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Most wanted: copper

Working with copper is something nearly everyone in the HVAC/R industry does. It simply is the standard by which the industry operates. But in recent years, our industry’s reliance on copper has given way to some troubles due to the high number of copper thefts across the country.

The horror stories can be seen in news reports from cities around the nation. A daycare has copper ripped out by vandals. Apartment buildings can’t offer guests AC because the copper has been taken. Job sites left bare after large amounts of copper are stolen overnight.

The National Insurance Crime Bureau reported in 2012 that metal thefts had increased 81 percent since 2008. The top five states for metal theft were:

  • Ohio
  • Texas
  • Georgia
  • California
  • Illinois

Copper has fetched up to $4 a pound in the past year. However, the damage crooks usually do costs far more than the few hundred dollars they might get from selling their loot to a recycling yard.

Even back in 2008, the FBI wrote how copper theft was “threatening critical infrastructure.”

We at hilmor think there are things you can do or recommend to your customers to do to keep their copper safe. We know of some apartment and building managers that have moved to installing air conditioners on the roofs of buildings. There’s a growing segment in the HVAC/R industry that deals specifically in alarms for stolen copper. The way these work runs the gamut, but they can be an expense that’s worth the cost if it prevents some huge headaches. We’ve even heard of some people painting their exposed copper tubing to look like PVC pipe to keep potential crooks away from their building.

The copper theft problem in the U.S. is very real, but we’re interested in the measures you’re taking to prevent copper theft on your jobs. Have you seen any ingenious ways to keep copper safe? Share them in the comments, and be careful out there.

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