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Air conditioners are valuable to homeowners and businesses thanks to their ability to provide efficient cooling comfort. But to thieves, air conditioners are valuable for an entirely different reason. A/C units contain a sizable amount of copper and other valuable metals, making them tempting targets for theft and vandalism.
To prevent your A/C system from becoming a target for thieves in search of quick cash, here are a few valuable steps you can take to safeguard your unit:
Keep It Out of Sight
The vast majority of thieves won't notice what they can't see in the first place. Making your A/C system less noticeable to casual onlookers can help make it less likely to be targeted by thieves. The strategic placement of shrubbery, hedges and decorative fences can help make an A/C unit blend into its immediate surroundings or hide it from view altogether.
Remember that your A/C system still needs plenty of room to breathe, so you don't want to place shrubs or solid objects too close to the unit. As a general rule, you should keep the A/C unit at least 2 feet away from shrubs, walls and hedges and keep an overhead clearance of 10 feet.
Surround It with a Lockable Cage
Most thieves tend to go for A/C units that are easily accessible and equally easy to crack open using basic tools. In this regard, lockable cages are a definite game-changer. Instead of an easy target, thieves will find an A/C unit that takes too much time and effort to quickly break open, leaving them to look elsewhere for another target.
Typical A/C cages are made from hardened reinforced steel, making it nearly impervious to all but the most serious attempts at opening the cage. Most cages are available in pre-fabricated forms for the most popular A/C unit cabinet sizes, but some units may require a custom solution from a local ironworks shop.
When choosing a lockable cage, make sure it offers enough airflow to keep the unit operational.
Seal the Unit with Tamper-Proof Screws
Another way you can protect your A/C unit is by replacing the outdoor cabinet's existing screws with specially made tamper-proof screws. The screws are designed to prevent thieves from using commonly available screwdrivers to open the unit, thus stalling their progress long enough for them to either give up completely or be spotted by passersby or law enforcement.
Although you can use tamper-proof screws on their own, they're really meant to be used as part of a comprehensive security solution using the other steps mentioned in this guide.
Protect the Unit with an Alarm System
You can also rig your A/C system so that it sets off your existing alarm system during a theft or vandalism attempt. You can choose a loud, audible response that sends criminals fleeing or opt for a silent response that allows law enforcement officials to collar those responsible before they have a chance to get away.
Your alarm system provider will usually set up the A/C system so that it triggers the alarm by opening the outdoor cabinet cover or cutting through a refrigerant pipe. Combined with other security measures, this approach can help keep your A/C unit safe from would-be thieves.
Monitor the Unit with Security Cameras
Having your A/C system monitored by a well-placed security camera provides another layer of protection against copper theft and vandalism. Having a watchful electronic eye aimed at your outdoor cabinet can dissuade most thieves from targeting your A/C unit. The security footage can also be used to capture more brazen thieves in the act, along with crucial details such as the license plate of any vehicle that was used to commit the act.
The average cost of a security camera system can vary greatly depending on the software, resolution, storage and the number of cameras to be installed. According to Fixr, the average equipment and installation cost for 2 cameras with network-attached storage (NAS) and the appropriate software is approximately $870 to $1,000.
For more information about protecting your air conditioner, talk with HVAC contractors, such as those at Aggressive Mechanical Contractors.