How Do You Scrap An Air Conditioner?

take apart scrap air conditioner

One of the more common scrap items during the warmer months is air conditioners, which are straightforward items to take apart for scrap metal inside but require some work. With a wide variety of materials like copper, electric motors, aluminum, and wire inside, any scrapper, from beginner to advanced, can benefit by taking apart an air conditioner for scrap.

What Is A Scrap Air Conditioner Worth?

If you are debating whether to take apart your scrap air conditioner before going to your scrap yard, we recommend taking the time to take it apart if you want to make a little extra money at the scales. If you are collecting a few units at a time, learning to take them apart can be very valuable for you in the future.

On average, if you are scrapping a whole window air conditioning unit with your scrap yard, you may get paid between $4-6 for it. However, suppose you take apart that same window unit. In that case, you may be tripling your earnings by getting anywhere from $12-18 for the various materials and metals inside, especially the copper tubing.

Contact a Freon Removal Professional

Before you get started, be sure to contact a licensed professional to remove all freon refrigerants and oils from the unit. Most scrap yards WILL NOT accept the air conditioners without the freon removed. Also, it is illegal to remove yourself and can result in a hefty fine from the EPA. It’s always helpful to have a licensed HVAC specialist to work on, especially if you are looking to scrap refrigerators, AC units, and other items that may contain freon.

When collecting multiple air conditioner units, it may be a good idea for you to work together with an HVAC contractor and split some of your earnings with him if they are willing to remove the freon and oils. Those types of partnerships benefit everyone involved; they get paid a little bit every time, and you have someone you can rely on to remove the freon.

What You’ll Need To Scrap An Air Conditioner

Before you start, having the right tools and equipment on hand is essential to make it easier and more efficient to take apart air conditioners. This is especially true if you have a few units at a time you are taking apart for scrap. Something to always think about is the safety equipment you will need, as well as the proper tools. Below is a list of tools and items you will need to scrap an air conditioner:

Suggested Reading: 5 Essential Tools All Scrappers Need

Step By Step: Taking Apart An Air Conditioner

  1. Drain Liquids With A Professional – As we mentioned earlier, be sure to have the freon and any oils removed by a licensed HVAC professional before you cut any tubing inside. If you try to remove the freon yourself, you can be fined by the EPA, which is very dangerous for the environment.
  2. Cut The Copper Wires – Using your wire snippers, cut the end of the power cord off the back of the unit. This can be placed in your copper wire pile. You can use pliers to remove the brass plugs from the end and throw them in with your brass pile.
  3. Remove Steel – While using your power drill, remove any screws from the frame of the unit. You can pull off the steel side panels of the air conditioner and place them with the screws in your steel pile. You may also want to remove any plastic covers from the front and inside of the unit; those can be set aside for plastic recycling. When you remove the steel, you will be removing a good amount of weight from the unit, but you are cleaning the higher-valued materials like copper and aluminum.
  4. Cut Copper Tubes – Use your cable cutters to disconnect any copper tubing running from the sealed unit to the radiators. This copper tubing will go as a #2 copper price due to the oil residue inside. Be sure to separate it correctly to prevent contaminating any clean copper you may have from other materials.
  5. Remove Sealed Unit – Once you can see the inside of the air conditioner, you should see a few things, including one or two radiators, a sealed unit, an electric motor, a power supply, and some copper tubing. Grab your wrench and begin disconnecting the sealed unit from the base of the unit. The sealed unit will be able to 20 pounds in weight and can be set aside. The best option is to scrap the whole unit. The outer steel casing is challenging to open and may not be worth the time.
  6. Remove Radiators & Motor – You can then begin to use your power drill or screwdriver to remove the radiators, power supply, and fan with the electric motor attached. Be sure to put the screws in your steel pile. These items can be scrapped separately from each other at the scrap yard.
  7. Power Supply – Once you have removed the power supply, you can take some of the components inside apart. You will usually find some copper wire that you can remove, a few low-grade circuit boards, a small transformer, and an aluminum heatsink. These items are also often found in computers, so place those aside in separate collection piles. If you do not wish to remove them from the power supply, you can scrap the whole thing for a lower price.
  8. Remove Electric Motor – Towards the back of the air conditioner, you should see a fan and electric motor attached that can be removed. The fan is either plastic or steel, so put it in the correct pile. Use your screwdriver to detach the electric copper motor from the fan and put that in a separate pile. It will probably weigh about 5 pounds. You can choose to open the electric motor and remove the #2 copper wire from the inside if you wish, but it may be quicker just to scrap the whole thing.
  9. Aluminum/Copper Radiators – Also known as ACRs, the radiators are the bread and butter of the air conditioner. You will usually see a smaller one in the front and a larger one towards the back. When you remove these, please place them in a vice and use your Sawzall to cut the copper loops off the ends. This will leave you with the steel end on the sides.
  10. Clean Up The ACR – Once you have placed the copper loop ends with your other copper tubing from earlier, you should be able to use a flathead screwdriver to remove the steel plate on the side of the radiator. Throw the piece of steel with the rest you have collected, and now you have a clean piece of aluminum/copper fin, which will get you about 15-20% more at the scrap yard compared to leaving the steel on.
  11. Collect Your Metals – Now that you have to take all the essentials of the air conditioner apart, below is a list of approximately how much weight you will have of all the metals:

How Much Money Did You Get?

Obviously, depending on the current state of the market, you should receive between $15-20 in total for your air conditioner being taken apart for scrap. If you had left the unit as a whole, you would probably only get around $3-5. So, if you collect a few air conditioners at a time for scrap, you could be tripling your earnings at your local scrap yard when taking them apart.

Report Your Prices on the iScrap App.

Once you have cashed in at your local scrap yard, be sure to return the iScrap App and report your scrap prices online. You can choose which materials to report specific prices on at the scrap yard you visited. This can help your fellow scrappers with the prices in your area.