Author Topic: Central Air stolen  (Read 5745 times)

Must_Stash

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Central Air stolen
« on: July 14, 2014, 06:16:33 PM »
I've been rehabbing my rental home, a first-time investment.  A tenant is lined up for August and the place is almost ready.  Then this morning they took the central air.  They lifted it off the slab behind the house and carried it into my garage, having pried open the door.  There they broke it down and took only the copper.  They did this in 20 minutes: Neighbor 1 walked her dog past at 6:30, saw nothing, but neighbor 2 walked by at 7:00 and saw two men pulling away from my open garage.  They drove a car with no plates, wore black hoodies(!) and sunglasses (!) and my witness didn't call the cops.  Though he found it weird, he rationalized it, which I guess most people would do.  Took the police 6 hours to arrive.  They would not take a report at the station.  :(

I think my insurance through Secura is not sufficient for my needs.  $40 a month and I have a $1000 deductible for each occurrence.  When I thought in terms of house fires, falling trees, and tornados, that seemed good.  Now not so much!

This will wipe out so much gain from so much hard work.  I put about $20,000 into this house, 3 months rehabbing, have $40,000 on the mortgage, PITI almost $500 a month, all for $1025 rent.  I thought maybe $300 a month would go to cover expected expenses/maintenance on average.  But what if these guys come back?  What if they break in for the pipes?   

daverobev

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Re: Central Air stolen
« Reply #1 on: July 14, 2014, 06:29:31 PM »
I feel for you - just had a couple of window a/c units and stove taken from our new rental. Sucks, and makes you feel powerless..

Chin up. Life is a rollercoaster...

Another Reader

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Re: Central Air stolen
« Reply #2 on: July 14, 2014, 06:33:49 PM »
Replace or repair the A/C unit and purchase a cage for it.  Yes, they may come back.  Put a security door on the people door from the garage to the yard and if you have a sectional roll up door, disconnect the opener and slide the bolt on the door into the opening.

In Arizona during the meltdown, A/C unit theft was everywhere.  If you are in a marginal neighborhood, it's more frequent.

If the entire unit has to be replaced, you will need to file a claim.  It's going to be much more than the $1k deductible.

Must_Stash

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Re: Central Air stolen
« Reply #3 on: July 14, 2014, 06:55:06 PM »
Thanks for the encouraging words. 

The cage is a good idea.

 The neighborhood is nice, the neighbors are responsible, home-owning, solid people and very community-building.  Yet this still happens, right under our noses.  These guys drive in from 30+ blocks away and out again.

Another Reader

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Re: Central Air stolen
« Reply #4 on: July 14, 2014, 07:26:28 PM »
I have a number of rentals and so far (knock on wood) I have been lucky.  The cages started with the foreclosures in 2009 or so.  They won't help if you are the only home in a vacant subdivision, but your unit will likely get passed over if a cage and a security door are in place anywhere else.  Sliding the bolt in the garage door after unplugging the opener just discourages the ones that want to pry the sectional door open.  Roof mounted units are less prone to theft, but you rarely see them in newer homes.

Here the thieves go after the copper in the streetlights.  I don't know how they avoid electrocution, but the lights are popular targets.

Must_Stash

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Re: Central Air stolen
« Reply #5 on: July 14, 2014, 07:46:48 PM »
I was surprised they didn't get shocked doing this.  But they have their methods, evidently.  First thing I did was check the breaker.  It wasn't tripped.  I don't know much about electricity, but I thought severing that line would do-- something.

Luckily the tenant is not alarmed and eager to move in.  We even agreed she should move in sooner rather than later.  They did not touch any occupied homes.

Another Reader

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Re: Central Air stolen
« Reply #6 on: July 14, 2014, 07:55:06 PM »
I also padlock the gate(s) to the back yard.  Anything that slows the thieves down may push them off to the next target.

SDREMNGR

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Re: Central Air stolen
« Reply #7 on: July 14, 2014, 08:31:11 PM »
I've had copper thieves steal 6 inches of the main copper line into the building.  Cost me hundreds in damage for $10 for them.

If you must, I'd sleep nights there. 

dragoncar

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Re: Central Air stolen
« Reply #8 on: July 14, 2014, 11:22:23 PM »
That sucks!  How much is the copper worth?  And where do you sell it?  I mean, it's terrible that there are so many places to sell the copper, but which one specifically is the best?

Bobberth

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Re: Central Air stolen
« Reply #9 on: July 15, 2014, 08:31:18 AM »
Usually there is a disconnect for the power within a few feet of the unit so the thieves disconnect the power by flipping the breaker or pulling the fuse and there is no chance of electrocution.  For the future, it may be worth putting a padlock on the disconnect to make your house as unattractive as possible for thieves.  I'm not sure that it's code to leave it on all the time but during rehab it shouldn't be a problem.  I'm pretty sure it is code to have a disconnect so close to the unit or I assume everybody would be putting the disconnect inside the house to help prevent theft.  You may want to ask when you get it replaced.

AC cages around here cost about $200-$250 at iron shops.  Cages are a good investment for rentals. 

Check craigslist and get some quotes.  There are usually lots of HVAC guys that get paid $20/hour that are willing to do side work for $40/hour while a company charges you $100/hour.  My guy from CL charges $2500 for a new furnace, AC & water heater install, including duct work to fit the new units.  Not sure the breakdown but since you are just doing the AC and would need any duct work, you might be able to get it done for around your $1000 deductible where it wouldn't be worth an insurance claim.

For the pipes, I have 'stolen' my own pipes by removing the copper and replacing with pex.  Pex is cheap, easy to work with and, at least if I remove the copper, I can do it in a way that is easy to repair instead of dealing with pipes broken off behind walls and above the floors.  I bought a dual tool for 1/2" and 3/4" crimping for $50 and it's amazing how you can bend the pipe to get around obstacles that would take many fittings for copper.  Anything that goes up a wall you just cut off in the basement and attach pex to the existing copper.  Most thieves just steal out of the basement as it's quicker, safer and the most profitable for them.

