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Home Electrical Copper Theft




As a victim of copper theft, I’m always on the lookout for new solutions.  After my theft, I was tempted to protect my copper pipes by attaching the 220 volt circuit to the copper pipe creating a copper thief version of a bug zapper, but I figured I’d probably be sent to jail as the bodies of dead copper thieves started to pile up in the backyard.  My lawyer insists I mention that I do not recommend electrifying your copper pipes or doing anything that involves killing copper thieves.  (To my lawyer:  Are you happy now?)  As tempting as copper thief trapping would be, we have to look at non-lethal methods of controlling this vermin.  Here are a few available to you.

Copper Theft Tip 1. Caging and Locking Your Condenser

One of the most popular methods of protecting your condenser is to make it hard to steal.  Lots of houses in bad neighborhoods install their condensers in large metal cages.  By caging your A/C condenser, you are attempting to prevent the copper thief from being able to steal it.  Utterly useless!!!  I don’t recommend this because I’ve seen too many empty A/C condenser cages.  No matter how great the cage is, they all have the same weaknesses, their attachment to the slab, the hinged access door, and the lock.  Once you bust the lock, the rest of the cage is useless.  Furthermore, I haven’t seen a cage yet that couldn’t be opened with a strong chain tied to a pickup truck.  The problem with cages is that if the thief has time or doesn’t have to be discreet, then a cage just delays the inevitable.

Copper Theft Tip 2. Connecting Your Copper To Your Alarm System

The best defense to protect your A/C condenser is to make thieves afraid to tamper with your unit for fear of getting caught.  The best way to do this is to attach it to a monitored alarm system and by posting signs saying such all around it.  I saved a condenser by doing this, while neighbors’ condensers were disappearing around me.  By having your A/C condenser tied to your alarm system, if the unit is tampered with, or if any cable running to the condenser is cut, the alarm goes off.  I recommend having a siren that sounds outside and a second siren that sounds inside to attract attention to the house.  If your alarm system has an unused “always active” zone, typically used for fire sensors, you should connect the A/C condenser sensors to that zone.  By using that zone, the unit is protected whether the alarm is armed or not.  If someone forgets to arm your alarm when they leave, you don’t have to worry about your copper being unprotected.  However, every time the AC repair guy comes over you’ll have to call your monitoring service to put the system in test mode to keep the police from storming the place.  For added protection, post signs stating that the condenser is monitored.  It’s better to discourage the copper thieves before they start tearing up the place.

Copper Theft Tip 3. How To Connect The AC Condenser To Your Home Alarm System

Have your alarm technician mount contact switches to the cover and frame, also have your technician put loop sensor cables (don’t know what they’re called) in all the cables running to the condenser so that when they’re cut, this cable is cut and the circuit is broken.  The technician can also put pressure sensors on the base of the condenser in case someone tries to lift it off the base.  My lawyer wanted to inform you that all these modifications should be performed by an alarm system installer.  I used these tactics to secure an A/C condenser in a property I was rehabbing.  The AC unit is still there today being continuously watched by the alarm system monitoring company.  I recently ran into another product on the market that connects the AC unit to the home’s alarm system by monitoring the supply and applied voltage running to the A/C condenser, and it also monitors refrigerant pressure. If the product detects an unusual change in either the voltage or coolant pressure, the alarm will be triggered.  This kit, from CopperWatcher, costs about $380 plus installation per condenser.  Small price to pay considering a condenser costs $1000s.


Local Records Office | Copper Theft

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