How to Dispose of an Air Conditioner

Air conditioners don’t last forever. Whether they’re old or inefficient or both, most of us will replace an air conditioner at least once in our lifetime.

But what do you do with your old appliance? You can’t throw it away and in many cities, leaving it on the curb isn’t an option either.

Why? Because air conditioners use coolant to function and coolant is a hazardous waste that requires proper disposal. If it ends up in the groundwater, you and your neighbors (and your children and your children’s children) will be in serious trouble.

Want to get rid of the old air conditioner taking up space in your home or garage?
Here’s how to dispose of your air conditioner safely and legally.

1. Don’t Throw Away Your Old Air Conditioner

Before we jump into the many safe and legal ways to get rid of an air conditioner, let’s talk about why you can’t simply toss it into the dumpster or leave it on the curb.

The cooling refrigerant (coolant) will damage the environment if it ends up sitting in the landfill.
Here’s how:

R-22 refrigerants are one of the most common coolants found in AC units from previous decades. These refrigerants contain chemicals that deplete the ozone layer in ways no longer allowed by the EPA, which is why manufacturers moved away from them in new models.

New air conditioners feature R-410A refrigerants. These coolants feature a slightly smaller environmental impact compared to R-22 refrigerants, but they still emit greenhouse gases and still damage the environment if they’re poured into the soil.

The damage done to the environment provides plenty of incentive to never throw old air conditioners away. But people still try to do it because they don’t realize the harm it causes or know what else to do with it.

As a result, there are local and state laws banning the improper disposal of these units. Get caught throwing it away and you could face a stiff fine.

2. Call Your Power Company

Old air conditioners are typically inefficient, meaning they cool your home but waste energy when they do it.

In fact, Americans spend up to 50% of their energy bill on their heating and cooling systems. So, when an air conditioner is inefficient, it’s a big deal for energy suppliers.

In some cases, your state or local energy provider will have offers to incentivize local people to buy a new, energy-efficient appliance. In some cases, they’ll offer a discount on your next bill as a reward.

If your energy company offers a bounty for your old appliances, they’ll either offer to pick them up from your house or be able to tell you where to drop your air conditioner off. We recommend this option first because it’s always good to save a little cash, especially if you’re going to buy a new appliance.

3. Call Your City

If your energy company isn’t offering a bounty for your own appliance, your next port of call should be the city.

Municipalities have different codes on what to do with these appliances. But no city will simply let you throw it in the bin without consequences.

The point of contact in your city or municipality is the waste department. In some cases, the waste department will tell you where to bring the air conditioner. In some cases, they’ll come by your house to pick it up from you and then dispose of it on your behalf.

However, some cities will not accept the appliance right away if it still has coolant in it.
In some cases, the city will charge you a fee for disposing of the coolant. Remember: it’s hazardous waste, so getting rid of it costs money.

In other cases, you’ll have to find a way to dispose of the coolant on your own. This brings us to step three.

4. Call Your HVAC Company

You can’t remove, dispose of, or store coolant safely on your own.

If you’re trying to get rid of the appliance and the city won’t accept it while it still has coolant in it, you’ll need to call an HVAC company or an air conditioning technician to do it for you.

The process of removing the coolant is simple for a technician. Once it’s done, many cities will remove the air conditioner for you.

5. Recycle Your Air Conditioner

If none of these options appeal to you, look into recycling your air conditioner.

Scrap yards are common homes for old air conditioners and other old appliances. It’s easy to drop them off and you may even make a quick buck.

You’ll need to call the scrap yard in advance to make sure they accept your appliance – most will but some may not. If you want to go a step further and protect the environment, check out the EPA’s list of responsible appliance disposal program partners.

You’ll find an RAD certified partner in:

  • Massachusetts
  • Connecticut
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • Virginia
  • Maryland
  • Rhode Island
  • South Carolina
  • Georgia
  • Florida
  • Texas
  • Kentucky
  • Virginia
  • Ohio
  • Illinois
  • Minnesota
  • Colorado
  • New Mexico
  • California
  • Oregon
  • Washington

If you can’t find a scrap yard, check out local recycling or sanitation businesses who may also be willing to take it off your hands.

6. Sell or Donate It

If your air conditioner was manufactured after January 1st, 2010, you are allowed to sell or donate your old air conditioner.

You can donate to an organization or give it away on your own. Give it to a neighbor, school, or community center or find a local drive for appliances.

Alternatively, throw it up on Craigslist or your local community board to get rid of it quickly and make a few bucks.

Do What You Want – Just Don’t Throw It Away

There are plenty of safe options for properly disposing of an old air conditioner. It can save you money on your energy bill or you can use it to do a good deed. Whatever you do – don’t throw it away. It is illegal, dangerous, and unnecessary given the many options for proper disposal.

Have any tips for disposing of old appliances? Leave them in the comments below.

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