why does my air conditioner trip the circuit breaker
So you ve determined that your AC is tripping the breaker, but you re clueless as to why. Bummer. Well,
an air conditioner usually trips the breaker because it s pulling in more amps than the breaker is rated for. That is, if you have a 20-amp breaker and the AC pulls 30 amps, the breaker trips. That s why breakers trip: to protect you from overcurrents that can damage equipment and cause fires (yikes). So DON T keep resetting the breaker and letting it trip. Constant tripping can harm equipment and cause a fire. Find the cause of the problem first. Common causes of an air conditioner tripping the breaker include: You can fix the first problem yourself, but everything else requires an. Read on to learn why these problems cause an AC to trip the breaker. Or you can if you live in the. 1) Dirty air filter Imagine forcing a pillow over your face. Hard to breathe right? That s what a dirty filter does to your AC blower; the blower has to to work longer and harder to circulate air through the filter. This causes the blower to draw more electricity and trip the breaker. Solution : Change the air filter. 2) Dirty outside unit Your AC system has an inside unit and an outside unit. The inside unit absorbs heat from your air using refrigerant. That refrigerant flows to the outside unit to disperse the heat. However, the outside unit can t disperse heat well if it s super dirty because dirt is an insulator.
So the AC runs and runs trying to disperse that heat outside until click the breaker trips due to drawing too much current. Solution : Get an AC tech to properly clean the outside unit. You may be thinking, Why can t I clean it myself? Well, You lack the cleaning equipment and cleaning chemicals to clean the condenser coil professionally (and buying the wrong type of equipment can actually do more harm than good to the condenser). Cleaning it improperly could damage/flatten the fins wrapped around the coil. This blocks airflow over the coil and is just as bad as having the coil matted with dirt. 3) Issues with the circuit breaker The issue may not be with the AC itself but rather with the breaker. Wires connected to the breaker may be loose or the breaker itself may be bad and needs replacing. This is a relatively inexpensive fix. Solution : Have a tech tighten connections to the AC s breaker or replace the breaker. 4) Motor has shorted Electric motors in your AC can run for hours and hours and can take quite a bit of abuse. But if a motor runs hot for too long, the wire insulation can break down, leading to an electrical short. A short is where electricity bypasses its normal path, (so it s taking a shortcut ). This shortcut allows more electricity to flow than the wires can handle, causing the wires to overheat, melt and cause a fire.
Of course, before the fire happens, the circuit breaker trips. Solution :. 5) Compressor has trouble starting The heart of your AC system is the compressor. It pulls tons of electricity when it starts up. Unfortunately, as the compressor ages, it has trouble starting (called hard starting) and pulls even more electricity, causing the breaker to trip as a result. Solution : Have an AC technician install a hard start kit which is a capacitor that gives the compressor motor an extra electrical jolt to get it moving. However, the compressor may be old or damaged and need to be replaced instead. 6) Compressor is grounded A grounded compressor or compressor short to ground means that an electrical winding inside the compressor has broken and hit the side of the compressor. This causes a direct short to ground, igniting the oil and causing a burnout. And, of course, the circuit breaker trips due to the sudden current surge. Solution : This is the worst case scenario. An AC tech will have to replace the compressor and clean the refrigerant lines. If your compressor is out of warranty (or your warranty never covered it), you might as well replace the entire outside unit. Cheaper that way. (Compressors are pricy. ) Need an AC repair? Call Ragsdale Heating and Air If you ve changed the filter and that didn t help, call an AC technician for help.
If you live in the,. (Save 10% by scheduling online. ) We hear Phoenix-area homeowners ask, Why does my air conditioner keep tripping the breaker at the control panel? First off, if this keeps happening then don t turn the circuit back on. The circuit breaker s job is to keep your home and appliances safe by shutting off the flow of electricity when the current flow gets too high. If it keeps tripping, something needs to be fixed. If the air conditioner is the source of the tripping, it may be overheating. When an air conditioner overheats, it draws more amps (a measurement of electrical current) from the circuit. That may be pushing the circuit past the number of amps it was meant to handle. So the breaker usually trips after the air conditioner has been running for awhile. So now we need to know what s causing your air conditioner to overheat. 1) Dirty air filter: Dirt on the filter impedes air flow. This causes the AC to run longer to circulate enough cool air to achieve the temperature you want. This then causes the air conditioner to overheat. Change the filter and see if that helps. 2) Dirty condenser coils: The condenser coils are in your air conditioner s outside unit. Refrigerant runs through these coils. A fan blows over the coils to dissipate the heat that the refrigerant absorbed in your home.
This is done so the refrigerant can flow back into the inside air conditioning unit and absorb more heat from your home s air. ( But if the condenser coils are covered in dust, dirt and leaves, then the coils can t properly dissipate the heat. So the air conditioner has to work harder and longer to cool your home and overheats as a result. In the Phoenix area, it s easy for air conditioners to get covered in dust after haboobs (dust storms). You could wash the coils off, or you could have a contractor do it professionally as part of a pre-season. Spring is the perfect time for one of those! 3) Not enough refrigerant : Without enough refrigerant, the air conditioner has to work longer to cool your home. The air conditioner overheats in the process. You ll know if you don t have enough refrigerant if the air your air conditioner puts out isn t very cold. A contractor will have to add more refrigerant and seal the refrigerant leak. 4) Condenser coil fan malfunction : This is the fan in the outside unit. If it stops working, it can t cool down the condenser coils properly. These certainly aren t all the reasons of what can cause the circuit to trip the breaker. But they are some common ones that you can see. Try changing the filter and cleaning the coils. If that doesn t work:.
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