How Much Copper Is in a Refrigerator Compressor? Answered

When it comes to making money from scrap metal, large appliances like refrigerators can be some of the best sources for cash. Refrigerators, in particular, can increase your income because of the compressors, which contain quite a bit of copper — the type of scrap metal that commands the highest price at scrap yards. A refrigerator compressor may contain anywhere from one to two-and-a-half pounds of copper. Below, we have the details of how much copper you can find in a refrigerator compressor, along with how much money the copper is worth.

How Much Copper Is in a Refrigerator Compressor?

On average, compressors from small refrigerators contain about one pound of copper and compressors from large refrigerators contain about two pounds of copper. We contacted scrap yards in Colorado, Kansas, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania to obtain information on the amount of copper typically found in refrigerator compressors, as well as sample prices for copper and compressors.

Online reports from scrappers match the information the scrap yards provided. Scrappers posting videos about refrigerator compressors on YouTube report getting one and a half pounds of copper from a small compressor and more than two pounds of copper from a large compressor. (Note: The videos linked were posted in 2013 and 2015, so any prices mentioned may no longer be accurate. Below, we’ve outlined the various types of copper scrap and how much you can expect to get by scrapping the copper in your refrigerator.

Types of Copper Scrap

There are four general categories for scrap copper:

  • Bright copper wire: This is the most valuable type of copper and refers to copper wire that is clean and unwrapped.
  • Insulated copper wire: This type of copper is generally the least valuable. Most scrappers take the time to strip insulated copper wire in order to sell it at the much higher bright copper wire price.
  • Scrap #1 copper: This refers to copper tubing and scrap that are pure copper — in other words, free of dirt, grime, oil, sediment, and non-copper welds. Clean copper plumbing pipes are an example of Scrap #1 copper. Prices for #1 copper are usually a few cents lower than bright copper wire prices. Most refrigerators have some copper tubing that can be removed and sold along with the copper from the compressor.
  • Scrap #2 copper: This includes copper tubing or wire coils that may have oil, paint, grit, or sediment on them or have been welded or joined to other materials. Prices for #2 copper are typically a few cents lower than #1 copper. Scrap #2 copper is what’s found in refrigerator compressors.

How Much are Refrigerator Compressors Worth as Scrap?

There are a few different ways you can sell a refrigerator for scrap. The least profitable way is to scrap the refrigerator as a whole unit, in which case you would get a per-pound price for scrap metal. The scrap yards we contacted quoted refrigerator prices around $15 to $30 per unit, depending on the size and weight of the refrigerator.

You can make more money by removing the compressor before scrapping the refrigerator. Compressors weigh, on average, 15 to 20 pounds, which won’t make much of a difference in the overall weight of a refrigerator (most refrigerators weigh 200 to 400 pounds) when you later scrap it for metal. Once you have removed the compressor, you can sell it alone as scrap or dismantle it and remove the copper to sell separately. We found that the average scrap price for sealed compressors ranges from $0.05 to $0.08 per pound. So, for a 15-pound unit, the full price for a sealed refrigerator compressor would be about $1. You can increase your earnings by removing the copper and selling the components separately.

The scrap yards we contacted gave the following prices (as of press time) for Scrap #2 copper, the type of copper found in refrigerator compressors (We have more details on pricing in our article on scrap copper prices per pound/ton/ounce/gram.):

  • Colorado: $1.80 per pound
  • Kansas: $1.68 per pound
  • Michigan: $1.96 per pound
  • New Jersey: $2.10 per pound
  • New York: $1.61 per pound
  • Pennsylvania: $1.92 per pound

Since refrigerator compressors have one to two-and-a-half pounds of #2 copper in them, and you can scrap the copper for around $2 per pound, you’ll get about $2 to $5 for the copper alone. You can then sell the compressor (minus the copper) as steel scrap. You may be able to get even more money out of the unit by scrapping any copper tubing attached to the compressor as well.

For a list of current market prices on all types of scrap metal, check out the iScrap App. The app can also help you search for scrap years in your area. You might want to call ahead to a few scrap yards to find out which ones take refrigerator compressor copper and if there are any restrictions. Plus, by calling around you can find the best prices.

In Summary

Now you know how much copper is in a refrigerator compressor. Refrigerator compressors contain anywhere from about one to two-and-a-half pounds of copper, which can be sold at scrap yards for a higher profit than the price of the compressor alone. Scrap prices for copper from refrigerator compressors average about $2 per pound. For more on selling scrap metal, see our articles: Price of Scrap Metal Recycling Per Pound, Per Ton and Scrap Copper Wire Prices Per Pound.

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