In the middle of a hot Arizona summer, a malfunctioning air conditioner is a real annoyance. When the A/C is tripping the circuit breaker repeatedly, it can also be a safety concern. Understanding the problem helps you stay safe until your HVAC technician arrives.
Trouble With Wiring
Sometimes the problem isn't with the air conditioner, but with your home's electrical system. A power brown-out can lead your A/C to trip the breaker, but it shouldn't happen again once the power is restored.
Temperature changes in your home's wires cause them to expand and contract, so they work loose over time. Loose wires can overheat the conductor, causing the breaker to trip.
Breakers themselves also develop problems that cause them to trip, such as misaligned contacts. They wear out eventually, too. If the breaker feels hot, looks burned or has frayed wires, it's likely the cause of your air conditioner trouble.
Problems With the Air Conditioner
There are times, however, when the reason your A/C is tripping the circuit breaker is that the air conditioner itself is malfunctioning. The issue could be as simple as a dirty air filter or dirty condenser unit causing your system to overheat. A bad capacitor is another potential cause. This can prevent the A/C from starting up correctly, which trips the breaker.
More serious possibilities include a refrigerant leak, a worn out condenser fan, a locked up compressor, a compressor that's weak or trouble with the fan motor. A refrigerant leak is usually due to tampering, storm damage or other physical damage. Component problems are more common in older systems and those that don't receive regular A/C maintenance.
An air conditioner that trips the breaker more than once poses a fire hazard and shouldn't be used until it's been professionally inspected.
Image via Flickr by deejayres