Your air conditioner contains steel, aluminum, and copper. It's worth recycling to keep it out of the landfill. You can recycle the AC yourself if you're willing to take it apart, take the air conditioner to a recycling drop-off location, or call an air conditioning recycling service to recycle the equipment for you.
A scrap metal recycler may even take the old equipment away and break it down for recycling, but they aren't permitted to remove the refrigerant unless they're licensed to do so, and that has to be done first. Here's an overview of how air conditioning recycling works.
Recycling The Refrigerant
It's important to know you'll need a licensed AC technician to remove the refrigerant unless all the refrigerant has already leaked out. If the AC is old, it may have outdated refrigerant that can't be recycled and needs to be disposed of properly so it doesn't harm the environment. Other refrigerants might be filtered so they can be cleaned and used again.
The refrigerant has to be removed before the AC can be taken apart. The refrigerant flows through copper lines that are valuable, so the refrigerant needs to be drained in order to tear the AC apart to get to the copper refrigerant lines in the coil.
Recycling The Parts
Once the refrigerant has been drained and contained, the air conditioning recycling service can start taking the parts out. If your AC has some new parts from recent repairs, they may be saved and sold as used parts. Other parts can be broken down for the metal they contain. For instance, the condenser has a lot of wiring that can be stripped to get the copper out of it.
Recycling The Metal
The frame of an air conditioner is often made of steel since steel is strong and durable. The inner parts of the frame might be made of aluminum. The air conditioning recycling service needs to remove all the screws so the AC can be completely dismantled. Then steel can be separated from aluminum. It's easy to tell the two types of metal apart since steel is stronger and heavier. Plus, a magnet sticks to steel and not aluminum.
Since copper is valuable, the service will be interested in recycling the condenser coil and refrigerant lines. The different types of metal have different monetary values, so they are collected and separated in order to get the most money when recycling an air conditioner. Otherwise, the recycling center may just pay the lowest rate for the entire load if the metals are all mixed together.
Look for services that offer air conditioning recycling.