Why Is My AC Tripping My Circuit Breaker?

March 19, 2015

Does your air conditioner trip your circuit breaker after running for a few minutes? The blower is still blowing air, but it’s warm (far from ideal for you).

So you flip the circuit breaker on and...it trips again.

What’s the deal?

First, a warning: Don’t reset the breaker again until you find the problem and correct it. The circuit breaker is tripping due to a surge of electricity, called an overcurrent, in the circuit. Multiple overcurrents can damage your AC and even start a fire.

OK, with that of of the way, let’s get into what’s likely causing this problem. Here are 3 possible issues.

If you need immediate help and need an air conditioning repair, schedule below.

Overloaded circuit

The circuit breaker is designed to shut off the flow of electricity if the number of amps (unit of electrical current) exceeds the circuit breaker’s amp rating.

For example, if the circuit breaker is rated for 15 amps and 20 amps is flowing through the circuit, the breaker trips.

One way the circuit is overloads is when too many appliances (including the AC) are on one breaker.

But even if the AC has its own circuit breaker, the breaker may still trip if the AC is pulling in more amps than normal because it’s working harder.

This can be caused by:

  • A dirty air filter
  • A dirty condenser coil
  • Broken condenser fan (which helps the outside unit cool the refrigerant)
  • Low refrigerant (if you hear a hissing or bubbling noise near your AC, that means you have a refrigerant leak)

Try changing the air filter and cleaning the condenser coil to see if that solves the problem.

If not, you'll need a professional for help.

Shorted electric motor

An electric motor that runs hot for an extended amount of time can cause the wire insulation to break down. This can lead to a short circuit.

A short circuit allows more electricity to flow in the circuit. In this state, wires will overheat, melt and cause a fire.

To keep that from happening, the circuit breaker trips to shut off electricity.

Grounded compressor

This is your worst case scenario.

The compressor, like a heart, pumps refrigerant throughout your AC system.

A “grounded” compressor means that one of the electrical windings has broken and touched the side of the compressor. This causes a direct short to the ground.

Unfortunately, this will ignite the oil in the compressor, causing a burnout.

In short, the compressor is toast and you’ll need a new one.

Bad news: replacing a compressor is majorly expensive if your warranty does not cover it. Even if it does cover the part, it’s still pretty expensive.

If the compressor isn’t covered under warranty, you may want to consider getting a new condenser (outside) unit.

Get a professional to diagnose the problem

You won’t know what the problem truly is until you have a professional look at your AC.

But at least now you’re aware of some of the possible problems are, right?

If you live in the Fort Myers area in Florida, contact Advanced Air for help.

Advanced Air has been serving Fort Myers and Naples, Florida, and the surrounding areas for over 25 years.