Jackie Thompson


The U.S. throws out a staggering six million window air conditioners each year. But even it’s broken, getting rid of an air conditioner (AC) is not as simple as just tossing it out with the rest of your trash. Regardless of the type of air conditioner you have, it will contain a form of cooling refrigerant such as hydrochlorofluorocarbon 200 (HCFC), an ozone-depleting substance. If your old AC unit ends up in a landfill still with the refrigerants inside, HCFC could leak out into the atmosphere and destroy the ozone layer. Meanwhile, the refrigerant can also emit greenhouse gases that are well-known to contribute to climate change. There are several ways you can either transform your air conditioner into a more effective and efficient appliance, or dispose of it so that it won’t harm the environment.

Air Conditioner Maintenance And Repair

The best way of avoiding having to think about how to dispose of your AC is to regularly maintain your unit so you can get as much use out of it as possible. While air conditioning systems are excellent in preventing the build-up of mold and mildew in your home or workplace, the units can themselves get moldy without proper care. ACs are designed to draw water moisture out of the air. However, this moisture, combined with the dark ducts inside the AC unit, creates the ideal environment for mold and mildew. Make sure you clean the filters at least once a month, and when the unit isn’t in use, drain the water to avoid mold building up while the unit is in storage.

Options For AC Recycling

If your unwanted AC unit still works but is just an older model, you can recycle it by donating it to a worthwhile cause, such as a charitable organization that can make use of your old unit in its building. While this is a great way to help a local organization in need, you can even earn a tax deduction. There’s also the option to find a local organization that reuses AC parts instead of putting them in a landfill. While not all AC parts are recyclable, some components, such as motors, coils, copper tubing, brass fittings, compressors, and metal ductwork can be given a new lease of life.

Bounty Programs

It’s possible to turn your old AC unit into money through a program sponsored by your regional or local utility. Through the program, you will receive cash in return for allowing the appliance to be picked up and recycled. The program could also offer discounts towards buying a new AC unit. Contact your electricity provider to find out about bounty programs available in your local area. Alternatively, when you are ready to buy a replacement AC, check with the supplier to see whether they’ll dispose of your old model on your behalf. Some retailers provide this as part of the sale, while others will reduce your new unit’s cost in exchange for a trade-in.

Local Disposal Programs

There are regulations relating to the correct disposal of air conditioning units. Therefore, before you toss out your old, unwanted appliance, you should call your local sanitation department to determine if there’s anything you must do to the unit before discarding it. You may be required to take it to a specific disposal area, or you may need a specialist technician to remove the refrigerant or coolant. To ensure the appliance is safe for disposal, you may be required to remove the doors, covers or hatches from the AC to stop small animals or children from getting inside. Any tanks, hoses or tubes that contain coolant or refrigerant must be taken to a hazardous waste collection center for safe disposal.

If your old and trusty air conditioner has finally come to the end of its life, don’t just toss it out with the rest of your garbage. Instead, look at what options are available in your area for recycling AC units, or at the very least, how you can recycle them as safely as possible to minimize your impact on the environment.

Photo by Vladislav Nikonov on Unsplash.