How to Scrap an AC Unit

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Updated September 16, 2022

It’s unfortunate, but sometimes even the finest air conditioners need to be replaced. And when that time comes, there are specific steps one can take to make sure you get the most money for your broken AC unit. Below, we’ll explain how to scrap an air conditioner the right way.


  • Before scrapping an air conditioner, the refrigerant must be removed by a licensed professional.
  • Remove each electrical component and cut off all copper lines from the radiators.
  • Finally, sort the scrapped AC unit into piles based on metal type (aluminum, copper, steel) and take it to a recycling center.

Insider Tip

Always wear eye protection whenever sawing through copper lines or tubing.

However, sometimes it’s not a good idea to throw away window units until you’ve examined each part. In this case, it can be good to know how to fix an air conditioner compressor. And, if you are unsure if you need to do this, you can also check out our resource on how to test an air conditioner compressor.

Scrapping an Old Air Conditioner

Before taking an air conditioner to the scrapyard to capitalize on the valuable metal, it contains, you might want to understand first how to reset the conditioner unit. Knowing how to reset a window air conditioner can help solve problems with electric motors and save you the need to spend extra money on buying a new AC unit.

But, if you know your window air conditioner’s time has come and that it’s best off bound to the scrapyard, below we will show you the steps to scrap it in the best way possible.

Remember, though, that before you do this, you should understand things like how to test air conditioner capacitors or how to seal gaps around an air conditioner unit so that you aren’t throwing away your unit in vain.


Drain the refrigerant. For this step, you must have a licensed professional or have a license yourself to do this. Removing freon requires certification and is illegal to do without it.


Remove the metal casing and clip the power cord. Unscrew everything that attaches the metal casing to expose all the inside parts. Then snip the power cord with a pair of wire cutters.


Remove the electronic front panel that contains the wires and capacitor. Snip each wire to remove the entire panel. When doing this, make sure to discharge the capacitor by holding a screwdriver with a rubber handle across the wire terminals. Then unscrew and remove the wires attached to the capacitor.


Unscrew and remove all the AC unit’s fans.


Unscrew the front radiator and set it aside.


Remove the AC compressor by taking out all the pins holding it in place.


Remove the back radiator from the fans.


After putting on eye protection, cut off all copper tubes from the air conditioner radiators using the metal saw.


Place all your parts into separate scrap piles. For example, put all copper tubing and copper lines in one area and the electrical wires in another. Then make piles for the steel plates and aluminum parts.


Take the parts to a scrap yard and exchange them for cash.


Prolonged exposure to air conditioner refrigerant is hazardous, so it needs to be properly disposed of by a professional.


What do I need to do to handle AC refrigerant?

To do this, you need to obtain a Section 608 license.

What qualifies as scrap metal?

The general rule is that any item above 51% metal constitutes scrap metal.

How much do you get from scrapping a window AC unit?

Typically, if you take the unit apart, you’ll get about $20. However, if you deliver the unit whole, it’ll be more like $5.

STAT: If you clean the metal before taking it to the recycling yard, you can make about 15-20% more. (source)

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