How to Uninstall a Split Air Conditioner

wall mounted AC during installation or removal
  • 1-3 hours
  • Advanced
  • 15-50

When you purchase a new appliance, you can find lots of easy-to-follow instructions for installing it. But when it comes to learning how to uninstall a split air conditioner...well, that's a different story.

If you need to know how to uninstall a split air conditioner, you will find that it's not quite as easy as installing the device in the first place. Luckily, this is something that anyone can learn how to do as a DIY project that isn't at all too difficult as long as you have a few tools and some time.

What Is a Split Air Conditioner?

Split air conditioners are so named because they have two parts: a condenser and compressor unit that is outside the house and an indoor unit that actually blows the cool air into the home.

This is a very common AC design that works very well, but nothing lasts forever.

A wall-mounted split air conditioner is considered one of the best ways of cooling a room without damaging windows or doors. It simply fixes to the wall with a few screws and a couple of holes.

Other types of split air conditioner units actually do require you to cut holes into the wall during installation. This means that during uninstallation, you will eventually need to fix these holes.

There may come a time when the unit ceases to function, either due to age, electrical problems, or debris buildup, and it may be necessary to get rid of it. You may be upgrading to a different cooling system.

Or, it may be a good idea to uninstall the AC unit during wintertime. No matter why you're uninstalling the unit, you want to do it the right way and cause as little damage as possible.

Uninstall a Split AC Unit

Before you get started with the uninstallation, turn off all the power to the AC unit. You can do this at the breaker box if you can identify which breaker supplies power to the unit.

If not, turn off all the power to the house. It is better to take this safety precaution than to take a chance that the unit is receiving any power at all.

Remember that the split-type conditioner has outside and inside units that are not always connected to each other, other than with wires and piping. Make sure power is turned off to both units.

Disconnect the Wires

Go to the outside unit first and remove the cover that guards the innards of the machine. You will need a screwdriver for this, typically a standard-sized Phillips or flathead.

Take a photo. In fact, take several if you plan to sell the unit or ever use it again.

If the unit is ever going to be in use in the future, you need to know how each and every wire should be connected, so take a photo so you can clearly see the wire connections. Save the photo so that you can refer to it whenever the AC unit is re-installed.

Remove the nuts that hold the electrical wires secure inside the unit. If wires need to be removed or disconnected, you might need an Allen wrench.

Unscrew all of the wires or the unit can't be removed. You may need to remove an additional side panel that houses even more wires and then remove these wires as well.

Check carefully because you do not want to find even one wire is still connected when you attempt to remove the unit. Do not pull or cut wires, as this will cause damage.

Disconnect the Piping

Next, unscrew the copper pipe which connects the inside and outside units. Put a bucket or tray underneath each side of the pipe in order to catch spills from the refrigerant.

Save the pipe. Even if you do not reuse it, even a small piece of copper will fetch a pretty price at any scrapyard that purchases metal.

Remove the Inside Unit

Unscrew the screws from the inside air conditioner unit that hold it in place and take the unit off the wall. You may need assistance with this if the unit is heavy or even if it's not, as it can be awkward to unscrew with one hand while you hold an AC unit that is half-on and half-off the wall at the same time.

Remove the Outside Unit

Move to the outside unit. You will almost certainly need assistance with this part of the job, depending on how large and heavy the unit is.

Unscrew the hardware securing the outside unit and pull the unit away from the house. Dispose of it or store it for future use.

Patch Hole if Necessary

After removing the split air conditioner, depending on the type of air conditioner unit you have, you will notice that there is a hole in the wall. If you are intending to replace the unit with another, this hole can be reused for the new installation.

If not, you will need to patch the hole. This is going to be the hardest part of the uninstallation and you will have some decisions to make.

Frame the hole with 2x4 pieces of wood. You might need to use a small saw to cut out a more perfect shape to make framing easier.

Do not cut through any studs under any circumstances, as this will compromise the integrity of your wall.

Start inside the house. Cut a piece of drywall to size to fit over the frame and secure it with drywall nails.

Cover all the seams of the drywall with joint compound using a special joint compound knife and allow this to dry and set for 24 hours. Apply more compound if needed and allow it to dry before proceeding on the inside portion of the wall.

Cover the drywall with mud, a common home improvement material that is used in buildings.

