Air conditioners may seem like they'll operate forever, but just like every other household appliance, they'll stop working one day. Before you leave it on the curb for your local garbage collector, it's vital that you know it's actually illegal to dispose of air conditioning units with regular trash items. There are ways to dispose of an old AC unit without getting in trouble, and you can help save the environment at the same time.
Air Conditioner Collection
It may seem more manageable for a local garbage collector to get rid of your old air conditioner, but these units contain refrigerants, oil and other compounds. Refrigerant is essential, and without it, you can't condition air to a specific temperature. A major disadvantage of using air conditioners is that many contain hydrochlorofluorocarbon 200 (HCFC) refrigerants.
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HCFCs are a type of chemical compound that is primarily used in foam, refrigeration and air conditioners. HCFCs release greenhouse gases that can destroy the ozone layer, so they need to be disposed of properly.
Preparation for Disposal
If your unit is no longer working even though you kept up with annual air conditioner maintenance, it's time to let it go. The first thing you need to do is contact an appliance professional or expert who knows how to correctly drain the refrigerant or coolant from your unit. Any of the air conditioner's tanks, tubes, hoses or other parts that contain refrigerant or coolant need to be taken separately to a hazardous waste collection center.
Contact your local government if you don't know where the closest hazardous waste facility is located. After you have disposed of the hazardous waste, you can look into ways that you can discard or recycle your unit.
Energy Company Programs
First, try contacting your power company. Some companies have a program where you can receive a rebate or credit by recycling your appliances through their company. When reaching out to your power company, in addition to asking about rebate and credit options, you should also inquire to see if they can pick up your air conditioner. Some companies may not have fees related to appliance pickup, but it's always helpful to ask if there are any added fees or restrictions.
Retailer Recycling Services
If you're replacing an old unit, some appliance retailers offer pickup and disposal services if you're purchasing from their store. Before purchasing a new air conditioner, ask the salesperson if the store provides pickup and disposal services. Don't forget to inquire about special deals because some stores offer cash or a discount on your purchase if you recycle your old air conditioner with the store.
Utilizing City Services or Donating
If you don't have time to look for an appliance professional to properly remove the unit's refrigerant and dispose of your air conditioner, contact your city's sanitation or recycling department. They should be able to direct you to a company that will handle the entire process for you. Your local government or waste department will also help you with any additional regulations specific to where you live.
If your air conditioner is in good condition and you'd like to donate it, try contacting your local schools, charities or senior centers. It will take a little research, but some organizations post online when they're looking for appliances.