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Why The AC Is Tripping The Circuit Breaker & Fixes

Air conditioners use up a significantly higher amp rate from your circuit breaker because the compressor needs to pull more energy. However, because the circuit breakers don’t always provide enough amps, this can eventually cause your AC to trip the breaker. Despite a common thought being that breaker trips is a one-time occurrence or that a simple reset of the breaker may do the trick, that is not always the case. 

A circuit breaker tripping ultimately means that your air conditioning system has to work harder, which tends to mean something is broken, malfunctioning, loose, or going bad. In any of these cases, the very first thing you need to do is call an expert for help and unplug the air conditioner. Failure to do so leaves a greater risk of additional damage to the AC or even a fire starting.

Here are some possible reasons why an ac might trip the circuit breaker:

ac tripping breaker

Compressor Shortage

A compressor shortage within an air conditioner essentially means that an increase in electricity has been going through the circuit. These circuits are intended to perform in loops where a certain amount of electricity should not be exceeded. Therefore, the compressor begins to malfunction when it surpasses this amount causing breaker trips.

Once this compressor failure occurs, there is a good chance the compressor is worn out and requires a replacement before using the system again. Purchasing a new compressor or getting one placed is a high-priced fix unless your air conditioner includes a warranty that has yet to expire. The best solution for this issue is to look into the specifics about replacing it with your warranty or purchase a new AC system altogether.

A faulty compressor can also prevent the system from releasing cold air.

AC Is Leaking

Going back on about an AC being overworked — during a work overload, AC's tend to leak refrigerant. The more it leaks, the harder it works to get the cooling job done. These leaks often happen near the compressor and can eventually cause the air conditioner to make hissing noises. In addition to that, an ac leak can damage the compressor, which isn’t good considering the compressor is crucial to these systems.

Fixing this problem is as simple as contacting a professional HVAC technician to manage the repair. To ensure it works properly, they will need to repair the damage and replace any previously leaked refrigerant or damaged refrigerant lines. Until a professional can be scheduled, it's best to refrain from using the AC unit to avoid additional damage. 

In other cases, they use hvac gauges to determine what other things are leaking or missing.

Faulty Circuit Breaker

Circuit breakers can be fragile and often a common cause of the issue. A circuit breaker can become damaged not necessarily because of the AC. Circuit breaker trips can be caused by daily wear and tear. This breakage is generally easy to decipher if the breakers wires seem frayed or if it looks or smells like they’ve been burning. 

You can replace AC circuit breakers, but you need to purchase one just like the original. Start by locating one that matches the same voltage as the damaged breaker. Shut off the breaker with the power switch before installing a new one. Once that’s done, you can then begin the installation process. 

This process is as simple as unscrewing the placement screws, exposing the electrical wiring, and replacing the new breaker box. However, it’s not an easy DIY or safe job. It’s best to leave it up to a pro if you don’t consider yourself handy enough.

Clogged Air Filter

dirty air filter

Air conditioners collect quite a bit of debris, including pet hair, dust, among other things, within the air filter. This can cause the air conditioning unit to have to work harder than usual, especially an outdoor unit. Between the AC overworking and the amount of debris clogging the dirty air filter, it’s highly probable that a tip in the breaker can occur. 

To fix, simply shut it off, remove the filter, and clean it well. AC's need clean filters daily to prevent clogs and other possible damage to the compressor. Avoiding this is easy, as you can always clean the filter every month or every other month. 

An Overload Of Amps

As mentioned above, air conditioning units typically use a higher amount of amps than the circuit breaker possesses. Circuit breakers don’t always have enough power to override the excessive amps being pulled, so it then shuts down the electricity flow. An electric power surge begins and causes the circuit breaker to trip when this happens. 

This is one of the more challenging fixes to pursue as the breakers have a set limit on the amount of voltage they can provide to the unit. Nonetheless, there are a few ways to potentially fix this occurrence. It’s recommended you contact a licensed HVAC professional to handle this voltage overload. If you try to resolve this trip on your own, the best-case scenario would be to switch to a different circuit. 

Overall, circuit breakers tripping is a common thing to happen, whether it’s due to the AC unit itself or other things. Once it occurs, it’s important to take preventive measures, such as shutting off the breaker, to prevent further damage. It’s also important you refrain from resetting your breaker as that can be dangerous and cause a fire. In the event of this, sometimes the best thing you can do is contact an ac technician. 

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Justin Edwards

Justin Edwards is an HVAC contractor in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Before working in HVAC, he worked in all sorts of other contracted-related jobs. When he's not doing HVAC-related work, he's writing DIY articles and sharing his expert insights.