Copper Thefts from AC Units Rise as Copper Prices Skyrocket

June 23, 2006
ARI reports on the rash of copper-tubing thefts

Skyrocketing copper prices have led to a rash of thefts of copper tubing in residential and commercial air-conditioning units across the United States. Copper prices have nearly tripled in the last year as demand for a variety of metals has soared throughout the world.

Although there are no official statistics, an increasing number of news reports suggest copper thefts are occurring more frequently across the country. In Dallas this month, a church moved its service after thieves stole the building's air-conditioning units for the copper inside them. In Seguin, TX, several small business owners had copper tubing stolen from their units. In Hillsboro, OR, a small business owner arrived at work to find three of his building's four air-conditioning units completely gutted. News stories such as these have also reported similar thefts in Kentucky, North Carolina, Nebraska, Indiana, and South Carolina.

Copper is 100-percent recyclable and selling scrap copper can be lucrative. Recyclers, on average, pay 90 percent of the new copper price, or more than $3 a pound for scrap, according to the Copper Development Association. Unfortunately, recyclers cannot tell if copper items have been stolen because they don't carry any identifiers.

Some business owners are taking precautions by installing cages or fences around their units to deter thefts.

This article was reprinted with permission by the Arlington, VA-based Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration Institute (ARI). The article originally appeared in the June 2006 edition of the organization’s Cool Connections e-newsletter. To find out more about ARI, visit ( or call (703) 524-8800.

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