Kicking A Breaker

Kicking A Breaker

KICKING A BREAKER – The breaker serving power to either the outdoor or indoor unit trips.  This can be the sign of a serious problem with the air conditioning system.  The breaker is there to prevent excess electrical loads from causing damage to equipment or wiring. 

POSSIBLE PROBLEM & DESCRIPTION

Power Surge or Outage

  • It is fairly common for an air conditioner to trip a breaker during an electrical storm, especially if power goes off and back on quickly.  The rapid restarting of the compressor can cause very high amps and trip a breaker.

Shorted Compressor

  • Probably the most common reason for an air conditioner breaker to trip is a faulty compressor.  On type of fault is referred to as a "short-to-ground".  With this type of failure the breaker generally trips immediately when power is applied, or as soon as the thermostat calls for cooling.  
  • If this is the case, you should leave the unit turned off and contact a qualified technician to diagnose.

Locked-Up Compressor

  • Another type of compressor failure is referred to as "locked-rotor".  In this condition the compressor will attempt to start and pull very high amperage.  This may also be accompanied by a growling noise at the outdoor unit and a buzzing sound at the breaker as the compressor tries to start.  
  • A compressor with locked rotor will typically overheat and shut itself off after a couple of seconds, and retry another start after several minutes.  The outdoor fan will typically continue to run normally.
  • If the compressor start attempt lasts long enough without shutting-off, the breaker will trip.
  • A bad start capacitor can cause the same symptoms.
  • If you experience these symptoms, the system should be turned off until a qualified technician diagnoses the problem.

Bad Start Capacitor

  • All split-capacitor motors, including compressors require a start capacitor to provide extra torque for starting.  A bad capacitor can cause the compressor to pull "locked-rotor" amps and behave similar to a "Locked-Up Compressor", and potentially trip a breaker.
  • If you experience these symptoms, the system should be turned off until a qualified technician diagnoses the problem.

Shorted Wiring

  • If any line voltage wire touches "ground", the breaker should immediately trip.  It is not unusual for a high voltage wire in the air conditioner to overheat and come loose, causing a short which trips the breaker.
  • This condition can either trip the breaker as soon as power is applied, or only trip sporadically.
  • If you experience these symptoms, the system should be turned off until a qualified technician diagnoses the problem.

Loose Wiring at the Breaker

  • If the high voltage connection at the breaker become loose, overheating can occur which can melt wiring insulation and cause the breaker to trip.
  • This condition will typically cause a tripped breaker only after extended run periods.

Bad Breaker

  • A bad breaker can have multiple symptoms.  Some bad breakers will not reset.  Some bad breakers will trip after extended run periods, similar to loose wiring, and some bad breakers will trip at an amperage lower than the rated trip point.
  • If you suspect a bad breaker, an electrician or qualified technician should diagnose. 

Reset one time - If you find a tripped breaker, you may wish to try resetting it one time. Watch Video   If the breaker holds and all equipment operates normally, there is likely nothing to worry about.  If the breaker trips again immediately or after a short amount of time, that would indicate a problem and you should have a qualified service technician diagnose.

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