Top 9 Reasons Your AC Breaker Keeps Tripping

Top 9 Reasons Your AC Breaker Keeps Tripping

So your AC breaker keeps tripping, but you are not sure why.

It’s definitely annoying when this happens right in the middle of summer.

Your air conditioner will trip your AC circuit breaker when it or its components pull more amps than the circuit breaker is rated for. 

An air conditioner circuit breaker is designed to trip to protect you and your AC system from excess power or too much power entering the system.

You shouldn’t worry too much if your air conditioning circuit breaker trips from the occasional power surge.

But if it’s happening more often than not, you definitely need to check it out.  

An AC breaker that keeps tripping is an indication of a bigger problem that could cause permanent damage to your air conditioning unit.

So it’s best to learn how to recognize the warning signs and deal with them before they become a more expensive problem to solve.

Don’t burn down your home this summer; check out the following causes of an air conditioner tripping the circuit breaker.

❄️ Dirty Air Filters

Phyxter HVAC Tech changing filters

If you have read any of our other articles, you will know that a dirty air filter is a common cause of many problems within your air conditioning system.

It’s also the easiest and cheapest problem to have. Your AC works by removing heat from the air in your home and transferring it outside.

It does this through heat transfer between the indoor evaporator coil and the outdoor condenser coil. 

If your evaporator coil is dirty, it can’t adequately transfer heat which could cause your air conditioner’s circuit breaker to trip.

🧰 The Fix!

Change your air filters!

This is such an easy solution to many problems with your AC system.

You should check your filter once a month and change it out every 2 to 3 months, depending on your circumstances.

To learn more about your AC filter, check out the following resources:

Air Filter Guide. MERV Filter Ratings and What They Mean For Homeowners

Top 5 HVAC Problems Caused by a Dirty Air Filter

❄️ Dirty Condenser Unit

Breakdown of outside AC unit

Similar to your evaporator coil, dirty condenser coils suffer the same problem.

This can lead to an electrical short as your AC system overheats.

When running, your system has to work harder to push out the heat it picked up from the inside unit.

This normally happens when your outdoor unit becomes dirty.

🧰 The Fix!

Regular maintenance, including cleaning your outside ac unit, should be conducted.

Ensuring that your coil is clear of dust, debris, mud and plant life is essential to prevent your air conditioner from tripping the circuit breaker.

As it’s easy to damage the condensing coil, it’s best to call your local HVAC technician to clean your outside unit.

❄️ Frozen Evaporator Coil

frozen AC evaporator coil

frozen evaporator coil will definitely trip an AC circuit breaker.

If your air conditioner suffers from reduced airflow from a dirty air filter or collapsed ducting, the evaporator coil will get colder and colder to the point of freezing.

If the evaporator coil is dirty enough, it will pick up more moisture which will freeze once it reaches 32F (0C), causing a cascading effect.

🧰 The Fix!

Replace your air filters regularly and include checking out your indoor unit coil as part of your regular maintenance schedule.

If your evaporator looks dirty, it’s time to call in the professionals to give it a clean.

Evaporator coils are easy to damage, so a frozen coil is best left to the experts. 

If you want to give DIY a go, check out: The Importance of a Clean Evaporator Coil For Your AC.

❄️ Faulty Fan Motor

HVAC technician replacing a blower motor

The fan motors within your AC system do all the hard work of moving conditioned air inside your home or shedding the heat outside.

These motors work tirelessly for hours on end and can be prone to deterioration. 

If your fan motor is not adequately producing enough airflow, it can lead to your system overheating and tripping the circuit breaker.

🧰 The Fix!

Check that your fans are spinning and the fan blades are intact.

If not, the problem is probably a faulty fan motor or indoor AC blower motor.

If this is the case, it will require a replacement.

This type of work is again best left to a qualified AC tech.

To check your outside AC fan, check out the following resource: AC Fan Not Working? The Homeowners Guide to Cool Air.

