Why is My A/C Unit Tripping the Breaker?

Why is My A/C Unit Tripping the Breaker?An air conditioner that’s tripping the breaker is sending a message and it’s not one you should ignore. Simply resetting a circuit breaker that repeatedly trips is never a viable solution. In the case of an A/C that’s tripping the breaker, ignoring the problem could cause very expensive damage and ultimately even require replacement of the system.

A circuit breaker trips for one of two reasons: a short circuit occurs or an electrical component on the circuit is drawing too much current. On a dedicated A/C circuit, it’s usually the latter. Here’s what might be happening and some possible explanations why:

  • No airflow. If airflow through the system is obstructed, the air conditioner may run non-stop. The compressor overheats, draws too many amps and the breaker trips. Airflow could be obstructed by a totally clogged air filter — you can check this yourself — or some more complex problem like ice forming in the evaporator coil due to low refrigerant charge and blocking airflow. In that case, you’ll need professional diagnosis and repair. Repeatedly resetting the circuit breaker may permanently damage the compressor, which is usually the most costly component in the entire system.
  • Outdoor coil problems. The outdoor half of your central A/C incorporates the condenser coil. If accumulation of dust and dirt on coil surfaces is excessive, or leaves, weeds or other vegetation are blocking the coil vents, the compressor may run very long cycles, overheat and trip the breaker. Coil cleaning and removal of anything obstructing air circulation through vents are required.
  • Compressor start capacitor failing. The start capacitor located in the outdoor unit provides the compressor a jolt of electricity every time it cycles on. If the capacitor is old and no longer delivers sufficient voltage, the compressor may strain to rotate, drawing excessive amperage and tripping the breaker. A start capacitor is a part that can be replaced by a qualified HVAC technician.

Paitson Bros. has served the homeowners of Terre Haute and the greater Wabash Valley since 1922. For qualified professional service to troubleshoot an air conditioner tripping the breaker, contact us now.

Our goal is to help educate our customers in Terre Haute, Indiana about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems). For more information about circuit breakers and other HVAC topics, download our free Home Comfort Guide or call us at 812-645-6859.

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