Reasons Your AC Unit Is Tripping the Circuit Breaker

Reasons Your AC Unit Is Tripping the Circuit Breaker


Ideally, your AC unit should operate properly without shutting off the flow of electricity in your home. However, this isn’t always the case. Typically, circuit breakers will cut off power to prevent safety risks when they detect too much electricity. In some instances, your AC unit may be to blame. To get to the bottom of this irritating issue, take a look at these potential reasons why your AC unit is tripping the circuit breaker.

A GFCI Type Breaker is Being Used

It may make sense at first to incorporate a GFCI breaker in order to increase the level of safety when it comes to running your system. However, most inverters type systems don't mesh well with GFCI type breakers. The reason is that if the GFCI isn't rated for high harmonics (the voltage at the electrical frequency that the system works in), it will trip very easily due to the way inverters operate electrically. In almost all cases, a normal breaker with an AC disconnect box is sufficient for safety.

A Tandem Breaker is Being Used Instead of a Double-Pole

A common installation mistake is to use a tandem breaker on a 230V system, when it almost always calls for a double-pole kind. A tandem breaker supplies two 115V circuits, whereas a double-pole supplies one 230V circuit. A 230V system is not designed to run on a tandem breaker and it may not even turn on. 

The Air Filter Is Clogged

One of the most common reasons why an AC system may trip the circuit breaker in a home is because its filter has become clogged. When the filter in an air conditioner gets backed up, the system will have to work harder to pump out cool air. As a result, the AC unit will consume more power.

In some cases, the increased consumption of power will cause too great an electrical current to become present in the circuit breaker’s wiring, and the system will shut off to avoid fire or electrocution risks. Fortunately, this issue is extremely easy to resolve—just change or clean your AC unit’s air filter!

Filthy Condenser Coils

The condenser coils located on the outside unit of your AC unit are responsible for removing the heat that is absorbed through the inside unit. Over time, these coils can become dirty due to their exposure to the outdoor elements. If the condenser coil gets too dirty, the outside unit won’t be able to release the accumulated heat outside your home or building. As a result, your system will need to work harder to cool your space, which may result in excess electricity that will cause your circuit breaker to trip.

A Lack of Refrigerant

A lack of refrigerant can also cause your air conditioner to consume excess power, which may trip your circuit breaker. While refrigerant doesn’t get used up and typically doesn’t need to be refilled throughout the lifespan of the AC system, leaks can result in low refrigerant levels. If your condenser coils accrue cracks, holes, or other forms of damage, refrigerant levels will drop, and your system will have to work harder and longer to cool your space.

The Motor Has Shorted

Another potential reason why your AC unit is tripping the circuit breaker is that the motor inside of it has shorted. The motors in AC units can generally run for a substantial amount of time. However, they do have their limits. If an AC motor runs for too long, the wire insulation may break down, and an electrical short will likely occur. Such a short occurs when electricity bypasses its usual pathway, allowing more electricity to pass through than the wire can handle. As a result, the wires will overheat, and your circuit breaker will trip to prevent a fire from occurring. In order to locate where the short occurred in your AC motor, you will likely need to hire professional assistance.

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