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Why Is My Air Conditioner Tripping the Circuit Breaker? A Tucson Tech Explains

Has your AC tripped the circuit breaker? That’s not good.

In the case of a tripped circuit breaker, the first thing you’ll want to do is try resetting the breaker. You can do this by:

  1. Flipping the breaker OFF
  2. Flipping the breaker ON
  3. Waiting 30 seconds

Do NOT reset the breaker if it trips again. By doing so, you’re risking electrical damage to your home. Contact an electrician right away.

If your AC continues to trip even after a reset, you most likely have one of the following problems:

  • A clogged air filter
  • A dirty outdoor unit/condenser coils
  • A refrigerant leak
  • A broken outdoor unit fan motor *
  • A shorted compressor

Below, we’ll explain how each problem could cause your circuit breaker to trip and how to fix it.

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Prefer to have a professional’s opinion? Advantage Air Mechanical can help with that. We have over 30 years of experience helping Tucson homeowners with their AC repairs.

Problem #1: Clogged air filter

Over time, air filters can become clogged with debris and dirt. And, if your filter is clogged, it can restrict airflow to your AC, forcing your AC to work harder to cool your home.

When your AC has to work harder, it uses more electricity, which can trip your circuit breaker.

To prevent a clogged air filter, you'll want to replace your filter monthly.

Clean vs clogged air filter

Problem #2: Dirty outdoor unit/condenser coils

All central ACs have an indoor and outdoor unit (condenser). Your AC cools your home by absorbing the heat from the air at the indoor unit and then transferring that heat outside to the outdoor unit. The outdoor unit then uses its coils to transfer the heat to the outdoor air.

Over time, your outdoor unit can become covered in dust, which will prevent your outdoor unit from properly transferring the heat to the outside air. Ultimately, this means your AC will have to work longer and use more electricity to cool your home down, which can cause the breaker to trip.

If you think dirty condenser coils are the reason your AC is tripping the breaker, you’ll want to contact a pro to come and clean your AC. Trying to do it yourself could cause damage to your system.

Problem #3: Refrigerant leak

Refrigerant is a cold chemical agent in your AC system. It absorbs heat from inside your home and dumps the heat outside using the outdoor unit’s coils.

When refrigerant levels are low, your refrigerant lines can’t carry as much heat outside per cycle, which means your AC won’t be able to cool your home as efficiently. To compensate, your AC will use more power and can trip the breaker from overload.

Whenever you have low refrigerant levels, you have a refrigerant leak. This is because refrigerant circulates in a closed-loop system, so if your levels are low, it means there’s a leak.

You can tell you have a refrigerant leak if you notice:

  • Ice forming on your outdoor unit
  • Hissing sounds coming from your AC

If you notice any of the above signs, contact an HVAC technician. Refrigerant is a toxic substance that requires a professional AC repair.

Problem #4: Broken outdoor fan motor

Your AC system has two fan motors, one in the indoor unit and one in the outdoor unit.

As we said earlier, your AC system removes heat from inside your home and dumps the heat outside. The outdoor unit fan helps disperse the heat from your outdoor unit to the outside air.

If you stand next to your outdoor unit and don’t hear the fan whirring, your fan motor is probably broken. If your fan motor breaks, your circuit breaker may trip to prevent damage to your AC system.

If you suspect a broken fan motor is your problem, contact a professional. Electrical work is often delicate and could be dangerous for you and your AC if you attempt to do it yourself.

Problem #5: Shorted compressor

A shorted compressor means that an electrical winding inside the compressor broke. When a winding breaks, an electrical short occurs.

An electrical short happens when electricity takes a “shortcut” from its normal path and allows more electricity to flow than the winding can handle. Since the windings are immersed in oil, the oil ignites and causes a burnout.

The sudden current surge forces the circuit breaker to trip.

This is the worst case scenario out of all the problems. Your hired AC technician will have to replace the compressor and clean the refrigerant lines.

Want your circuit breaker to stop tripping? Contact Advantage Air Mechanical

We provide convenient, same-day AC repairs with our 2-hour scheduling slots.

On top of convenience, we promise integrity. Our technicians aren’t paid on commission so you’ll always get honest repair assessments.