Scrapping appliances such heating and cooling units for metal has become a popular and profitable way to earn extra money. According to the All Quality Heating, Air and Refrigeration website, “one AC coil could fetch between $50 to $100 in copper.” This is because “recyclers on average pay 90 percent of the new copper price, or more than $3 a pound for scrap." Copper is not the only valuable metal found in a heating or cooling unit. The Daikin website reports that “iron, copper, and aluminum account for about 80 percent of an air conditioner's weight. One residential air conditioner contains the equivalent of 250 empty aluminum cans worth of aluminum.” Despite the profitability of selling the scrap metal of a heating or cooling unit, however, it is important to know that these units contain the refrigerant chemical freon, which is very hazardous if inhaled and illegal to be released into the environment. In short, the safest way to scrap a heating or cooling unit is to take the unit to a recycling center or scrapyard.
Comply with Laws and Procedures
Read and comply with all U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations. These regulations are on the EPA’s Ozone Layer Depletion web page, which is linked in the Resources section.
Check your state and local environmental protection laws and regulations. You can find the link for your state on the EPA’s State Environmental Agencies page, which is linked in the References section.
Call your area's recycling plant or scrapyard about accepting scrap metal from a heating or cooling unit. Many of these companies have polices to ensure they do not purchase stolen cooper coils or encourage the illegal release of freon into the ozone.
Safely Disassemble the Unit
Disconnect the unit from all power sources to prevent shock and electrocution.
Open the iron outer plate of the unit to expose the inner components. Use a screwdriver or other proper tools.
Remove the refrigerant chemical freon properly from the unit. It is illegal to allow freon to enter the environment, and so the chemical must be removed by a freon recovery machine, which must be operated by a certified professional. If you are not certified to operate a freon recovery machine; contact scrapyards, recycling plants and heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) companies to learn if they can remove the chemical for you.
Remove the components. Use the proper tools to remove the plastic fan, iron motor, aluminum and cooper heat exchanger and iron compressor.
Sort and Clean the Metal Components
Separate the scrap metal into piles. Create a separate pile for each of these: cooper, aluminum, iron and steel. Cooper is the most valuable of these metals and is characteristically reddish brown. Aluminum is a lightweight, shiny, light-gray metal. Iron is a heavy, dull, light-gray metal. Steel, the least valuable of these metals, is heavy with a polished-silver shine.
Remove all rubber and plastic pieces from the metal components.
Wipe down all metal components with a dry, soft cloth. Ensure they are fairly clean of grease, dirt and dust.
Comply with all federal, state and local laws regarding the proper method of scrapping and recycling heating and cooling units. If you would like to become certified to operate a freon recovery/removal machine, check a community college for a freon recovery certification course.
Disassembling a refrigeration, heating and/or cooling unit is illegal in some states. Freon is extremely hazardous to your health; do not handle this chemical if you are not trained to do so.