HVAC Theft is on the Rise, How Can You Stay Safe?
Theft within the HVAC industry is not a new story. Theft of HVAC equipment, precious metals, items being stolen from service vehicles, and inventory shrinkage have been contractor concerns starting prior to the pandemic. Due to the pandemic’s effect on our economy and the supply chain shortage, contractors have been experiencing theft now more than ever before.
There are many ways for homeowners to protect their HVAC equipment from being stolen. Homeowners may not be aware that theft is at an all-time high. The first step for contractors is to inform their customers of the ongoing issue. ACCA member, LCS Heating and Cooling shares the following tips to help prevent theft:
1) Have a motion light around your air conditioner for nighttime surveillance. If someone tries to steal your equipment at night, the light will shine brightly on them, revealing their presence.
2) Create a cage and install it around the air conditioners. The cages will be bolted to a concrete pad or concreted onto the ground. They are made of steel and come with padlocks that will deter a thief from even attempting to steal from a homeowner’s property.
3) Install an alarm system on your air conditioner. There are products sold that have a similar function to a car alarm. When your AC unit is being tampered with, a loud noise is made that alerts the owner.
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In response to a March 28, 2022, question posted on PopVille, copper theft is on the rise. A Washington, DC resident reported they experienced copper theft the day after they had service work completed. The copper piping was stolen right from their home. Community members offered quite a few suggestions on how to prevent future issues, including painting the copper so that with the trim of color a customer can hide the copper.
According to ACHR News, increased risk of theft has been added to the list of concerns that HVAC contractors face. These contractors consistently struggle with shortages of supplies and equipment. It is reported that equipment needs to be installed and maintained inside the vehicles to avoid being a target for thieves. Theft is bound to happen as equipment price continues to rise.
Adrian Steel, an ACCA Corporate Partner, suggests investing in work van security. Here are just a few tips from their website to increase service vehicle safety:
- Upgrade the locks on your vehicle. Deadlocks and slam locks are just two examples of lock upgrades. Slam locks automatically lock vehicle doors when they are shut without requiring the driver to act.
- Install tracker technology into your vehicle. It can help locate a vehicle promptly, which locates the vehicle once it is stolen. This saves time and money on resources to find the car and reduces the chance of having to replace the costly equipment that was stolen since it was tracked.
- Remote car starters can help prevent theft. Newer models are equipped with alarms and notifications that deter thieves since they attract more attention. This can also decrease the need to leave your vehicle running unoccupied for an extended period of time.
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Some companies experience theft committed by employees, which leads to inventory shrinkage. Check out this ACCA blog article that addresses how to approach inventory shrinkage, which states that, “There are no “one size fits all” answers; however, there are indications that may provide insight, as well as suggested strategies to handle problematic shrinkage issues.”
If there appears to be a shrinkage concern with an employee, it is always best to document the issue and speak with them directly. There could be a valid reason for why something is off, but if there is misconduct, an investigation or inquiry should be conducted to determine whether the employee will be dismissed, suspended, demoted, or given mandatory restitution or criminal charges.
There is no way to 100 percent prevent theft. With our current climate, there are people that are acting out of desperation to make a quick buck. HVAC workers must be proactive with taking necessary steps and proper precautions to prevent theft as much as possible. It is important for contractors to educate their customers/homeowners on ways they can protect their property. An important takeaway is that HVAC companies need to invest in vehicle safety measures. Thieves know service vehicles are prime targets for theft because they carry high value items. Finally, having an internal standard operating procedure to track inventory can help reduce shrinkage and theft for all HVAC equipment.
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