Another thing you can do, while it won't necessarily prevent the theft of water pipes, is to spray paint the copper black.  For one, thieves may think that it is iron/galvanized pipe and leave it alone.  Two, if they do steal it, they will receive less money for it as the scrap centers won't pay as much for painted copper as they will for 'clean' copper so at least you give them an FU. 

iris lily

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Re: Central Air stolen
« Reply #10 on: July 15, 2014, 08:37:50 AM »
OP, so sorry to hear this.

It's discouraging to see the eejit perps make off with $20 of copper after destroying $1,000 worth of equipment.

Must_Stash

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Re: Central Air stolen
« Reply #11 on: July 18, 2014, 02:31:07 PM »
Thanks Iris Lily.

Boberth,

Have you found that security bolts to attach AC to pad are a good deterrence?  Ever use alarms like AC watchdog or know of anyone who has?  My AC guy is quoting $950 for pouring a slab and installing a cage!  Also, is a frame cage sufficient, or is a complete expanded-metal enclosure necessary IYO?  Thanks so much for the tips you've given already.

Bobberth

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Re: Central Air stolen
« Reply #12 on: July 18, 2014, 02:55:46 PM »
As you posted, the thieves want the $3/lb copper on the inside not the $0.1/lb steel on the outside so bolting the AC down will require thieves to tear it apart in place.  That could deter them as they are out in the open, but they will only find that it won't move once they have decided to steal the AC.  It might be too late for them to 'turn back' at that point.  I think cages work best as a 'finding an easier target' deterrent.

$950 seems pricey for a pad and cage.  I've paid around $200-$250 depending on size and options (I'm in St. Louis).  I'm a bit confused to what you are talking about, but a simple frame cage should be ok.  I have one house that has 2 bars going over it making a simple X and no problems so far. 

I've never seen anybody pour a concrete pad.  From what I have seen, they use preformed pads that they bring in and set the AC on.  HVAC guys don't want to spend the extra time to put in forms, mix the concrete and wait for it to dry.  No idea what pads cost. 

I've never used an alarm.  I've purchased properties with stolen ACs but I've never had one stolen from me (knock on wood).  Water pipes, furnace and tools I've had stolen but not ACs.  Unless you are in a crazy bad neighborhood, I would think a cage would deter people unless they are super determined to steal, but really, what would work in that situation?

If you're going to hold this house long term, definitely get a cage.  If this is a rehab to sell, if it's a better neighborhood that a cage may be looked down on, wait until the very end to reinstall the AC.  Maybe even list it as AC will be installed by closing and then install once you have a contract.

Must_Stash

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Re: Central Air stolen
« Reply #13 on: July 18, 2014, 05:43:49 PM »
Thank-you.  I'm going to look for a separate install on the simple x-frame cage.  I want to go with my trusted provider/servicer/friend for the AC, but getting bids on the cage is going to be necessary.

jmoney

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Re: Central Air stolen
« Reply #14 on: July 30, 2014, 06:07:32 AM »
I have a friend in Florida with a few rental properties in rough areas that has this happen all the time. He has a local alarm company that can sound the alarm when the outside unit is being stolen because they run a wire to the outside unit that attaches to the inside security system. When the wire breaks the alarm sounds immediately. You still probably will lose your freon if they already cut that, but it can be fixed cheaper than a new unit.

Anyone know of any alarm companies or systems that support inputs into their system? I'm trying to find out someone who does this near me.

dragoncar

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Re: Central Air stolen
« Reply #15 on: July 30, 2014, 06:41:18 AM »
I have a friend in Florida with a few rental properties in rough areas that has this happen all the time. He has a local alarm company that can sound the alarm when the outside unit is being stolen because they run a wire to the outside unit that attaches to the inside security system. When the wire breaks the alarm sounds immediately. You still probably will lose your freon if they already cut that, but it can be fixed cheaper than a new unit.

Anyone know of any alarm companies or systems that support inputs into their system? I'm trying to find out someone who does this near me.

I don't know about modern boxes, but old boxes I've looked at had pretty standard looking contact points for adding new sensors. 

libertarian4321

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Re: Central Air stolen
« Reply #16 on: August 02, 2014, 04:49:56 AM »
It's unfortunate that this happened and the police pretty much blew it off.

If you can't secure it, and it's only a short time. sleep there to protect it.

GrayGhost

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Re: Central Air stolen
« Reply #17 on: August 02, 2014, 10:15:42 AM »
Many sympathies, OP.

OP, so sorry to hear this.

It's discouraging to see the eejit perps make off with $20 of copper after destroying $1,000 worth of equipment.

I once heard a horror story about a rehab... all of the metal plumbing had been replaced with ABS and PEX, but thieves broke in and gutted half of the walls to get a tiny section of copper pipe from the supply. What an absolute mess and expense it was.

BlueHouse

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Re: Central Air stolen
« Reply #18 on: August 02, 2014, 11:34:28 AM »

Anyone know of any alarm companies or systems that support inputs into their system? I'm trying to find out someone who does this near me.

I think it's pretty easy these days with all the wireless capabilities.  You can do this yourself using any z-wave compatible hubs like micasverde and vera.  I use Alarm.com and just added a few of z-wave items so that any event on the z-wave system can trigger any other event (outdoor motion sensor causes indoor lights to go on at certain times if the alarm is in a certain mode) and so I can control things over the internet. Many of the parts are wireless so theoretically, there is no limit to the number of sensors. 

And I'm sorry people suck and steal.  That sucks.