attempted sale.
  • Tamper-Resistant Screws – Ask your HVAC tech to replace all the screws in your outdoor unit with tamper-resistant screws.  By increasing the time to uninstall, these screws can make the task more challenging.
  • GPS Tracking Systems – Your heating and air conditioning technician can also install a GPS tracking system on your units. While a GPS will not prevent the theft, it can help track the unit down. Then, you can take back possession of your unit while appropriate authorities charge the criminal.

The value of copper is rising each day, so the theft of outdoor units will most likely increase. Using the above solutions will help deter criminals and prevent this costly crime. For more information, visit