Skip to content

How to Dispose of Air Conditioner the Right Way: 3 Practical Options

how to dispose of AC

Air conditioners are some of the most common household appliances in the country, and certainly among the most frequently purchased products on our website. Depending on the type, a good AC unit can last you up to 15 years. However, even the best ACs wear out after exceeding their operational lifespan. Sooner or later that trusty old air conditioner will need to be replaced at some point. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, some 6 million window ACs are discarded across the country each year.

However, disposing of an old AC isn’t as straightforward as throwing it out with the trash. In fact, it’s actually illegal to discard your air conditioner with your regular garbage, and doing so can result in fines of up to $37,000. 

If you’re wondering how to dispose of that rattling old AC, then you’ve come to the right place. In this article, we discuss how to properly dispose of air conditioners, including how to correctly recycle, sell, or donate your AC unit. Following these steps will help protect yourself against a hefty fine — and protect the environment, too.

Why It’s Illegal to Throw Away an Old Air Conditioner

Air conditioners use a cooling refrigerant, which can contain chemicals that are environmentally harmful if improperly disposed of, such as being left to sit in a landfill. 

There are two common types of refrigerants found in AC conditioners today: R-22 refrigerants, which are typically found in older models, and R-410A refrigerants, which are found in newer models. 

R-22 refrigerants contain ozone-depleting chemicals, which is why they have been phased out and are no longer used in new units.. However, because they still emit greenhouse gasses, even the newer R-410A refrigerants can still negatively impact the environment if not properly disposed of. This is why R-410A is in the process of being phased over the next several years, in favor of new A2L refrigerants that are more efficient, less toxic, and have a lower global warming potential. 

According to federal law,

  • All refrigerant should be recovered before dismantling or disposal (40 CFR Part 82 Subpart F)
  • Waste products such as PCB, used oil, or mercury should be properly managed and stored (40 CFR Parts 273, 279, 761)

In addition, states may have their own laws and regulations regarding AC disposal. Some stipulate that durable materials be recycled instead of being disposed of.

Option 1: Recycle the Air Conditioner

If your AC unit is broken and irreparable, you can recycle it — but only after removing its refrigerant first. Do not attempt to do this yourself —  a trained professional will be able to remove the materials safely and according to specific regulations.

In order to properly dispose of the unit, an EPA licensed technician must first recover the refrigerant from the system. There are many companies that do this, including scrap yards, sanitation and recycling companies, and privately owned businesses:

Scrap Yards

To locate a scrap yard in your area, start by visiting your state’s or local government’s website. These sites typically list scrap yards throughout the area to make browsing quick and easy — for example, here’s New Jersey’s full list of scrap yards. The EPA also provides a list of recycling facilities across the country that service its Responsible Appliance Disposal (RAD) partners. If you are unable to find a convenient location online, contact your local government personally and ask where the nearest facility is located.

Statistics on proper appliance disposal

The benefits of proper AC disposal through RAD. Source: United States Environmental Protection Agency.

Sanitation and Recycling Businesses

An alternate option is to reach out to your town’s sanitation or recycling company. These often have special arrangements for air conditioner recycling and will handle the entire process for you, from the removal of the refrigerant to the physical removal of the unit itself. 

Some companies require you to pay a small fee for their services, but sometimes they will end up paying you for the scrap value of the unit. Certain components in your air conditioner, like copper, may still have value even after the AC is old and broken. The larger and heavier your unit, the more value it can potentially have.

While you may be ready to rush your old air conditioner over to the nearest recycling center, it’s important to note that not every AC unit necessarily needs to be scrapped. In fact, selling, donating, or refurbishing your unit can sometimes be the better option.

The RAD Program

The EPA has the Responsible Appliance Disposal (RAD) program, where the agency partners with companies and nonprofits that accept old appliances like air conditioners to facilities that will environmentally recycle them..

The RAD program currently counts over 70 partner facilities across 32 states. Check whether a facility is near your area. 

Local Bounty Programs

Some local utility companies have a bounty or turn-in program. Such utilities pay customers to recycle their old inefficient appliances, including ACs. The payment may come in the form of a rebate, discount of even a stipend. 

The rebates can go toward a newer, more efficient EnergyStar-certified AC.

