Imagine running your air conditioner as usual, only for it to abruptly shut down without any warning. You try to turn it back on, but the AC unit still remains unresponsive. When you finally check the circuit breaker panel, you find the circuit breaker flipped to the "off" position. So you reset the breaker switch and turn your AC back on, only for the problem to happen again.

To stop your air conditioner from triggering the circuit breaker panel's failsafes, you'll need to get to the bottom of the issue. The following talks about a few common issues that could cause your AC to trip the circuit breaker. You'll also find out how you can solve those issues and settle your circuit breaker problem once and for all.

AC Problems That Can Trip Your Circuit Breaker

There are plenty of AC system issues that could create an overcurrent situation and subsequently trigger the circuit breaker as a failsafe measure. For instance, a short circuit somewhere within the AC system's wiring can trigger a fault and subsequently trip the circuit breaker. In addition to a short circuit, there are several other common issues that could cause your AC unit to trip the circuit breaker:

  • Low refrigerant - If your AC happens to run low on refrigerant due to a leak, it may cause your compressor to work harder to maintain the same cooling performance. This can eventually trip the circuit breaker.
  • Coil blockages - A dirty evaporator or condenser coil can restrict airflow and make the A/C system work harder than before, stressing other A/C components to the point of creating an overcurrent situation.
  • Compressor problems - An AC compressor that's on the brink of failure due to defect or excessive wear can pull more current than it was designed for, eventually tripping the circuit breaker.
  • Clogged air filter - Sometimes the problem can be as simple as a clogged air filter. Clogged air filters can prevent air from flowing through the unit, which in turn causes the blower fan to work harder to draw in air. This also increases the current drawn by the blower fan until it ends up tripping the circuit breaker.   

Reset Once and Only Once

It's not uncommon for a random power surge or even a rare, minor fault generated by the AC system to create a fault condition and trigger the breaker. To rule out this possibility, reset the circuit breaker for your AC unit and keep an eye on the AC system in case it trips the breaker again. If it does, do not attempt to reset the circuit breaker again. Instead, you'll want to address the underlying causes behind the unit's circuit breaker issues.

Giving Your Circuit Breaker a Break

Here are a few pointers to use as you work to solve your AC system's circuit breaker problem:

  • Start with the simple stuff. That includes changing your air filter and removing debris from the condenser coil, located within your central AC system's outdoor cabinet. Use a garden hose to rinse off the dirt, leaves and other debris from the coil and let it dry afterwards.
  • Check and clean the evaporator coil, located within the indoor AC cabinet plenum. Use a soft-bristle brush and mild detergent to clean the coil, rinse it with water and allow it to dry.

If that doesn't work, then you may want to have your HVAC technician, someone from a place like Absolute Air Conditioning & Heating, take a look at some of the more complex problems behind your circuit breaker issue. Make sure your technician thoroughly inspects the entire HVAC system wiring, replacing any wires that appear to be damaged or wired improperly. You can also have your HVAC technician replace a compressor it it's linked to your circuit breaker woes.