Copper theft is on the rise and Boston has seen a rash of thefts involving copper plumbing. Boston Housing Authority employees are facing a Civil Service Hearing related to accusations that they illegally removed copper plumbing from a public housing complex in Roslindale.

Last month, two men were arrested in New Hampshire in connection with the theft of copper from National Grid in North Andover in two separate incidents. Police estimate that the National Grid copper was worth more than $30,000. Later in the month, National Grid also reported the theft of about $6,000 worth of copper from a power plant in Whitman.

Copper theft isn’t limited to commercial properties, though. Last month, a New Hampshire man was arrested after attempting to steal copper plumbing from a home for sale in Manchester. In that theft, the combined damage total from the copper theft and leaking water was estimated at $3,000.
Scrap copper is worth about $2.50-$3.00 per pound, and the cost of copper is rising slightly. That puts homeowners with copper plumbing at an increased risk of copper theft. Exposed copper connections on central air conditioning units are also becoming a favorite target of thieves.

What can you do to protect yourself? We recommend that you sheathe any exposed (outdoor) copper pipe with flexible conduit to shield the copper from view. That’s not going to stop a determined thief, but out-of-sight, out-of-mind sometimes works.

Empty residential buildings are at the greatest risk of theft. Removing copper does take a bit of time, so thieves will be looking for opportunities to work undisturbed. Motion alarms, burglar alarms and observant neighbors may deter some thieves, but few things will dissuade a determined thief from getting in.

One approach to consider when a home is empty is turning off the water at the main and draining the plumbing system. That won’t prevent copper theft, but it can prevent resulting water damage to your unoccupied home. Maintain your insurance coverage on the structure, and your loss will be limited to the value of your deductible.

Draining the plumbing in an empty home isn’t a bad strategy, even if copper theft isn’t on your mind. When your pipes are empty and the water is turned off, you avoid pipe damage that might occur during an extended power loss. If you know you’ll be gone for an extended period of time and you would like help draining your plumbing or your boiler, contact Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating at (617) 362-0377 . We’ll be happy to drain your pipes and winterize your boiler. Upon your return, we’ll repressurize the systems, and bleed residual air from radiators and plumbing lines.

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