Option 2: Sell your Air Conditioner

Maybe your air conditioner still has some life left in it. If that’s the case, you may want to consider donating or selling your AC unit to someone in need. But before you go ahead and create a Facebook Marketplacead for your old AC, please note that any air conditioner you plan to sell or donate must have been manufactured after January 1, 2010. 

This is because the law requires that any AC unit that is sold or donated must contain the newer, more efficient R-410A refrigerant, and units built before this date will most likely still contain the ozone-depleting R-22 refrigerants. The EPA has called for the steady removal of all units using R-22 from the electrical grid, so even if your old AC is working fine, containing this type of refrigerant makes it unfit for resale.

Sell your AC to a Refurbishing Business 

Some businesses specialize in refurbishing used ACs to re-sell to hotel chains and similar facilities.

Keep in mind that any AC unit manufactured before 2010 is still not eligible for refurbishing. Models using R-22 refrigerant cannot be equipped with R-410A, no matter how much or how well they are refurbished. All AC units containing R-22 must be disposed of — no exceptions.

Option 3: Donate Your Air Conditioner

If you’re looking to donate your used AC, consider your local facilities. Is there a school, community center, or shop nearby that could use an extra air conditioner? Senior citizens who live alone are often the most in need of donated ACs to get them safely through the summer — in which case, choosing to donate your appliance could actually save somebody’s life.

To donate, you can reach out and arrange your appliance donation yourself, but always make sure to offer to help install the unit or to hire a professional. A donated AC is no good to someone who doesn’t know how to install an AC or is physically incapable of installing it. 

There are also plenty of organizations that hold drives for people or facilities in need of donated appliances, and they will usually have their own team of people to install the AC. Do some research on local charity drives and decide which course of action would be best.

The Benefits of Proper Air Conditioner Recycling & Disposal

We all need to be conscious of the environmental impacts of our choices and actions. Taking steps towards climate control is beneficial to everyone, so make sure you do all you can to be responsible by properly disposing of or recycling your old air conditioner and other appliances. 

If you’re in the market for a new AC unit, be sure to explore all of the options we have here at Total Home Supply.

Mickey Luongo

Mickey is the resident heating and air conditioning expert with over 15 years of experience in the industry.

15 thoughts on “How to Dispose of Air Conditioner the Right Way: 3 Practical Options”

  1. Stephanie Jones says:

    How much does a two year old unit depreciate? I need to come with a value for my hvac that was installed in 2015. I know the amount i paid for it was about $7,000 but it being two years old how much would it be worth selling?

    1. The amount you paid for it would have included installation too. I would suggest finding the actual equipment cost of your unit or a comparable unit to determine what it was worth at the time of install. Generally you expect the HVAC unit to last 27.5 years. So using that you can calculate the depreciation with the total initial value.

  2. Lasheekah Aaron says:

    I have an LG commercial air commercial. Haven’t used it and would like to sell it. Where would be the best place.

    1. Beatrice Jones says:

      I listed my Fridgidaire,15,100 BTU’s, 850sq ft, white AC unit with remote control and cover for $300 on Offer Up, Let Go and Craig’s list. All 3 were at no cost to me. A lot of people have responded. No sale yet.

  3. Francine Jennifer Kranert says:

    So this company i went through to replace 3 ac units and a water heater which all worked fine just wanred to upgrade after the installment I asked the guys if they could just leave the old units on the side of the house and I’ll take care of it and I was told that they loaded on the truck already that was the first thing they said to me and then they said and they can’t leave it legally because of the refrigerant still in them so was I bamboozled

  4. 9 Common Air Conditioner Problems & How to Fix Them says:

    […] your AC system is the right solution for you. And if you do decide to get a new AC unit, be sure to properly recycle your old unit to reduce your environmental […]

  5. Buddy M. Dietz says:

    Thanks for the tips!! Throwing away an old air conditioner is not as simple as leaving it on the curb

  6. Kopernikas Green says:

    Nice tips! Send It off to a scrapyard. Qualified scrapyards undertake the air conditioner disposal process according to EPA regulations. Thanks for the tips.

  7. if you are near Foxboro, Ma, you can drop off your air conditioner for $5 at Eco+ Recycling at 131 Morse St, go around the left side of the building to the back. Their number is 781-964-2226.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *