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Why is My AC Tripping The Circuit Breaker? An NJ Tech Answers

Jul. 28, 2020


If your AC has tripped the circuit breaker, you can try to reset the breaker and see if the AC turns back on. To do this, flip the breaker OFF, flip it back ON and wait for about 30 seconds.

Warning: If your breaker immediately trips again and shuts off your AC, don’t attempt to reset it again. Doing so may cause electrical damage to your home. Read on to see what might be causing your circuit breaker to trip.

If your AC is continually tripping the circuit breaker, you’re likely dealing with an issue like:
  • A dirty air filter
  • A dirty condenser (outdoor unit) 
  • Low refrigerant levels
  • A broken fan motor
  • An issue with the circuit breaker itself
Below, we’ll look at each of these issues in more detail, so you can get a better idea of what is causing your circuit breaker to trip and what you can do to fix it. 

If you’d rather enlist the help of a professional, we’d be more than happy to come to take a look at your AC and determine what the issue is. You can learn more about the AC repair services we offer or schedule service with us. 
 

Issue #1: A dirty air filter

Your air filter’s job is to catch dust and other particles in your home’s air before they make their way into your AC system. But, eventually, your air filter becomes clogged by the dirt and other debris it’s supposed to catch, which restricts the airflow to your AC system. 

The less air your AC can pull in per cycle, the harder your AC will have to work to cool your home. And the harder your AC has to work, the more electrical current your AC needs, which can cause your circuit breaker to trip. 

The solution: Replace your air filter every 1-3 months or when dirty. If you aren’t sure whether or not your air filter is dirty, look at the picture below. The filter on the left is a clean filter, and the filter on the right is a dirty one.

Issue #2: Dirty Condenser


Example of a condenser that is covered in dirt and debris.

The condenser is the outdoor unit of your AC system. Over time, the condenser can get covered in dirt. Why is this an issue? Well, your AC actually cools your home’s air by removing heat from your indoor air and dumping that heat outside via the condenser. 

But, if your condenser is dirty and/or covered in debris, it will usually have a hard time releasing the heat to the outdoor air. Ultimately this means your AC system has to work harder to cool your home, which can draw too much electricity and cause your circuit breaker to trip. 

The solution: Hire an HVAC tech to come out and clean your condenser. While you can clear away any visible debris on your own, cleaning the more intricate parts of your condenser will require someone with experience to ensure that no part of your AC system gets damaged. 
 

Issue #3: Low refrigerant levels



Refrigerant is a substance that absorbs heat from the air inside your home and carries that heat to your outdoor unit where it’s dumped outside. 

But, if you have a leak in your refrigerant lines, it means the refrigerant levels will drop, which means your AC won’t be able to get rid of as much heat per cooling cycle. Ultimately, this means your AC will work harder and use more power to cool your home, which can trip your breaker. 

If you think you may have a refrigerant leak but aren’t sure, look for the following signs:
  • Hissing noise coming from the refrigerant lines near your outdoor unit
  • Higher energy bills
  • Warmer air coming from your AC vents
  • Water near the bottom of your AC unit
The solution: If you think low refrigerant levels are your issue, you’ll need to reach out to a technician for help. Refrigerant runs in a closed-loop system, so if your refrigerant levels are low, it means there’s a leak that a tech will need to repair before recharging the system. 

Issue #4: Broken fan motor 


Example of a condenser fan (outdoor unit)

Your AC system has two fans: one in your indoor unit and one in your outdoor unit. Over time, these motors can start to wear out, and sometimes can cause an electrical short (when electricity escapes its intended path). 

Essentially, an electrical short means that excess electrical current is running through the motors' electrical wires. To prevent the excess electrical current from causing damage, your circuit breaker will trip. 

The solution: Reach out to an HVAC tech. Electrical work is dangerous and complicated, so you’ll want to have a trained professional take a look at your system if you think your fan motor may be causing an electrical short. 
 

Issue #5: Circuit Breaker


Example of a bad circuit breaker

The last issue that you could be experiencing is simply a malfunctioning or damaged circuit breaker.

Circuit breakers don’t last forever. It's possible that your circuit breaker is simply tripping because it's gone bad and nothing is actually wrong with your AC system. 

If you notice that your circuit breaker is:
  • Hot when you touch it 
  • Has a burning smell
  • Has obvious signs of wear or burnt parts
...then you’re likely dealing with a bad breaker. 

The solution: Hire an electrician. As we mentioned above, electrical repairs are complex and sometimes dangerous, so you will want someone who knows what they’re doing. 
 

Need a professional’s help with your AC system? Reach out to Air Experts

If you have any of the issues above (outside of a dirty air filter), you’ll need to enlist the help of a trained professional. Luckily for you, we’ve been helping NJ homeowners with their ACs for the last 26 years and counting. So no matter what is going on with your AC, you can count on us to accurately diagnose the issue and repair it for you. 

Schedule repair!