How to Dispose of an Old Air Conditioner

Window air conditioner next to houseplant

The Spruce / Adrienne Legault

Air conditioners, regardless of type, all contain some form of cooling refrigerant. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, many window air-conditioning units, and dehumidifiers contain hydrochlorofluorocarbon 200 (HCFC) refrigerant, an ozone-depleting substance (ODS) that, if released to the environment, can destroy the ozone layer. The refrigerant is also potent greenhouse gases that contribute to global climate change

Even those air conditioners that do not contain ODS must be carefully handled because they contain greenhouse gases.

This means that it is illegal to simply put your air conditioner out with the trash or drop it off at the dump. Instead, you will have to take the time to learn about options and then properly dispose of your air conditioning unit.

Options for Air Conditioner Disposal

There are quite a few options available for air conditioner disposal. Some may even leave you with some extra cash in hand. To make the best choice, you'll need to do a little research.

Bounty Programs

Amazingly, you may be able to turn in your air conditioning unit and get money back through a special program sponsored by a local or regional utility. According to the EPA, an appliance owner is paid a "bounty" to allow the recycler to collect and recycle the appliance. The program may also offer rebates or discounts toward the purchase of new higher-efficiency models. To find out if bounty programs are offered in your area, contact your electricity provider.

Local Disposal Programs

As there are federal or state/province regulations as to the disposal of these types of appliances, before you dispose of it in a landfill, recycle or trash bin, call your local sanitation department to find out if it needs to be prepared before it can be discarded. It may just need to be taken to a certain disposal area, or it may require a qualified technician to remove the coolant, similar to what is done with the disposal of refrigerators and freezers.

Disposal Through Your Retailer

When buying a replacement air conditioner, check with the retailer to see if they'll take and dispose of your old model for you. Some merchants may provide this service as part of the sale; others may reduce the cost of your appliance in exchange for a trade-in.


There are two very different ways to recycle your old air conditioner. If it is functional but older, you may want to reconsider recycling by donating to a worthy cause that can use the air conditioner for its building. When you take that route, you not only help a local charity, but you also earn a tax deduction.

Another way to recycle is to seek out a local organization that reuses parts rather than putting them into a landfill. While some parts of an air conditioner are not recyclable, many, such as metals and plastics, can be reused.

Article Sources
The Spruce uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Residential Air Conditioning and the Phaseout of HCFC-22: What You Need to Know. Environmental Protection Agency

  2. Frequently Asked Questions about Safe Disposal of Refrigerated Household Appliances. Environmental Protection Agency