I have an air conditioning compressor and condenser on the roof of my townhouse that I want to demolish to prepare for a new heating and cooling system. Can I simply disconnect the existing refrigerant lines and let the refrigerant dissipate into the air? The existing air conditioning system was installed in the early 1990s, before we owned the house, so I’m not sure which refrigerant was being used.
Absolutely not! Not only can improper disposal of AC equipment be dangerous for you, your neighbors and the already dwindling ozone layer, but you could get hit with a steep fine from the EPA (at up to $25,000 per day) as a result of ozone layer protection provisions in the Clean Air Act. Passed by Congress in 1990, this law prohibits the release of ozone-depleting refrigerants into the atmosphere during the service, maintenance or disposal of air conditioners and refrigeration equipment. And as of July 1, 1992, refrigerants must be recovered from such appliances before disposal.
Only a qualified professional with the right equipment should disconnect and dispose of your old air conditioning condenser. Your local municipality, waste hauler, landfill management or scrap metal recycling company may be able to help, but if they aren't, contact your city's or county's public works department and ask about home appliance recycling or CFC/HCFC (a.k.a. Freon) recovery programs. Local home appliance retailers or your HVAC contractor should also be able to give helpful direction to keep you and the environment safe during the disposal of old air conditioning equipment.