It’s a good question: “Why is my air conditioner tripping the circuit breaker?” If it happens once, no big deal, but when the A/C repeatedly trips a the circuit breaker, that is a clear sign that something is wrong.
The circuit breaker is considered the “heart” of your energy system, sending out electricity to each of the circuits in your home. Its job is to safely take the electricity that comes into the building and delivering it to the proper places.
When the electrical panel (sometimes a circuit breaker, sometimes a fuse box) detects a dangerous electrical issue, it will automatically shut off power before overheating occurs. Usually, this is because the amount of power that is being demanded is exceeding the amount that it can provide (measured in amps). For instance, if you have a 20-amp circuit breaker but your air conditioner is demanding 30 amps, the breaker will trip.
So, it’s actually a good thing that your circuit breaker is tripping. It is trying to protect you from overheating and a potential electrical fire. But, if you ignore this issue, you may not be so lucky.
NEVER ignore a frequently tripping breaker. This can do damage to your circuits, appliances, and potentially cause a fire.
But the question is, why is the air conditioner overloading the electrical panel to cause a tripped breaker or blown fuse?
The air filter is the first thing you want to check before calling a professional. When you have a dirty and clogged air filter, your HVAC system has to work much harder and longer. This can potentially cause the air conditioner to overheat and trip the breaker.
Check your air filter and replace it if necessary. It’s highly recommended that you check your filter every 30 days and wait no longer than 90 days to replace or clean it. Learn more about your air filter and other DIY air conditioning maintenance here.
Changing a dirty air filter is the only problem that we recommend fixing yourself. Everything else on this list should be done by a professional HVAC technician.
Your air filter isn’t the only thing that can get dirty. The outdoor condensing unit is supposed to dissipate the heat that is collected form the indoors, but if the coils are clogged with dirt and debris, it can’t do its job very well. As a result, your air conditioner has to work longer and harder to deliver the cooling you want.
Although you can remove large debris by hand and rinse your outdoor unit with a regular garden hose, in order to properly clean the outdoor unit, contact a professional HVAC technician. A full condenser coil cleaning comes standard as part of OnTime Service’s annual air conditioning tune-up.
If you do decide to clean your outdoor A/C unit, make sure you don’t bend the coils. They are very vulnerable and even a heavy blast of water can inadvertently bend them. Bent fins block airflow just as dirt and debris do. Never try to straighten the coil fins with a knife or other crude object. Either call a professional to straighten your fins or buy an HVAC fin comb that has been specially designed for condenser fins.
The refrigerant in your HVAC system operates on a closed loop. If you have low refrigerant, there is a leak somewhere in the system. When there is a leak and your refrigerant is low, your air conditioner has to work harder and the conditioned air doesn’t get very cold. This can overload the circuit and cause a tripped breaker or blown fuse.
In order to fix any refrigerant issues, your HVAC technician will need to repair the leak and refill your refrigerant.
Sometimes, the issue has nothing to do with the air conditioner itself, but rather with the electrical panel itself or the wiring that leads to and from the panel.
In order to diagnose electrical panel problems, such as loose wires or a breaker that needs replacing, contact a professional electrician to check the status of your panel.
Your air conditioner’s compressor, the part that compresses the refrigerant to heat it up, requires a lot of electricity. At start up, the compressor must move the refrigerant from a liquid form into a gaseous state. If the compressor is old or damaged, it will start demanding more electricity to function. This can cause the breaker to trip.
Contact a professional HVAC technician to inspect your compressor. The technician may be able to install a “hard start kit” which will help the compressor use less energy and start quicker. Sometimes, however, the compressor needs to be replaced.
A “grounded compressor” is probably the worst thing that causes your A/C to trip the breaker. This happens whenever the electrical wiring inside of the compressor gets loose and hits the siding. When you have a “compressor short to ground,” it can cause a short circuit, which leads to a spike in voltage and a tripped breaker.
If your compressor is at fault, you will need to hire a professional HVAC technician to replace the compressor and clean out the refrigerant lines.
Final Note: If power has been turned off to your unit for more than a couple of hours, set your thermostat from “cool” to “off” and let the unit recover for 24 hours. Then, you switch the unit back to “cool” mode.
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Give OnTime Service a call to schedule your electrical safety inspections at 205-942-1405.
Our experienced team of electricians is fully trained to handle any electrical system.