What To Do When Your AC Trips Your Breaker

image of a circuit breaker that controls air conditioning system

Power-related issues are problematic when they keep an air conditioner from working. On those days that it’s blistering hot outside, people want to be able to chill comfortably in their homes. When, for example, the outside AC unit tripping breaker, it can quickly grow as uncomfortable inside as it is outside. These kinds of incidents create discomfort as well as frustration, especially when the homeowner doesn’t understand what has happened. Let’s shed a little light on this matter here, but remember that HVAC technicians are available for immediate assistance, too. Call one today for a quick return to your comfort zone.

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Outside AC Unit Continually Trips The Circuit Breaker

The air conditioning unit that’s outside is what holds the compressor, which is a necessary and important part of any cooling system. The compressor allows the circulation of refrigerant that absorbs the indoor heat and carries it out. A home gets marginally cooler after each cooling cycle until it gets to the temperature set on the thermostat. Then, the air conditioning system turns off. This compressor requires a great deal of energy to do that job. When your breakers trip, it no longer receives power and cannot function. Given its significance in the system, this situation calls for immediate attention from the homeowner or an HVAC tech.

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So, Why Do Those Air Conditioner Breakers Trip?

Countless reasons cause circuit breakers to trip. Remember, this protective mechanism will automatically engage if there is a dangerous situation. Breakers trip to protect a system from damage caused by a short circuit or surges in currents.

The interruption to the flow of current will reduce fire risks and keep equipment safe that is connected to it. Before that important invention, an electrical system would rely on a fuse. Fuses needed to be replaced after a single-use. A circuit breaker isn’t that fragile. You can just reset them to resume normal operations. However, a simple reset may not be sufficient if tripping happens frequently. That situation calls for further investigation:

1. Filthy HVAC Filters

image of a dirty air filter for an air conditioner causing circuit breaker to trip

If the problem of breaker’s tripping happens often, you may want to check on the temperature of your air conditioning unit. An overheating air conditioner is often a sign of air filters that are dirty. The dirt will prevent airflow because of clogged air passages. Fresh air is unable to circulate and cool the system, so the heat just builds up in it and the system no longer functions safely.

Dirty air filters reduce a system’s efficiency and ability to perform. You will likely feel the difference. Reusable HVAC filters must undergo a good cleaning every couple of months or more. The right cleaning schedule depends on the frequency of use as well as the levels of outdoor pollution. A good rule of thumb, whether you have disposable or reusable filters, is to check monthly.

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2. Dirt on the Air Conditioner Condenser Coils

Along with the air filters, the air conditioning unit’s condenser coils can get dirty with the dust and other pollutants that are floating around. That layer of dirt might even get so thick that it becomes insulation and keeps the coils from properly expelling the heat outdoors. In some cases, the air conditioner can even have an electrical short causing the system to overheat. In other situations, the cooling system could still be running, but it is going to draw a lot more energy than it should to cool the house down. Be sure to check the coils every season and clean them thoroughly before this problem can begin. Cleaning off vital system parts is done during annual HVAC tune-ups by an HVAC company. Call Lawes Company today and schedule a yearly visit.

3. Broken Air Conditioner Coil Fans

Inside of each cooling unit is coil fans essential for cooling. Their motors are most often located outdoors. When those blades spin around, the wind generated by them takes heat from the coils. If the motors grow weaker, the fans cannot work as intended. It may be caused by normal wear over time. If it’s an air conditioner fan motor tripping the breaker, it’s time for a replacement. This can be difficult to tell without a systematic inspection from a certified HVAC technician. Find a reliable professional to check out the problem and provide you with a suitable solution.


4. Hard to Start Air Conditioner Compressor

We already noted why a compressor is essential. Engineers work to prolong the life of this necessary component and design it to function as reliably as possible. Nevertheless, they still cause problems sometimes with things like hard starting. This is when a compressor is difficult to start and needs to use more energy to get it going. This energy pull may even be enough to trip a breaker. Watch how long it takes until your AC unit switches on. One second is what is needed in most cases. If your system sputters and takes a little longer, that’s likely the issue. This kind of problem requires an advanced solution, so get professional help from an HVAC repair company right away.

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5. Loose Wires & Aging Air Conditioner Parts

air conditioner wiring

Along with the compressor, there are other parts of the system that will experience degradation with use and time. An air conditioning system’s electrical wiring is an example of this. A number of cables run through the house, transmitting power and signals. Some become loose over the years, which results in faulty connections. Sometimes, bare wires begin to touch each other. Those wires can also touch sensitive components in the system, like the inner compressor wall, which is likely to cause a circuit breaker to trip.

This is another complex issue that homeowners should never attempt to solve as it can be a fire hazard. In this case, please call professionals for a thorough inspection and any needed re-wiring. They could find other older parts of the system that need replacement also.

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6. A Bad Air Conditioner Capacitor

Air conditioner capacitors are what get a compressor started. When a compressor is struggling to start, the capacitor may pull a higher than average amount of current with its attempts to start, which will trip the breaker once it passes a certain threshold. Capacitors can even go bad after several years of service. Once worn out, they cannot work as well as they must. A technician can replace it with a new one. The capacitor is located in the outdoor portion of an AC unit. Techs will need to remove the cover to gain access and install a new, more compatible capacitor.

7. Old Weak Air Conditioner Compressors

old air conditioner

Compressors are going to perform their best in newly installed air conditioning units. These usually last for at least a decade under ideal conditions with professional, consistent maintenance. However, even quality compressors will decline as they grow older. The same goes for an aging HVAC system – their performance declines with age. Eventually, they can become too weak to begin their cooling cycle. Attempts to start it could lead to tripped breakers when the compressor draws on excessive power. The compressor is likely going to be the most expensive part of any air conditioning unit; so replacing it may require consideration. You’ll want to ask a technician to verify if that is definitely the cause and have them check in case other solutions are available.

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Perhaps The Air Conditioner Breaker Went Bad?

There are times when the issue actually isn’t with the air conditioner at all. Maybe the breaker is repeatedly tripping because it has gone bad. While this is usually rare, it’s a possibility to consider when you’re troubleshooting. A breaker is made of sturdy switches. Sometimes, ones that get repeatedly tripped by outside factors will gradually weaken. With the next stimulus, they may trip a lot easier than they did before. The best answer, in this case, is to install a new breaker that will be more reliable.



Tripping breakers can be symptoms of various air conditioner problems. It is not always easy to determine the cause by basic observation. Usually, professional help is the best and fastest way to resolve issues. HVAC technicians provide superior troubleshooting and more accurate diagnosis. A tech will be able to explain what is wrong, how to fix it, and what may prevent it from ever happening again. With the help of a good air conditioner technician, you can figure out defective components and soon be enjoying uninterrupted cooling in your home again.

Call Lawes Company For Any HVAC Requirements

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Lawes Company will provide heating and cooling services in and around Monmouth and Ocean Counties, New Jersey. We hire only certified technicians that will provide quality HVAC tune-ups, timely repairs, and new installations and replacements when needed. Our AC technicians bring knowledge and experience to the table and will service any HVAC system correctly.

Lawes Company guarantees competitive heating and cooling service rates for clients in the area. Our maintenance service calls will increase your comfort, improve energy efficiency in your home and reduce your costs for heating and cooling your home. If you need HVAC repair or require a replacement system, let us come out and recommend the best system for your space while staying inside your budget. We ensure our work with a guarantee of satisfaction. To schedule your system’s service appointment today, give Lawes Company a call. Do not forget to ask us about a free, in-home estimate.

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