What Does it Mean to Recycle an Old AC Unit?

South End Plumbing, Heating, & Air Expert Tips

What Does it Mean to Recycle an Old AC Unit

Steps to Disposing or Recycling Your AC

Prior to getting rid of an old AC unit, there are steps you should take. How you dispose of an air conditioner can actually be legal or illegal. There are steps to take to do the right thing environmentally and for your own safety and property. Many AC units will have chemicals or refrigerant in them which must be disposed of safely, whether you’re recycling the machine or just junking it. Be sure you’re disposing of everything in the right, legal way.

Panels and Doors

Remove all the panels, doors, and covers from the exterior before recycling the air conditioning device. It sounds highly unlikely, but you want to make sure no animals or other large messes have or still are in the unit.

A Pro Handles the Refrigerant

Before recycling an old AC, an HVAC technician must drain all the refrigerant or coolant out of the machine. You can choose to call a junk removal company to haul away the unit without taking preventative steps about chemicals or refrigerants.

Recycling Separate Parts

You can recycle components of the unit. This goes for pipes, hoses, tubes, or tanks. These parts must be taken apart and out of the unit. Then take them to a hazardous waste recycling center. To find the closest hazardous waste facility, call your local government or check a website for more details and detailed information you might need to know.

Which Parts of an AC Unit Should be Recycled?

There are so many parts and types of material, but a lot of an air conditioner can be recycled. One more idea to know is metal scrap yards often call for a person to have a current air conditioning license to sell old parts or material as scrap. The heaviest pieces are compressors which can weigh 80-120 pounds each.

What’s recyclable? Which Parts of an AC Unit Should be Recycled?What’s recyclable?

  • Cardboard boxes
  • Motors
  • Coils
  • Sheet metal
  • Compressors
  • Brass parts
  • Copper tubing
  • Furnaces
  • Metal ducts

What’s not?

  • Flexible ducts
  • Fiberboard
  • Capacitors
  • Small plastic components

Reasons to Recycle Your AC Unit

When your AC gives up the ghost and fails, what do you do with it? Many centers accept old AC units and break them down into recyclable parts to make new ACs or other devices. There are some good reasons to recycle your busted air conditioning unit.

Following the Law

In some cases, in some states, you have to follow the legal way to discard and recycle an air conditioner. It might not be legal to simply throw it in a dump or expect the weekly garbage truck to take it away. For refrigeration, many air conditioning units have HCFC (hydrochlorofluorocarbon), which is a dangerous substance that’s damaging to the atmosphere. It harms the ozone layer. It needs to be professionally removed and disposed of.

Will the Dump Take it?

Also, even if you’re disposing of an AC unit legally, a landfill, recycling center, or hazmat facility may be a long way away. Some dumps don’t approve large items like air conditioning systems. You may need to call to find one that will certainly take a unit before hauling one out to the dump. So, recycling is normally the easiest alternative. Some recycling centers will do a pickup to save you a trip and a lot of hassle.

Help the Environment

Recycling an AC unit protects the environment and atmosphere, especially if your system has HCFC. Huge metal parts and machines in landfills are terrible for the environment. The pieces will take centuries to degrade. Chemicals and other contaminants may harm animals and plants. When your AC is recycled, not only do you decrease the waste left in dumps, but you allow metal and other components to get reused, so less has to be mined and manufactured for new units or machines. Less mining means a smaller ecological impact.

Dumping an old AC unit can harm wild animals. Rusting, degrading metal parts can be bad for wildlife and habitats. The HCFC and other chemicals or coolants are hazardous, too. If you can recycle an old AC, it helps reduce toxins and pollution in a natural habitat.

Helping People

Another thing, AC units might still work or be fixable. Some AC recycling facilities can take parts, reuse them and make working AC units out of the parts. If you recycle the parts, you might help people have a good job and have an air conditioner which could be very important.

Can I Leave an AC Unit Out for Trash Pickup?

No. Many HVAC companies will remove the old units as part of the service provided with installing a new unit. Most HVAC companies should recycle AC and heating units and components. Units and systems have various steel, copper, brass, and other metal components. While a lot of a system can be recycled, it is not as easy as throwing it in the recycling bin. All of the materials need to be separated and handled safely.


At South End Heating and Air, we are Charlotte’s affordable AC experts. Call us anytime for a free consult and free estimate. We’ll evaluate your system and help make recommendations for optimum value. After all, we want to keep you cool all summer long and warm in the winter. Just schedule a visit with one of our technicians to talk about how we can help. Would you like to learn more options our techs can help you with? Give us a call 704-684-5339.

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