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Why Does My Air Conditioner Keep Tripping the Circuit Breaker? – 6 Reasons

Writen by Edwin Jones

Fact checked by Andrew Wright

why does my air conditioner keep tripping the circuit breaker

Does your air conditioner’s circuit breaker constantly trip even after a couple of resets? This problem is a potential risk for your home. It is also inconvenient, especially when you’re used to a certain temperature.

“Why does my air conditioner keep tripping the circuit breaker?” you may ask. If you have this problem, the usual root cause is an overcurrent in the system.

However, the breaker’s tripping could stem from other issues. So before you switch that breaker back on again, read below to find the problem and fix it.

Why Your Portable AC Keeps Tripping Breaker?

ac-tripping-breaker

If your air conditioner’s circuit breaker trips more than once, do not insist on resetting the device. When this occurs, an underlying problem needs to be resolved first. Otherwise, your safety will be at risk.

There are two indicators for you to determine what causes the breaker to trip. If the breaker trips after some time, there’s an underlying problem with one of the AC parts. On the other hand, if it immediately trips after resetting the CB, there’s a wiring problem.

With that said, we will tackle the reasons behind your AC tripping breaker so you can see for yourself which of the following problems is sabotaging the usual functioning of your air conditioner. You can carefully reflect on the possible reasons below.

1. Its own circuit breaker

When a CB gets old, it wears out, and eventually, it tends to cut off the power after a period of constant overheating.

A circuit breaker can also have issues if its connections are loose—in other words, it doesn’t fit well on the seat of the bus bar.

Check if the CB and the panelboard’s manufacturers are the same. Homeowners often make the mistake of using incompatible circuit breakers and electrical panels.

Regardless of which problem above you have, a bad circuit breaker is easily replaceable. It’s a cheap fix, so make sure to get the properly-sized breaker for your AC. However, if the circuit breaker is not the culprit, proceed to inspect your air conditioner.

2. Dirty AC components

Dirty-AC-components

Like any other appliance and electrical device, an air conditioner breaker keeps tripping if unwanted debris or dirt settles inside the AC components. You will notice a rise or unpleasant change in temperature despite using an AC.

The AC blower will have a hard time circulating the air with a dusty air filter. As a result, the blower will need more power than it’s supposed to use, make the wires hot, and trip the breaker. The best fix for a dirty air filter is to clean or change it completely.

Another issue is when the outside AC unit becomes filthy. You’ll find this component along the streets or rooftops, places which have a lot of dirt and dust. When the condensing coil of your outside AC unit is clogged, the refrigerant that should flow through that unit won’t be able to disperse heat.

This malfunction will trigger the AC to keep dissipating the heat, even though it physically can’t. Consequently, the breaker will trip with too much pulling of current.

In this situation, unit cleaning is the solution. However, this job requires AC contractors’ chemicals and equipment, so it’s best to call professionals for support.

3. Short circuit

Short-circuit

A short circuit is a common wiring problem that results in a tripping breaker. This happens when two normally-sheathed wires (e.g., hot or neutral wires) touch each other. The electric current will then travel into a low-resistance path, causing the breaker to cut off the power.

Sometimes, wires in the air conditioner’s motor become exposed when the wiring insulations are removed or damaged, resulting in an electrical short.

When a short circuit happens, you will need professional assistance to trace the wire which was causing this issue. Also, to prevent this problem from happening again, lessen the usage of your AC if possible. Constant abuse of the motor will break the insulations quickly.

Related: 4 Steps to fix short circuits, check it out!

4. There’s trouble with the compressor

  • It fails to start

The compressor acts as the central starter or the “engine” of your air conditioning system. When this component fails, get ready to empty your pockets, for this will require you to either purchase a capacitor or buy a new AC instead.

A compressor will have its troubles when the AC has already experienced significant wear and tear, problems from other unresolved electrical issues, or persistent breaker resets.

When the compressor fails to start, it pulls an incredible amount of electricity – higher than its circuit breaker limit. As a result, the AC breaker keeps tripping.

It’s hard to deal with this problem because a simple homeowner cannot notice a compressor failure immediately.

It-fails-to-start

Your air conditioner technician is the best person to fix this hassle. If the compressor still has a chance of survival, your AC tech will likely install a capacitor that will ‘wake’ the component up and keep it running. On the flip side, if the technician finds your compressor too old or too damaged, he/she will change it immediately.

You can prevent your compressor from breaking down by hiring a maintenance provider to do the check-ups and improve your cooling device’s condition.

  • It is grounded

Another major failure in a compressor of an AC is when a ground fault occurs. The culprit is the compressor’s electrical winding touching the sides of the compressor.

It-is-grounded

In this case, your air conditioner trips circuit breaker, and there is also a possibility that the circuit of your refrigerant is contaminated, thus forcing you to replace the entire system.

Again, this problem will get fixed with an AC tech at a cost. It will be a time-consuming task because he will do a compressor replacement and clean the refrigerant lines.

5. Your AC system is frozen

A frozen AC is undoubtedly a pain in the ass. This happens when your room or building has a higher temperature than usual, the AC filter is wet, the evaporator coil is covered in ice, and the supply registers don’t release warm air, often because you have neglected maintenance.

How does this freezing result in the air conditioner tripping breaker, you ask? It’s simple: if the coil is all frozen or covered in a sheet of ice, your system will keep drawing electricity until your breaker stops the whole process because it detects that there’s too much power already.

Do not use the AC if it’s frozen, or you’ll ruin the compressor. Remember that a dead compressor is equivalent to the death of your AC—you might as well say goodbye to your system.

Let AC service providers handle this problematic malfunction. A refrigerant leak is possible here, so it’s best to avoid any DIY fix.

6. Refrigerant issues

Refrigerant-issues

Refrigerants are supposed to help your AC eradicate the warm air inside your house by circulating the heat from your indoor unit towards the outside unit. So, if you have a leak somewhere in your AC, expect that your refrigerant level will drop.

With a low-level refrigerant, the AC system will have a hard time dissipating the heat, and the more it struggles, the more power it needs to run the whole system, causing the CB to flip.

A refrigerant is a harmful substance, so again, let the big boys with professional licenses find where the leak was and get the refrigerant levels back to normal.

Conclusion

With all the problems stated above, there are a lot of issues that you can’t and should never fix all by yourself. Some parts and equipment aren’t even available for DIY guys; they can only be acquired by professional contractors.

The best thing to do is to check your system and find the answer to the question: why does my air conditioner keep tripping the circuit breaker. This effort will help your electrician/technician detect the root of the problem and save time in solving it.

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