Air conditioning systems have long been tempting targets for criminals who steal valuable metals such as copper from the inside of cooling units. Nationwide reports suggest a new and even more dangerous trend in air conditioning-related thefts: the stealing of refrigerant for use as an inhalant to get high. This practice, known as refrigerant huffing, is costly to the air conditioner’s owner and can be dangerous, even deadly, to participants.
Refrigerant huffing is the practice of deliberately inhaling or sniffing refrigerant to get a rush or a high. Refrigerant thieves open the air conditioner’s service valve and capture escaping refrigerant in a bag or other container, then breathe it in. Refrigerant can be stolen and inhaled very quickly.
Inhaling refrigerants is extremely dangerous and harmful to health and can cause problems such as:
- Refrigerant poisoning: A potentially fatal condition with symptoms such as difficulty breathing, swelling in the throat, burning eyes and mucous membranes, vision loss, abnormal heartbeat, and failure of the circulatory system.
- Cardiac problems: This includes heart attacks, cardiac arrest, high blood pressure and abnormal heart rhythms.
- Sudden death syndrome: Here, the heart stops abruptly and fatally in response to refrigerant inhalation.
Refrigerant theft can also harm air conditioning systems. Thieves can damage the unit and the service valve while breaking into the unit. Air conditioners with reduced levels of refrigerant will not work properly, possibly causing damage from the increased stress from keeping up with cooling demands.
You can reduce the chances of refrigerant theft by installing a specialized locking cap on the service valve of air conditioning and refrigeration units. This valve is where refrigerant would commonly be added or extracted during maintenance. Security caps are constructed of tough metal that makes them difficult to damage. They require a specially designed key for removal; otherwise, they simply spin in place, frustrating attempts to remove them.
CCAC, Inc. lives up to its name by being Constantly Concerned About Customers. We serve HVAC clients in Corpus Christi and the Coastal Bend. Contact us today for more information on air conditioner security and what you can do to keep your cooling system safe from refrigerant thieves.
Our goal is to help educate our customers in Corpus Christi, Texas about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems). For more information about refrigerant huffing and other HVAC topics, download our free Home Comfort Resource guide.
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