How to Dispose of an Old Air Conditioner (Recycling Guide)

Like any other item, with time, air conditioners wear out and eventually break down. When this happens, people are often at a loss of what to do with their old AC unit. Some take it off the wall and throw it in the garage for it to rot, while others put their air conditioner out on the curb for the trash collectors to come and pick up.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, US citizens throw out around 6 million window air conditioners every year and what you should know is that you better not toss it irresponsibly as that comes with multiple hazards for the environment!

Know That It Is Illegal To Throw Your AC Unit Out With The Trash.

The reason is that ACs contain cooling refrigerants, which severely contribute to climate change.

In older appliances, the refrigerant contains hazardous chemicals such as chlorofluorocarbon (CFC), while newer models use hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFC), or hydrofluorocarbon (HFC).

All three act as greenhouse gases when released into the atmosphere, and except for number three, one and two cause heavy damage to the ozone layer.

Therefore, it’s crucial to take the time and learn about different options you have to dispose of your AC unit in a safe and proper manner.

Old AC Unit

Bounty Programs

Special organizations offer a deal to AC owners to turn in their old, worn-out appliances. According to the EPA, owners get a “bounty” to allow the recycler to collect and recycle the item. If you want to dispose of your AC unit, this is a great way to do it.

Some bounty programs don’t give a cash reward but offer you discounts on other appliances. If you wish to get such benefits, contact your local hvac company customer service, electricity provider, or search the internet for bounty programs in your area.

Disposal through Your Retailer

When you buy a new air conditioner, check with the retailer to see if they’ll take and dispose of your old AC system for you. Some traders provide this service as part of the sale. Others may give you a discount on the new appliance in exchange for a trade-in.


Recycling is a common practice all over the world, however, most people are not aware that AC units are also suitable to undergo the process. Junk & rubbish professional Luke Hancock from Bin There Dump That (USA) notes that some parts of an air conditioner that are not recyclable. However, components like cardboard boxes, coils, compressors, sheet metal, etc are good to go, he adds.

What you need to do is take your air conditioner to a recycling factory and drop it off at the assigned area. The professionals there will take care of the leftover refrigerant so it’s not left to evaporate and damage the ozone layer.

Disposal through Waste Transfer Stations

A waste transfer station is an industrial facility where the municipal solid scrap is temporarily stored. Later, authorities pick up and transport the waste to a landfill or a waste treatment facility. Most people prefer to discard their AC units or other appliances through these stations as it saves them time and worries.

How to Sell or Donate Your AC

If your air conditioner still has life left in it, then sell or donate it to someone in need. But before you go ahead, please note that it is illegal to trade an AC unit manufactured before January 1, 2010. The reason is that the law requires that the HVAC brands up for sale must contain the newer, safer refrigerant. The air conditioners built before this date are most likely to contain ozone-depleting refrigerants, which makes them unfit to sell or donate.

Donate Your Air Conditioner

If you want to donate your used AC, consider your local facilities. Is there a school, community center, or homeless shelter that needs an extra air conditioner?

Also, senior citizens who live alone often can’t afford to buy one, so they’ll appreciate your help. If your budget allows it, hire a professional to install the AC system.

Sell Your Air Conditioner

Another option to dispose of your old air conditioner is to sell it. Many people are open to the idea of buying a secondhand AC. Also, there are small companies that buy and refurbish old air conditioners to re-sell them afterward.

Local Disposal Programs

Before you dispose of your old AC unit in a landfill, trash or recycle bin, contact the local sanitation department to guide you on how to dispose of the unit properly. Some appliances are easy to dispose of, simply transport them to a designated disposal area. This system makes it easier for authorities to take care of the appliances while other items require a professional technician.

Here are some tips to help you prepare and discard your old AC unit properly:

  1. Detach covers or hatches from the AC unit.
  2. Drain the refrigerant from the tank. Never do this on your own! Have an appliance expert drain the coolant from your air conditioner before you recycle, sell or donate it.
  3. Dispose of hazardous waste. Don’t forget to take tanks, tubes, hoses, and others to a hazardous waste collection center.
  4. Get help. It is dangerous to lift and move heavy units on your own as you may injure yourself. It is good to find someone to lend you a hand.
  5. Manhandle with caution. When you haul your air conditioner be careful not to damage any tubing or cause leakage of refrigerant since, as mentioned above, the substance is dangerous both to you and the environment.
Window AC from Outside

Why Is Proper AC Disposal Important?

We all need to be conscious of the environmental footprint we leave through our daily choices and actions. It makes a difference if even one person takes a step towards climate control. One way to be proactive is to make sure you responsibly dispose of your old AC unit and other appliances.

Dmitri Kara

Dmitri Kara

Started writing as a jack of all trades in 2012 and is currently a recognized expert in a wide range of domestic and commercial trade topics. Dmitri has appeared for quite a few reputable outlets such as,,,,, and many more.