ABC Blog

Why Does My AC Keep Tripping the Breaker?

a breaker box

The AC is our best friend on blistering hot days. But it can also be our worst enemy if it keeps tripping the breaker and interrupting our cold air supply. It can be tempting to keep resetting the breaker so you can feel comfortable again, but that will only do more harm.

So, what should you do if your AC keeps tripping the breaker? Here are some ways to troubleshoot the issue and enjoy cool air again. If none of them work, there’s a more complex underlying problem that requires the attention of a pro. Contact an HVAC specialist who can get to the root cause and fix it.

What To Do If Your AC Keeps Tripping the Breaker

Breakers are safety devices in your home that prevent short circuits and overloads. Your AC’s breaker will trip when the unit pulls in more amps than the breaker can take. For example, a 20-amp breaker will trip if the AC uses 30 amps. It trips to protect the AC from damage and prevent a house fire.

Here are the most common reasons that cause your AC to trip and what you can do about them.

Dirty Air Filter

A dirty air filter is the culprit behind many AC issues, including a continuously tripping breaker. If your AC’s filter is full of dirt and debris, that will hamper airflow and cause the unit to overheat. Your AC has to work harder and longer to circulate air inside its system, causing it to use more electricity and overheat. That’s when the breaker will step in and trip.

This issue is easily preventable if you regularly replace your filter. Clean or replace your AC’s air filter every three months. You might have to do so more frequently if you share your space with furry family members.

Dirty Condenser Coils

The condenser in your AC’s outdoor unit dissipates the heat collected from your home. But it can’t do its job if there’s grime all over the condenser coils. Your AC will keep working to disperse the heat, pulling in more and more electricity. That will cause a short circuit, and the breaker will trip.

Schedule yearly AC tune-ups with an HVAC professional to prevent this issue. The HVAC technician will have the right cleaning products and tools to restore your AC’s condenser coils to their original state. Your AC can work efficiently again without constantly tripping the breaker.

Damaged Coil Fan

Your AC has a coil fan that blows air over the coils, dissipating heat from inside the unit. The coil fan runs on a motor that wears down over time and becomes less efficient. It’ll start consuming more energy and eventually burn the fan out. The jump in electricity usage can trigger the breaker to trip.

Replacing a coil fan motor is a complex task, even for homeowners with some DIY know-how. Let an HVAC specialist handle the necessary repairs or replacements. Your AC will be running smoothly again sans any breaker trips.

Malfunctioning Compressor

The AC compressor plays a crucial part, pressurizing the refrigerant and increasing its temperature as it passes through the system. However, the compressor can develop start-up issues over time and consume more energy than usual. That explains why the breaker keeps tripping.

Your AC should turn on in a second or two, but you likely have a compressor issue if it takes longer or your AC doesn’t turn on. Get professional help if you’re experiencing this. The HVAC specialist will assess the situation and provide the best solution, including replacing the compressor if it’s beyond repair.

Wiring Issues

Your AC may be simple to use, but there’s a complicated system of wires inside. These wires can become loose over time and cause electrical arcing. This is when the current jumps across a gap in the circuit, and it can lead to a house fire. If your AC’s breaker keeps tripping, faulty wiring might be the reason.

Never attempt to fix wiring issues yourself, even if you’re confident about your DIY skills. Let HVAC professionals handle this task. They will re-wire the circuit safely and have your AC running at its best again. They might also install a new metal plate to house all the wires.

Refrigerant Leak

Low refrigerant is another possible reason your AC’s breaker is constantly tripping. When your AC has insufficient refrigerant, it can’t handle large loads and your AC won’t be able to cool enough. The breaker will sense the danger and trip as a safety measure. A leak in the system can cause the refrigerant level to fall below the required amount needed for the AC to run efficiently.

A refrigerant leak isn’t something to take lightly. Prolonged exposure to refrigerant is hazardous to human health. Get professional help immediately if you suspect a refrigerant leak. An HVAC specialist will find and patch up the hole or replace the damaged component.

