What to Do If Your AC Keeps Tripping the Circuit Breaker

AC Repair in Burbank, CA

Constantly having to reset the circuit breaker in your Burbank, CA home is guaranteed to prove frustrating. This is especially true if your air conditioner is what’s causing the breaker to trip. Although you can temporarily resolve the problem with a quick flip of the breaker switch, the issue will continue until its underlying cause is identified and addressed. Read on to find out what you can do to restore normal AC functionality and whether or not you need an AC repair service to solve it.

Start by Inspecting Your HVAC Air Filter

Air conditioners that repeatedly trip circuit breakers are often overheated or in the process of overheating. This is but one of several failsafe measures that prevent ACs from completely breaking down, causing fires, or posing electrical hazards. Surprisingly, dirty air filters are a common cause of overheating in residential cooling systems.

During operation, your air conditioner moves air through its filter so that dust and other particulates are collected before air is chilled and distributed. Buildups of thick, lint-like material that cover your filter’s mesh inhibit airflow. This causes air conditioners to work harder. It also subjects their moving components to excess stress that eventually causes them to overheat.

Your HVAC air filter should be checked for excessive buildups of debris during routine maintenance. In most households, filter changes should be performed every 30 to 90 days. You may need to perform filter changes more often if your cooling system is constantly overheating and regularly trips the breaker. Households with lots of residents, homes that are near active construction or busy freeways, and households with one or more indoor pets may need new air filters every three to four weeks.

Check Your HVAC Air Vents, Grilles, and Registers Too

Dirty HVAC air filters have their limits. After they’ve retained as much debris as they can possibly hold, small clumps of this matter often break away and travel into the HVAC system. If you’ve been lax about changing air filters in the past, you may find buildups of this same, lint-like material on your air registers, grilles, and vents. After replacing your filter, use your vacuum cleaner and its hose attachments to clean these features off. You can also unscrew your vent covers and clear out any debris that’s trapped behind them. Completely resolving airflow issues before turning your air conditioner back on will prevent your AC from overheating and tripping the circuit breaker once more.

Airflow Obstructions Can Also Exist at the Outdoor Condenser Unit

If your AC air filter and air vents are clean, there may be an airflow obstruction at your air conditioner’s condenser unit. This outdoor unit should always have a minimum of 2 feet of clearance at each side. Overgrown shrubs, weeds, and trees can prevent the release of warm air from the condenser as hot refrigerant cycles through this unit to cool down. You can check your condenser for obstructions during your monthly filter inspections so that blockages and overheating never occur.

The AC Evaporator Coil Has Frozen Over

Changing air filters and cleaning around the outdoor condenser unit are only part of your ongoing AC maintenance. Scheduling an annual tune-up service is also key for ensuring that all of your air conditioner’s internal components are clean. When dirt and other debris settle on an air conditioner’s evaporator coil, the chilled refrigerant inside of this coil cannot effectively absorb heat from the indoor air. This delay in heat transfer causes evaporator coils to freeze. Despite icing over, a dirty evaporator coil can also cause your air conditioner to overheat.

If your AC evaporator coil is covered in frost or ice, keep your air conditioner off until it completely thaws out. Change your air filter as needed, and correct all other visible airflow issues before attempting to turn your air conditioner back on. If the AC overheats and trips the circuit breaker again, schedule AC maintenance right away. During this service, our technicians will thoroughly clean your cooling system’s evaporator and condenser coils. We’ll also check for other problems that may be causing overheating.

Refrigerant Loss Is Causing Your Air Conditioner to Draw Too Much Power

Refrigerant leaks are a common problem in older air conditioners with worn refrigerant lines and corrosion at their coils. Having progressively lower levels of refrigerant makes it harder for air conditioners to do their job. As a result, they work longer and draw a lot more energy. This may be the cause of your frequent breaker trips if you’ve noticed a steady increase in your home energy bills. Refrigerant leaks can also cause a visible phenomenon known as “champagne bubbles” where tiny, champagne-like bubbles form on the evaporator coils.

Running an air conditioner with a refrigerant leak won’t just cause a noticeable spike in your home energy costs. Dramatic fluctuations in pressure at the outside unit may lead to a total compressor collapse. Replacing this component is always a costly endeavor. In fact, a failed compressor usually means that the entire AC system needs to be replaced. Thus, if you suspect that your AC is leaking refrigerant, turn your cooling system off and have an HVAC technician check it out.

Loose Wires and Electrical Malfunction

When circuit breakers trip, there’s always the possibility of electrical wiring issues or electrical malfunction. If you’ve ruled out a dirty air filter and other common airflow obstructions, it’s best to leave your air conditioner off. There could be a short in your air conditioner’s electrical wiring or you may have a bad AC capacitor. Only a professional can safely and accurately diagnose the problem and resolve it.

The Fan Motor Is Dirty

The fan motor in your AC draws more power when the air filter is clogged. This extra activity is frequently the cause of overheating. However, there may be maintenance issues at the fan motor itself that aren’t related to your air filter at all. The fan motor is one of several components that homeowners cannot easily clean and maintain on their own. Moreover, if you want to preserve the protections that are provided by the manufacturer’s warranty or your home warranty, you really shouldn’t tamper with this unit at all.

If your air conditioner’s fan motor is coated in grease, dirt, or other grime, it may have a hard time rotating its blades. There are even times when greasy accumulations cause fan motor blades to stick. If this is the case, the only solution is to schedule a much-needed tune-up.

The AC Compressor Has Failed

Insufficient refrigerant isn’t the only thing that can cause AC compressor failure. This component could stop working altogether even when refrigerant levels are optimal. Any unchecked issue that subjects your compressor to consistently high levels of stress will eventually lead to its demise. This is one of the best reasons to turn a malfunctioning air conditioner off and keep it that way until the underlying problem is resolved.

Power Surges and Tripped Circuit Breakers

If your air conditioner is impeccably well-maintained, the problem might lie outside of your home. If there was a recent power outage in your area, the breaker for your AC may have tripped to prevent equipment damage when power was restored.

Residents of Burbank, California, can count on us for superior heating and cooling service. We offer furnace, heat pump, and air conditioner installation, maintenance, and repairs. We also provide indoor air quality solutions and utility rebate appraisals. To schedule service, contact Air Max HVAC today!