Why Is My Outside AC Unit Tripping The Breaker?

man resetting switch in circuit breaker cabinet due to outside air conditioner tripping breaker

Issues associated with power can be frustrating as they can entirely hinder the air conditioner from functioning. When it’s extremely hot outside, individuals typically want nothing else than to relax in a cool environment indoors. They won’t be thrilled if, for instance, the outside AC unit tripping breaker. Situations such as this cause frustration and discomfort, particularly when homeowners may not have an idea of what’s happening. This read attempts to shed a light on the issue. HVAC experts are also on-call to lend prompt assistance.

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Outside AC Unit Keeps Tripping The Circuit Breaker

The outdoor AC system has a compressor. This is the most integral component of the whole cooling unit. It facilitates the circulation of the air conditioner refrigerant which sucks indoor heat and expels it outside. After each cycle, the house gets cooler until it arrives at the thermostat setting, from where the air conditioning system will switch off by itself. The compressor needs a considerable amount of power to perform this job. If there’s a tripping breaker, then it won’t get power and won’t operate. Considering its significance, this circumstance requires the attentiveness of the homeowners.

Why Do Air Conditioner Breakers Trip?

There are limitless reasons why a circuit breaker may trip. Note that this is a protective measure that automatically triggers in potentially risky scenarios. Breakers typically trip to protect the system from damage as a result of current surges and short circuits.

By disrupting the current flow, they decrease the potential of a fire hazard and keep linked components safe. Before their introduction, electrical units depended on a fuse that needed replacement after an isolated incident. Circuit breakers aren’t as vulnerable. You can reset them and continue with regular operations. Nevertheless, resets may not be enough if tripping happens recurrently. The following will require additional investigation:

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1. Dirty Air Filter

image of a dirty air conditioner filter that needs replacement

What is the condition of the air conditioning unit right before tripping the breaker? If the issue occurs once more, check the unit’s temperature. Overheating is an indication of dirty air filters. These obstruct airflow as a result of blocked air pathways. Fresh air isn’t able to cool down the system, thus heat just accumulates until the unit cannot function safely.

Dirty HVAC filters also decrease system performance and efficiency. You may feel the contrast. This is the reason why it’s advised that reusable filters undergo cleaning every couple of months or more. Disposable filters should be checked monthly and replaced when they are dirty. The precise cleaning schedule is contingent on the rate of usage and level of exterior pollution.

2. Dirty Air Conditioner Condenser Coils

Other than the filters, condenser coils might also become dirty as a result of dust and other pollutants circulating the air. The layer of contaminants can get so dense, such that it functions as insulation. This hinders coils from dissipating heat outside. The worse case is that the air conditioning unit may experience an electrical short that leads to an overheating cooling unit. In less serious scenarios, the unit may still function but it will consume more power than normal to cool the household. It is always prudent to inspect the coils occasionally and clean them before this issue crops up. HVAC services providers offer cleaning as part of their annual HVAC tune-ups. Just reach out to them and book a visit.

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3. Broken Air Conditioner Coil Fan

In the cooling units, there are coil fans that are integral for cooling. The motors are often situated outside. When the blades rotate, the generated wind disperses heat from coils. If the motors malfunction, then the fans won’t function as required. This might be a result of normal depreciation over time. If the fan motor trips the breaker, it could be a result of a replacement. It’s difficult to tell without a comprehensive inspection from a certified HVAC professional. Search for a reputable technician who can come on-site to assess the issue and come up with an appropriate solution.


4. Hard-Starting Cooling Unit Compressor

We’ve already looked over why the compressor is integral. Engineers do all they can to extend the shelf-life of this equipment and make it function as dependably as possible. Nevertheless, there are instances it may malfunction and do things such as hard starting. This implies that the compressor is finding it hard to jumpstart, needing more power to get up and running. This occurrence might be enough to cause a tripping breaker. Monitor the duration it takes before the AC system turns on. In most instances, it only takes one second. If it splutters and takes long, then you’ve isolated the issue. These needs advanced problem-solving, so don’t attempt DIY techniques. Instead, call a professional HVAC contractor immediately.

5. Loose Wiring & Aging A/C Parts

image of faulty air conditioner wiring

Superseding the compressor, other components of the unit may undergo degradation as time lapses. A perfect example of this is the system wiring. The number of cables that run throughout the house to relay signals and power is dizzying. Some of them may get loose as the years pass by, leading to faulty connections. Exposed wires might come into contact with each other even when they aren’t supposed to. The wires may also come into contact with sensitive parts like the interior wall of the compressor resulting in a tripping circuit breaker.

This is a complicated issue that the homeowner shouldn’t try to resolve alone. Rather, they should consult with pros for a thorough assessment and skilled re-wiring. They might also spot other components of the system that need replacements.

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6. Bad Air Conditioner Capacitor

Capacitors are in charge of getting the compressor booted. If the compressor is experiencing difficulty getting started, it may attempt to draw a considerable amount of current. If this continues and it passes a certain threshold, it could lead to a tripping breaker. The capacitor may also break down due to many years of service. Once it’s run-down, it won’t be able to function as properly as it should. Professionals will have to do a replacement right away. The capacitor can be located in the outside air conditioning system. They will take out the metal casing to acquire access and put in a capacitor that’s compatible.

7. Old or Weak AC Unit Compressor

image of an old corroded air conditioner condensing unit

Compressors function at their optimum in newly installed systems. With consistent maintenance and the right conditions, these can operate for over a decade. Nevertheless, even first-rate compressors eventually degrade as time lapses. At a particular point, they may get too weak to begin the cooling cycle. Tries may result in tripped breakers as the compressors pull surplus power. The compressor is the costliest component in an air conditioner so doing a replacement needs careful consideration. Consult with a professional to ascertain if it is the primary cause and look over other viable solutions.

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Is It Possible That the Breaker Has Gone Bad?

At times, the underlying issue doesn’t come from the interior of the air conditioner. Maybe the breaker is continually tripping due to the breaker going bad. Whereas this is a rare instance, it is a likelihood that should be taken into account while troubleshooting. Breakers consist of sturdy switches. Nonetheless, those that are recurrently tripping as a result of exterior variables may weaken gradually. When they are stimulated, the breaker may trip much more easily. The best option, in this case, is to put in new breakers that can operate in a more dependable way.



Many air conditioning-related issues arise from a tripping breaker. It can be hard to establish the exact cause by just making passive observations. HVAC specialists can offer enhanced troubleshooting and precise diagnosis. They can give a detailed explanation of what is the issue and guide you on what to do if you want to avoid that from occurring. With their assistance, you can swiftly seclude the defective part and revel in uninterrupted cooling.

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Hart Home Comfort assures the most affordable cooling and heating costs throughout New England. If you require an HVAC replacement system or repair, we will suggest the right one for your house while remaining in your budget range. To ensure customer satisfaction, all our work is backed by a guarantee. To book an appointment with us, call us now. We provide no-cost, in-house estimates.

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