AC Circuit Breaker Tripping: What’s Going On?

One of the most common causes of an air conditioner shutting off unexpectedly is the AC circuit breaker tripping. It happens, and it can make your life hell on a hot day. Or on a cold day if you’re using your heater. If it happens once, no big deal. But if it constantly happens, then you could have a big problem on your hands.
A circuit breaker’s job is to provide protection for your home by shutting down the flow of electricity when it gets too high. It’s also a safety switch for your home, since overloaded circuits can cause fires.
The problem could just be a power surge in your area. This is a common occurrence during thunderstorms. But if your AC circuit breaker keeps tripping, don’t ignore it. And don’t keep switching it back on! The AC circuit breaker tripping up frequently is a sign of your system overheating. And that means your air conditioner is drawing more amps than it was meant to handle, causing it to shut down repeatedly. So if your air conditioner won’t turn on because the AC circuit breaker keeps tripping, you have a problem that needs to be fixed by a professional.
There’s a variety of possible causes for the AC circuit breaker tripping. Here are some possible reasons why:
Dirty condenser coil
The condenser coils on your AC unit are located outside. And their purpose is to remove the heat that the refrigerant takes from your home. Since the condenser coils are outdoors, they’re exposed to the elements and can get covered with grime, dirt, leaves, branches and other debris. And when this stuff accumulates on the coils, it prevents them from functioning properly, which then causes the AC system to overheat. And then it trips the AC circuit breaker. If you’ve been neglecting your air conditioner maintenance, this is a common issue to come across.  A simple coil cleaning is part of regular preventative maintenance service and could resolve the problem.

Condenser fan motor malfunction
Like the condenser coils, the condenser fan is also located outside. The condenser fan’s job is to cool the condenser coils. And something as simple as a clogged air filter can force the fan motor to draw too much power and trip your AC circuit breaker. When the fan motor malfunctions, the condenser coils won’t be cooled and the unit will overheat. And just like the condenser coils, the fan blades could get covered with dirt, grime or debris and slow it down, which puts a strain on the motor. A simple AC maintenance also includes a good cleaning of the fan, so don’t put off getting it done and contact us today.
Frozen evaporator coil
Lack of AC maintenance can also cause your evaporator coils to freeze up. When this happens, the air flow of your AC system becomes restricted. And when the evaporator coils freeze up, it could cause your air conditioner to draw excess power, which can also trip up the AC circuit breaker. As we’ve covered in the past, frozen evaporator coils can be detected when there’s ice buildup on them. If that happens, turn your HVAC system off and call us immediately. Don’t keep your AC running with frozen evaporator coils, as this may lead to:
Compressor failure
The compressor is the heart of your AC system. When your AC circuit breaker keeps tripping, the strain it creates on your air conditioner can lead to compressor failure. So when this fails, your entire system fails.  And a failed compressor might mean you need a whole new AC system.
Another component related to your compressor is the capacitor, which is responsible for starting the compressor. And you can tell if a capacitor goes bad when your AC system struggles to start up before the circuit breaker trips. Capacitors and compressors are both important components of your AC system that will eventually require a replacement. We know we’re getting a little repetitive here, but regular AC maintenance is essential to keeping your AC system running smoothly, including compressors and capacitors. So don’t wait before it’s too late and give us a call to schedule your AC maintenance today.

Loose wires or electrical shorts
While the cause of your AC circuit breaker tripping often could be a serious problem, it could also be something as simple as an electrical issue. A loose connection, damaged wiring or an electrical short are simple problems that could be fixed by a professional. Loose electrical connections on your outdoor condenser can happen due to the weather, which can lead to your AC circuit breaker tripping. Another reason the breaker can trip is because of an electrical short in the system. In any case electrical issues should only be handled by qualified electricians or AC professionals trained to handle such problems.
Refrigerant leaks
Another common cause of overheating — particularly in older AC systems — is corrosion on the coils that leads to refrigerant loss. An air conditioning professional will have to add more refrigerant and seal the leak. If the refrigerant is running low in your unit, it will not produce cool air and force the unit to overheat while trying to cool the house. In other words, when your AC system’s refrigerant levels drop, it has to work harder to do its job. And that can also cause the system to draw too much power and trip the AC circuit breaker.
Dirty Air Filter
We know we sound like a broken record for the millions of times we’ve told you to change your air filters, but again: change your air filters! Dirty air filters restrict airflow, which (again) causes the AC to work harder and overheat to do its job. So if your AC circuit breaker is constantly tripping, a simple air filter change (which you can do yourself) could solve the problem.
Whether your AC circuit breaker keeps tripping or you have other heating or cooling problems, let us help! Call us anytime, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and we’ll take care of it for you! (813) 279-8213

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