The Hidden Value of Your AC Unit: Uncovering the Treasure of Scrap Metal

As an expert in the HVAC industry, I have encountered countless air conditioning units throughout my career. From residential to commercial, these machines are essential for keeping us cool and comfortable during the hot summer months. But have you ever stopped to wonder how much scrap is actually inside your AC unit?

The Basics of an AC Unit

Before we delve into the amount of scrap in an AC unit, let's first understand the basics of how it works. An air conditioning unit consists of four main components: the compressor, condenser, evaporator, and expansion valve.

These parts work together to cool and circulate air throughout a space. The compressor is responsible for compressing refrigerant gas, which then moves to the condenser where it is cooled and turned into a liquid. The liquid then travels to the evaporator where it expands and cools the air that is blown over it. Finally, the expansion valve regulates the flow of refrigerant back to the compressor to start the process all over again.

The Amount of Scrap in an AC Unit

Now that we have a better understanding of how an AC unit works, let's get to the main question at hand - how much scrap is actually inside? The answer may surprise you. On average, an AC unit contains about 5-10 pounds of scrap metal. This includes copper, aluminum, and steel.

The amount can vary depending on the size and type of unit, but this is a good estimate for most residential and commercial units. One of the main sources of scrap metal in an AC unit is the copper tubing used for refrigerant flow. Copper is a highly valuable metal and can be recycled for other uses. The aluminum fins on the evaporator and condenser coils are also valuable scrap metal. These fins help with heat transfer and are essential for the unit to function properly. Aside from the metal components, there are also other materials that can be considered scrap in an AC unit.

This includes the plastic housing, wiring, and insulation. While these may not hold as much value as the metal, they can still be recycled and repurposed.

The Importance of Proper Disposal

Now that we know how much scrap is inside an AC unit, it's important to understand the importance of proper disposal. Many people may not realize that their old or broken AC unit is actually a valuable source of scrap metal. Improper disposal of an AC unit not only wastes valuable resources but can also harm the environment. The refrigerant used in these units, known as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), can deplete the ozone layer if released into the atmosphere.

This is why it's crucial to have a professional handle the disposal of your old AC unit. In addition to being environmentally responsible, proper disposal can also benefit you financially. Many scrap yards and recycling centers will pay for old AC units and other scrap metal. So not only are you doing your part for the planet, but you can also make some extra cash in the process.

Recycling and Reusing AC Units

Another way to reduce the amount of scrap in an AC unit is by recycling and reusing old units. Many HVAC companies offer recycling programs where they will take back old units and properly dispose of them.

Some companies even offer incentives such as discounts on new units or free maintenance services. In addition to recycling, there are also ways to reuse old AC units. For example, the compressor can be repurposed for use in refrigerators or freezers. The evaporator and condenser coils can also be used for other cooling systems, such as wine coolers or mini-fridges.


In conclusion, while an AC unit may seem like a simple machine, it actually contains a significant amount of scrap metal and other materials. Proper disposal and recycling of these units are not only important for the environment but can also benefit you financially.

So the next time you're replacing your old AC unit, remember that it's not just a piece of junk - it's a hidden treasure waiting to be recycled and reused.