❄️ Hard Starting Compressor

AC hard start kit

The center of the universe for your AC is the compressor.

The compressor is what makes refrigerant cold and your home comfortable.

Upon start-up, your compressor uses a ton of electricity.

As your compressor ages, it pulls more power which can cause your AC circuit breaker to trip more often.

🧰 The Fix!

You can install a hard start kit on your failed compressor.

A hard start kit is essentially a capacitor that stores electricity to help give it that extra kick needed on start up.

To learn more about hard start kits, check out the following resource: What is an AC Hard Start Kit?

❄️ Electrical Short Circuit


Like complex pieces of equipment, air conditioners are full of mechanical and electrical components, all designed to work in unison and all powered by electricity.

Over time, loose wiring or a loose connection can cause your circuit breaker to trip.

🧰 The Fix!

Unless your electrician, leave this one to your local HVAC contractor or electrician.

It can be difficult to find the source of a short circuit.

🛑 NOTE: A short circuit not dealt with correctly can cause electrocution and be a fire hazard. We all know that neither of these is fun!

📗 Related Reading: Homeowners Guide to Electrical Safety

❄️ Bad Circuit Breaker

burnt out circuit breaker

The problem might not be your air conditioner at all.

A loose wire or poor installation of the tripping breaker is possible.

🧰 The Fix!

Working on electrical wiring and your AC circuit breaker is dangerous and best left to a professional.

If you do decide to DIY a solution, check to ensure all wires connected to the circuit breaker are tight and check the circuit breaker for functionality. 

If in doubt, replace the circuit breaker!

❄️ Grounded Compressor

Phyxter HVAC Tech changing filters

An electrical motor drives your compressor. 

A grounded compressor means the windings in the motor have shorted out against the metal body of the electrical motor.

This can be caused by the deterioration of the wires over time, contributing to a compressor failure.

🧰 The Fix!

The only fix here is to replace the faulty compressor, and hope you didn’t do any lasting damage to the rest of your AC system.

Call your local HVAC contractor to replace the compressor and check the rest of your AC unit.

Replacing an entire compressor can be prohibitively expensive, and depending on the state and age of your AC, it may be cheaper in the long run to replace your entire system.

❄️ Low Refrigerant Levels

Phyxter tech checking refrigerant levels

Your AC keeps your home cool by working based on the refrigeration cycle.

For your AC to work as designed, it needs a specific amount of refrigerant (sometimes called freon) in the system.

Low refrigerant levels can mess with this air conditioner cycle and cause your circuit breaker to trip.

Low refrigerant can even be the cause of a frozen indoor coil.

🧰 The Fix!

Get your local HVAC contractor to check your AC unit and refrigerant lines for leaks by checking refrigerant pressure.

If you have a refrigerant leak, your system will require repair and recharging with refrigerant.

In most states and provinces, you need to be a licensed professional, so leave this to an expert.

⭐ Final Thoughts

Don’t let warm air ruin your summer; keep your AC running in tip-top shape with a regular maintenance schedule. 

As you have read so far, if your circuit breaker keeps tripping, it could be from many different problems within your HVAC system.

Some of these require experience to diagnose correctly. Unless you’re a keen and experienced DIYer, these are best left to the professionals.  

If you live in the Central or North Okanagan region and are looking for the very best in AC repair, call the professionals from Phyxter Home Services.

Related Reading: Circuit Woes: When Your Electrical Breaker Keeps Tripping

Russell Jones

Russell, a native Australian and VP of Operations at Phyxter Home Services, is also part-owner of Vernon Air Conditioning, Plumbing, and Electrical Services. When he's not busy with work projects and renovations, Russell enjoys putting his vast knowledge of home improvement to good use by sharing his tips and tricks.

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Phyxter (pronounced Fix-ter) is a national home services brand specializing in Residential HVAC, Electrical and Plumbing solutions.

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