Sand down the mud to smooth it. The drywall can now be primed and painted to match the rest of the wall.

Move to the outside. Stuff the hole with insulation first.

Cut a sheet of plywood to the size of the hole and place it over the hole, securing it with wood nails. You will need to now finish the hole with the treatment your home already has, such as siding or bricks.

If it is impractical to patch the hole, you will still have to do something with it so the elements and pests don’t enter your home freely. The easier option might be to install a new window or even a new door, which can become a new feature of the home.

How to Uninstall a Split Air Conditioner

Uninstalling a split air conditioner is not so difficult, but it does take a little bit of work and a few different common hand tools. Assemble your items and schedule some time because you will spend some time completing this project.

Work carefully and safely, and uninstalling the split air conditioner won't be too difficult. Get your tools and materials together beforehand and the job will go much more quickly and smoothly.

Split AC Uninstallation FAQs

How long does it take to uninstall a split air conditioner?

Uninstalling a split air conditioner involves a lot of unscrewing things, which does not take a lot of time. You can get both parts of the unit disconnected and removed in a couple of hours or less in most cases.

Patching holes in the wall, which is the second part of the uninstallation, can take several hours to over 24 hours, depending on the fix you choose for the hole.

If you're going to install new siding or masonry, the project could take several more hours or even several more days if you're hiring a professional crew to finish this repair.

Installing a new window or door to fix the hole will also take several hours or days if you choose to have this professionally installed.

How much does it cost to uninstall a split AC unit?

To actually uninstall the split air conditioner unit, you won't need to spend much money or maybe even any money if you already own the screwdrivers you need to remove the hardware that secures both units in place.

If you don't already own these tools, you will need to purchase one or more screwdrivers to remove the screws and an Allen wrench to remove the wiring. An inexpensive screwdriver set can cost as little as $10 or less, so you don’t have to spend a lot on tools if you find you need some.

Patching the hole will be the biggest expense and this cost will vary depending on how big the hole is and how you choose to repair it. A sheet of drywall, which should be large enough to patch most holes, costs around $15.

You will also need joint compound, a knife to smooth it with, drywall nails, and a hammer. Joint compound costs around $15 in a smaller bucket size.

Plywood and 2 x 4 pieces of wood could cost anywhere from $200 to well over $1,000, depending on how much material you need.

If you are placing a new window or door in the hole, you will spend anywhere from $100 to $1,000, depending on the type of window or door you choose. If you plan to get this professionally installed, add even more to the price.

How do you properly dispose of a split air conditioner unit?

Once all the work is complete and the air conditioner unit is properly uninstalled, you're left with an old air conditioner on your hands. What the heck do you do now?

You have a few options when it comes to disposing of a split air conditioner unit the right way. Some scrap yards are certified to receive and process air conditioner units in accordance with EPA regulations and they will accept these old units any time during normal business hours.

Look up the company that manufactured the unit. Some companies offer recycling and rebate programs and may even come and pick up the old unit for you.

You can also turn the unit into a recycling program in your local area. If none of these options are available or viable, contact your trash collection service and ask them how to dispose of the unit.

Often, your trash collection service will arrange special pick-ups for large items such as old AC units.

What type of air conditioner should you be using?

Split air conditioners work effectively to cool down your home but they aren’t your only option. Now is the time to consider making a change, if you think a different type of AC might be more effective.

There are a few different options for keeping your home cool if you want to consider the possibilities.

Central air conditioners send cool air through ductwork out through vents that blow the air into different rooms of the home.

Window air conditioners sit half-in and half-out of the home, and effectively cool down one room. These small units often don't provide cooling power for more than a single room but they do work well for the room they are in.

These are the common types of AC units but you have several options to choose from when you need a new unit. If you plan to replace your split air conditioner with a whole new system, consider these options carefully and pick the type of AC that’s going to work best for you and your home.

Further Reading

3 DIY Air Conditioners

How to Clean a Mini Split Air Conditioner

How to Clean Your Air Conditioner at Home

How to Mud Drywall Joints

How to Remove Musty Smells from a Home Air Conditioner

How to Seal Space Around an Air Conditioner Unit

How to Service and Maintain Your Air Conditioner

How Ventilation Occurs with a Split Air Conditioner

Phillips Head Screwdrivers: Easy Guide to Sizes