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What Is Compressor Scrap?

By Paul Scott
Updated May 17, 2024
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Compressor scrap is any unserviceable air conditioning or refrigeration compressor collected for the purpose of sale as scrap metal. The compressors are typically stored separately from other scrap metal for a number of reasons. The first is the potential presence of contaminants such as oil and residual refrigerant gas in the compressor housings. The second is the fact that the compressors are sealed units containing several types of metals requiring a separate billing system to that applied to single metal scrap material. These metals typically include aluminum, steel, cast iron, and copper.

Air conditioning and refrigeration compressors generally have very long service lives, but do, eventually, break down and become unservicable. When this occurs, they are typically subject to a compressor salvage system that sees them sold as a specific class of salvaged metal known as compressor scrap. As the compressors are sealed units and will often still contain traces of refrigerant gas and lubricating oil, they are generally stored in batches separately from other scrap metal. In fact, there are many scrap dealerships that deal exclusively with compressor scrap, generally being better-equipped to efficiently deal with the unique requirements surrounding the disposal of compressors.

Another reason for differentiating between compressor scrap and other classes of scrap metal is the diversity of materials that make up a compressor. In most cases, the outer casing of the compressor along with parts such as bolts, fasteners, and piston rings will be made of steel. The piston will typically be made of aluminum alloy, while several bearings will be of white metal construction. The compressor drive motor will contain steel and aluminum parts as well as a considerable amount of copper wire. This range of metals requires a different system of billing than that applied to clean, single material scrap requiring the compressor scrap to be dealt with as a separate entity.

As with all contaminated scrap material, compressor scrap also poses an additional environmental hazard. In most countries, this requires the scrap to be stored and disposed off subject to several special measures that don't apply to other classes of scrap material. Those involved with the storage and stripping of compressor scrap should always be mindful of these hazards and take precautions to protect themselves and the environment from unnecessary exposure to compressor oil. Technicians and repair personal should also dispose of unservicable compressors in a responsible manner, preferably at a facility dealing with compressor scrap.

About Mechanics is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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