Most AC issues related to a tripping breaker are complex. Even the most experienced DIYers may not have the tools and skills to resolve them. Instead of stressing, sit back and let an HVAC specialist do the work. The technician will identify the root cause and resolve it before it snowballs into a more costly problem.

an AC unit

Dirty Condenser Coil Symptoms to Look Out For

Dirty condenser coils can spell trouble for your AC. They can cause various issues, leaving you hot and stuffy inside your home. It’s normal for your AC’s condenser coils to accumulate dust, dirt and debris over time. Here are some signs it’s time to have it cleaned.

Your Utility Bills Are Soaring

If you use your AC regularly, you probably know how much energy it consumes monthly. If your utility bill is higher than usual, that’s a sign of a clogged condenser coil. It’s hampering your AC’s efficiency and driving up its energy usage. Regular coil cleaning should boost your AC’s performance and return your utility bill to normal.

Your Unit Is Working Longer

Is your AC taking hours to cool your space down when it only needed half an hour before? You hear the blower running tirelessly and the ducts spewing air, but you still don’t feel any relief. If your unit has to work longer, its condenser coil might be dirty and hampering efficiency. That can cause the AC’s components to wear down, shortening its lifespan.

It Does Not Feel As Cool

The whole point of having an AC is to feel comfortable even on the hottest days. It’s frustrating when the AC is on but you still feel hot and miserable. If your AC fails to cool down your home, the condenser coil probably needs a thorough cleaning. Dirt is likely trapping the heat in the condenser coil, explaining why your AC is blowing warm air.

The Condenser Coil Is Frozen

Dirt and condensation are a bad combination to have on a condenser coil. It can cause the coil to freeze, preventing it from dissipating the heat inside your home. The result is an AC with no cooling capabilities. If your AC’s condenser coil looks icy, that’s a sign that it’s dirty and needs professional cleaning.

It Feels Humid Inside Your Home

High humidity levels at home can leave you feeling sticky and uncomfortable. But that’s not the worst of it. It can also lead to water damage, mildew growth and health problems. If your AC can no longer remove the excess moisture in the air, its condenser coils are probably clogged. Cleaning it should help with your humidity issue at home.

If you notice any of these signs, do your AC and yourself a favor and have a professional come clean the condenser coils. HVAC technicians will remove all the dirt and debris to restore the condenser coil’s function. Your AC will run more efficiently, and you’ll feel comfortable in your home again.

an AC unit

What Is a Grounded Compressor and What Causes It?

The compressor plays a crucial role in the AC system, pressurizing, heating and cooling the refrigerant. Unfortunately, compressors only have a lifespan of 10 to 15 years and will eventually fail. It’s not uncommon for homeowners to experience a grounded compressor or a compressor short to ground.

That happens when the compressor’s electrical winding breaks and hits the compressor’s side. That causes the oil to leak and ignite, leading to a compressor short to ground. It’s an electrical phenomenon where the electric current within a circuit redirects itself to the ground.

Compressor issues are for the pros to handle. Contact an HVAC specialist to replace your compressor and inspect the refrigerant lines.

Let the Pros Solve Your AC Troubles

Many homeowners have a love-hate relationship with their AC. It’s great when it’s working but frustrating when it’s acting up. If your AC has been stressing you out, HVAC professionals can help take the load off your shoulders. They will sort it out and get your AC performing at its best again.

ABC Can Diagnose and Fix AC Problems

It can be concerning when you notice your AC is not working properly. If you’re concerned about your AC unit, contact ABC Home & Commercial Services. Our licensed professionals can provide any needed AC diagnosis and repair and are available all day and all night. Our experts can even provide routine AC maintenance to help prolong the life of your system. We can help with all AC issues like your AC not cooling below 75 degrees.

Tom Riggs

Tom Riggs is the Division Manager for Mechanical Services, overseeing sales and operations for HVAC, Plumbing, Electrical, Appliance Repair and Water Quality for all ABC Austin branches. He joined ABC in 2014. Before ABC, he was an HVAC Service Technician, HVAC Comfort Advisor/Sales and Operations Manager. Tom attended Universal Technical Institute. He's an avid outdoorsman and enjoys country living with his wife and two sons.

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