Don't Trip: Troubleshooting An Air Conditioner That Trips A Circuit Breaker

Posted on

When your central air conditioning suddenly shuts down in the middle of the day, the first place you should check is the circuit breaker. Sometimes, air conditioning systems can trip a circuit breaker, causing the system to fail. In most cases, you can just reset the breaker at the panel and restore the power. However, if the air conditioner repeatedly trips breakers, that's a sign that there's something more significant going on. Here are a few things to check before you call an air conditioning technician.

Are the condenser coils dirty?

If the condenser coils inside the cabinet outside have gotten dirty, they'll retain heat. This can lead to increased heat in the air conditioner, which makes the unit work harder. Over time, that increased effort may cause strain on the electrical system, which can cause electrical shorts that might cause the breaker to trip. If the coils are dirty, or they haven't been cleaned in several months, you might want to call an air conditioning technician for a service call to clean them. It's better to have them cleaned by a professional so that you don't risk scratching or damaging the coils by cleaning them yourself. If you damage them, they may not work as efficiently and may cause further problems.

Is there a motor that's malfunctioning?

Another common cause of tripped breakers for air conditioning units is a problem with the air conditioning motor. A motor that overheats can actually melt the insulation that's shielding the wires. This can cause the motor to short, which may trip the circuit breakers in an effort to prevent the short from causing an electrical fire. If you stand by the outdoor compressor unit and listen, a failing motor may whine, squeal or make other unusual sounds. If you notice signs like this, you'll need to have the motor replaced to solve the problem.

Do you have a compressor that's starting hard?

Compressors that are hard-starting demand a lot of power to combat the pressure accumulation when the compressor engages. This can put a lot of strain on your home's wiring, which may cause the circuit breaker to trip due to the sudden drop in the amps. You'll need an air conditioning technician to help you combat this. He or she can install a support kit that adds extra power to the compressor during its startup cycle.

With these tips, you may be able to narrow down the source of the problem that's tripping your air conditioning breaker. Don't try to do any electrical or mechanical repairs to the air conditioning system without consulting your air conditioning repair technician. For more information, visit websites like