Reasons Your AC Keeps Tripping the Circuit Breaker

August 5, 2022

You rely on your air conditioner to keep your home cool and comfortable during the hot summer months, and it can be incredibly frustrating if the system suddenly stops working. One of the more common air conditioner issues is when the AC compressor keeps tripping the circuit breaker every time it starts.

If the issue only happens once and everything works fine after resetting the circuit breaker, you probably don’t have anything to worry about. In this case, the issue is likely related to a power surge and has nothing to do with your AC or electrical system. However, if the circuit breaker immediately trips again, this is a sign that there is an issue that is causing it to draw too much power. This can happen for many reasons, but it is important to understand what to do in this situation and what to look for to help you identify what is causing the problem.

Why Circuit Breakers Trip

Circuit breakers trip when something tries to draw more power than the circuit can handle. If you have a three-ton AC compressor, it is most likely on a 25-amp circuit. AC compressors draw a huge amount of power when they start up, and there are a variety of issues that can cause the unit to draw even more power when starting or running. If this power exceeds 25 amps, it will automatically trip the circuit.

Circuit breakers are an important safety feature. If more power flows through the circuit than it is designed to handle, it can instantly heat up the wiring and potentially lead to an electrical fire. The circuit breaker is designed to automatically trip to prevent this from happening. This is why it is important that you don’t keep trying to reset the circuit breaker and run the AC again without first figuring out what is causing the breaker to trip.

What to Do When AC Trips the Circuit Breaker

When your AC trips the circuit breaker, the first thing to do is turn the system off at the thermostat. You can then flip the breaker back on, but you need to wait half an hour before switching the AC back to cool. This allows the AC compressor’s internal circuit breaker to reset, which it can’t do if the thermostat is set to cool. Once 30 minutes have passed, set the thermostat back to cool and see if everything works properly. If the system starts up and runs fine, then you’re good to go. If the circuit breaker trips again, then you’re likely dealing with one of the following issues.

Clogged Air Filter

This issue is the easiest one to fix as all you need to do is replace the air filter. When the air filter is dirty and clogged, it reduces the amount of air that can flow through it. This causes the blower fan inside the home to work much harder to draw air into the system. At times, this can result in the blower fan drawing more power than the circuit can handle and tripping the breaker.

Dirty Condenser Coil

If you neglect to have your AC serviced every year, dirt can start to collect on the condenser coils in the outdoor compressor unit. All that dirt acts as insulation and prevents the compressor from releasing the heat it absorbed from inside the building. This interferes with the heat transfer process and causes the system to work overtime to keep the home cool. When this happens, it can sometimes cause the compressor to draw more power and can trip the breaker. To fix this problem, you’ll need to have an AC technician clean the condenser coils. You can also easily avoid this issue by making sure to have your system professionally maintained every spring.

Loose Circuit Breaker Connection

The issue might not be related to your AC system at all; instead, it may be caused by a problem with the circuit breaker itself. If the wiring in the circuit breaker becomes loose or the breaker itself fails, it can cause it to constantly trip every time power flows through the circuit. This is another relatively easy fix, but something you’ll need to have a professional do as you should never attempt to do any work on your electrical panel yourself.

Short-Circuiting and Wiring Issues

Over time, the insulation around the wires inside the compressor or the blower fan can degrade. When this happens, it can cause a short where the electricity jumps between wires instead of following its intended path. A short causes a sudden surge of electricity in the circuit, which will instantly trip the breaker. Most commonly, this issue occurs as a result of the AC compressor overheating for some reason and melting the wiring. If the compressor motor is short-circuiting, the only option is to have the motor replaced.

Short-circuiting can also occur if the wiring becomes loose. This is another reason annual AC maintenance is essential as the technician will check to make sure all of the wires and connections are tight and in good condition.

Worn-Out Compressor Fan Motor

The fan motor in the AC compressor typically wears out long before the rest of the unit. When the motor is worn out or not working properly, even if it’s not short-circuiting, it can cause the unit to draw too much power. The solution to this problem is to replace the fan motor.

Hard Starting

As your compressor unit ages, it can sometimes have more difficulties starting up properly. Known as hard starting, this issue often causes the compressor to draw additional electricity in an attempt to start. Depending on the age and condition of your compressor, you may be able to have a technician install a hard start kit. This is a type of stand-alone capacitor that provides a small electrical boost to help the compressor start. If your compressor is more than 15 years old or in poor condition, it is usually better to simply replace it with a new unit since it will likely soon fail anyways.

Grounded AC Compressor

This is the worst of the possible causes, but luckily it doesn’t happen all that often. A grounded compressor means that the metal windings inside the compressor motor have broken and come loose. When this happens, the metal can come into contact with the side of the unit and cause a ground fault. This causes a spark that usually ignites the oil inside the unit and causes the motor to burn out. Unfortunately, this problem is fatal and means you will need to replace the compressor. A technician will also need to clean out the refrigerant lines as this problem can allow debris to get inside the lines and potentially ruin the evaporator coil and other AC components.

Roseville’s AC Repair Experts

If your AC keeps tripping the circuit breaker, the skilled technicians at C & C Heating & Air Conditioning can detect what is causing the problem and how best to fix it. We have been helping people in the Greater Detroit Metro area with their AC and heating and cooling problems for nearly 75 years, and our team has the know-how to fix any HVAC problem. If the issue can’t be fixed, we’ll help you choose a new AC unit and get it installed as soon as possible. We can also take care of your annual heating and cooling maintenance so your existing equipment continues to function efficiently and effectively. Give us a call today if your AC is tripping the circuit breaker or you have any other HVAC issues. We provide heating and cooling services as well as UV lights and water heaters.

company icon