Wave of Stolen AC systems impacts schools and communities: Sign of the times

May 7, 2012

I never imagined copper wire thefts would become so common or air conditioning units would be stolen for copper.    I did a back of the napkin estimate of profits based on various news reports.

First of all, I am guessing based on news reports that on average someone would pull in about $200 for the copper they steal.  There is a mileage deduction (unless they steal the gas and car also).   Let’s just assume 10 miles to pick up a partner, 10 miles to drive to theft site and canvas, 10 miles to sell copper, and 10 miles back home.   I assume the average crook is driving a pickup with an average of 15 mpg.   This comes to $12 worth of gas.

The copper prices paid are probably about 50% of market rate at best — so the $200 worth of copper equates to $100 of cost.

The meals to sustain the energy to steal the copper are a back end cost–let’s say two big macs assuming the crooks eat at McDonald’s.   That set’s them back $10 more.

There is wear and tear on the car which should also be factored in as 0.33 x miles which equals another $15.

I assume 4 hours total of drive time for casing out the place, removal, and transaction times.

Doing all the math, the crooks made about $7.50 per hour for the theft and this line of work has no benefits such as health insurance and retirement.   Therefore, the crooks would do better economically working at McDonald’s which is always hiring.

So why do people steal copper from air conditioning systems and electrical systems?   I can only conclude they are from my point of view not bright.

From the perspective of the home or business, the copper theft would typically leave 2 to 5 thousand dollars worth of damage.

For the AC repair business, it means work but not the type we like to do.   There is one company that developed a specialized security system for AC systems.  These security systems for AC units may be a growing industry in Las Vegas–Yahoo News.

In any case, the AC season is here.  And it will be interesting if there is any uptick in theft-related AC repairs.   I need to learn a little bit about new security systems to lock down AC units.  I saw there is a new section on security Air Conditioning parts.


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