How do I prevent someone from stealing my central A/C?
July 22, 2006 12:29 AM   Subscribe

How do I protect my central air conditioner unit from theft?

Two weeks ago, someone stole my air conditioner unit during the night. I couldn't believe someone would go to the trouble, but apparently I'm not alone. The price of copper, a major metal in the construction of an A/C unit, has risen dramatically over the last year. Thieves can now steal an A/C unit, take it to the scrapyard, and sell it for a decent amount of cash without even providing identification. But what gets them $50-$100 costs me $1000 in insurance deductable and a whole slew of hassle.

I need a creative way to protect this unit. The high number of stray cats in the neighborhood makes a motion activated light impractical and generally useless. And I'm more concerned about losing another $1000 than ascetics at this point. I can fix ugly later.

Any ideas?
posted by beelerspace to Home & Garden (11 answers total)
Bolt it to the concrete pad it sits on?

Put it on the roof?

Put it in the garage with a venting system for the hot air?

Camouflage it?

And finally the best answer, IMO -- build a decorative wrought iron cage around it, with a padlocked door for repair access. Or just a chain link fence.
posted by frogan at 12:37 AM on July 22, 2006

Bolting it to the pad is just as easy as it not bolted -- just disassembling it where it stands and leaving the bolted frame as-is would defeat that.

I like the wrought-iron cage idea.. bolted to the little foundation :-) heh
posted by vanoakenfold at 12:45 AM on July 22, 2006

I've spent a lot of time in Lagos, Nigeria, and down there it's common to see various pieces of equipment, AC units included, in protective cages. Thieves don't like to work, so a cage will deter most. Best of all would be to park it where folks can't get at it, of course.
posted by Mutant at 12:45 AM on July 22, 2006

Pentagonal bolts
posted by hortense at 1:34 AM on July 22, 2006

Just don't think about building a *brick* or wood or metal structure around it. You can't enclose an A/C unit outside, if you do it kinda won't work anymore.. it depends on the air flow over those wonderful copper coils.
posted by SpecialK at 5:22 AM on July 22, 2006

Attach an alarm to it? It's outside, so if they steal it and a loud alarm goes off, you can bet that if it's at night you can catch them in the act. Or if it's during the day, someone will see them.

One of those proximity alarms that goes off when someone stands to near it (like those annoying car alarms) might help, since it would prove to the potential theif this A/C isn't worth it.
posted by shepd at 7:59 AM on July 22, 2006

Will your zoning ordinances let you keep a roof doberman? You'll never find a better burglar alarm.
posted by little miss manners at 8:57 AM on July 22, 2006

Best answer: vanoakenfold writes "I like the wrought-iron cage idea.. bolted to the little foundation :-) "

You've got to weld the cage in place or the thieves will just unbolt the cage (something that goes really quick with a battery drill.) And then sell the cage for steel.

How about this:

The red bars are 1" pipe sized to fit around the unit without allowing the unit to pass through.
The green object is a hinge constructed out of a 1.5" pipe with two legs of #5 rebar.
The pink object is for a padlock and is constructed from a 1" length of 1" pipe welded to a leg of #5 rebar.
The blue object is a protective cage for the padlock. It is welded to the cage with 2" protruding to form a leg. It is constructed from a 6" length of 3" pipe. The bottom has two pieces of flat iron welded on with a 1.5" gap, large enough for the pink padlock loop to fit between.

The cage has to be large enough to be able to hinge around the green object without interfering with the condensing unit. The hinge has to installed on the cage before the bottom loop is welded together.

Installation consists of pouring a concrete pad for the condensing unit and pushing the free ends of the rebar into the wet concrete. Extra security comes from bending an L into the end of the rebar. The hinge is 2" up from the concrete and the padlock loop 2.5" up. With the 2" the padlock cage protrudes from the bottom of the cage the unit is supported a couple inches from the surface of the concrete. This prevents the cage from rusting and allows the refrigerant piping and electrical to run underneath the cage.

In use the cage is swung over the condensing unit and then a padlock is run through the padlock loop. The flat bars welded to the bottom of the pad lock cage prevent the cage from being swung out of the way. The padlock cage prevents someone from getting a hack saw or bolt cutters on the hasp of the padlock. When it comes time to service the condensing unit just remove the padlock and swing the cage out of the way.

You can probably get this or similiar welded up for a couple hundred dollars.
posted by Mitheral at 11:34 AM on July 22, 2006 [1 favorite]

And the Metty for Outstanding Achievement In Responding To A Query goes to...


That's twice this week.
posted by baylink at 12:36 PM on July 22, 2006

Response by poster: Mitheral. It's as if you were waiting for someone to ask this question. Phew.

I don't suppose you also built one for me...?

Thanks. This is a great answer.
posted by beelerspace at 1:08 PM on July 22, 2006

If you build a cage get a puck lock like the American Lock 2000. A lot of trades guys use them to lock up their tools because bolt cutters don't work on them. I'm thinking like tool theives, A/C thieves probably carry cutters. For about $30 any decent locksmith should be able to set you up.
posted by vonliebig at 3:47 PM on July 22, 2006

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