Copper Thieves Beware – Copper Theft Countermeasures Are Available

Damage caused by copper thieves to a home’s AC Condenser.  Image courtesy of CopperWatcher.com

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.

Putting Your Condenser In A Cage

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.

Tying 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.

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.

For more information about CopperWatcher can be found here >>> http://www.copperwatcher.com

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About Bill Petrey, Realtor

Bill Petrey, the CEO and Founder of AgentHarvest, has been written about in the Los Angeles Times, Inman News, AOL Real Estate, and Inman Next, among others. He founded AgentHarvest for the sole purpose of making the process of finding a good Realtor better and easier. Bill Petrey is an author and editor of both The AgentHarvest Blog, Real Examples of Really Rotten Realty Blog, and the creator of Really Rotten Realty.

4 thoughts on “Copper Thieves Beware – Copper Theft Countermeasures Are Available

  1. Robert:
    I’m glad you liked the article. Best of luck with your CopperWatcher product. If you’re looking for future product enhancements, give that “bug zapper” approach some serious thought.

  2. I wish we could use the bug zapper,lol , however we have a product that will stop copper thieves in their tracks. CopperWatcher monitors the voltage and refrigerant pressure in the air conditioning system. The CopperWatcher system connects to any existing burglar alarm system, works during power failures and our patented system is completely tamper proof. Our goal is to stop a thief before they can damage your air conditioning system. When you are ready to replace your old existing air conditioner give me a call. We will install a new a/c and the CopperWatcher at the same time.
    Bob

  3. I hope the copper thieves never find this article. I found the article quite informative. I will have to ask someone to install it though.

    • The modifications I did to add alarm sensors to the condenser only cost me a few hundred dollars but it was worth it to tie it into the alarm’s monitoring system. The best deterrents are not the measures that prevent a thief from stealing the condenser, but the measures that make him think he’ll be caught if he attempts it. There are too many easier targets out there. Why risk being on camera or triggering an alarm and summoning the police?

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