Why Does My AC System Trip the Circuit Breaker?

Why Does My AC System Trip the Circuit Breaker?

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It’s hot. Your air conditioning system keeps shutting off and tripping the circuit breaker. This can be a frustrating scenario for any homeowner, especially in the middle of a hot Texas summer. If your AC system is tripping the breaker, it's usually because it’s pulling more amps of power than the breaker is rated for.

A circuit breaker is a safety switch that protects your home by shutting down the flow of electricity when it gets too high. If your AC keeps tripping the circuit breaker repeatedly, it’s time to figure out the problem. DO NOT keep resetting the breaker and letting it trip. If you allow it to continue to trip the breaker, it could damage equipment and possibly cause fires. For the sake of your wallet and your health, take action immediately to figure out what’s causing the breaker to trip.

Some of the common reasons that your AC is tripping the breaker include:

  • Power surge in the area
  • Dirty air filter
  • Dirty outside unit
  • A/C Refrigerant leaks
  • Loose electrical connections or electrical shorts
  • Compressor failure

A circuit breaker is a safety switch that protects your home by shutting down the flow of electricity when it gets too high.

Power surge

If your lucky, the breaker was tripped due to a power surge in your area (possibly due to a thunderstorm) and your system just needs a reset. Here are some troubleshooting steps to try to get your system back up and running.

  1. Turn the AC system off at the thermostat(s)
  2. At your electrical panel, turn the AC circuit breaker switch to the on position.
  3. Wait 30 minutes with the air conditioner off and be sure that the thermostat remains off as well so that your air conditioner’s internal circuit breaker can reset.
  4. After 30 minutes, set your air conditioner back to cool.

If you do the steps above and the AC immediately trips the circuit breaker again, or the AC won’t come back on, you may have a problem that requires a professional HVAC technician to diagnose and repair.

Dirty air filter

If your system temporarily comes back on and works for a little while before shutting off and tripping the breaker again, there is one more thing you can try - changing your air filter. Dust and debris can collect in your AC’s air filter, causing it to become clogged. This becomes an issue because it forces the fan motor to work longer and harder to circulate air through a dirty filter. Because of the extra work the fan’s doing, it might be drawing too much electricity and tripping the breaker. Replace the air filter and see if that fixes the problem.

Dirty Outside Unit

Your AC system is composed of both inside and outdoor units. Refrigerant flows from the inside unit to the outdoor unit to disperse the heat from your house. Dirt, leaves and debris can sometimes accumulate on the AC condenser coils located in the outdoor unit. This prevents them from functioning properly and causes the AC to work harder to disperse the heat, and draws more power.

Refrigerant leaks

If you have noticed a slow decline in your system's performance, your refrigerant levels might be too low or have a leak. If you have an older system or one that hasn’t been properly maintained, it can develop corrosion on the coils which leads to cracks and leaks in the line. If the levels are low, it forces the AC system to work harder to cool your home. This may cause the unit to pull too much power and trip the breaker.

Loose electrical connections or electrical shorts

A tripped breaker could also be caused by an electrical issue with your AC system. Loose electrical connections are usually caused by expansion and contraction due to weather. An old capacitor can be bad and needs to be replaced from time to time. If a short is present in your system it can immediately trip the breaker. If your outdoor unit has loose electrical connections, a failed capacitor, or a short in the wiring, it could be causing your unit to trip the circuit breaker.

Compressor failure

We’ve saved the worst case scenario for last. If your system is tripping the breaker due to a failed compressor, that means that you might need to replace the entire AC system. Continuing to turn on the AC circuit breaker after it trips and/or ignoring small issues that have developed in your system can result in an expensive problem - a failed breaker.

Keep in mind that proper yearly maintenance can help your system last longer and help you to avoid many of the issues that cause your AC to trip the breaker.

If you are having any issues with your system tripping the breaker, DO NOT  keep resetting the breaker and DO NOT wait for it to turn into a more expensive issue. Call A#1 Air today!

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The Insider

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