Picture this: You’re relaxing on a hot summer day at home with your family, enjoying the cool comfort provided by your air conditioner. Everything seems great until suddenly, you hear the AC turn off and your home starts to get very warm, humid, and uncomfortable. You check your thermostat to see if it was accidentally switched from “COOL” to “OFF,” but it still seems to have the correct settings. What could have caused your unit to cycle off unexpectedly?
Of course, there are numerous things that could cause your air conditioning system to randomly switch off. However, one of the most common causes of the problem could be a tripped circuit-breaker or a blown fuse. If you’ve checked the likely culprits first — e.g., your thermostat — and everything seems to be as it should, your next step is to check your home’s breaker box or fuse box for an issue. How does the circuit-breaker or fuse for the AC look?
What are the most common reasons why my AC is tripping a breaker or blowing a fuse?
The air filter is dirty.
The primary cause of tripped breakers and blown fuses is a dirty air filter. One simple maintenance task any homeowner can handle is replacing their system’s air filter on a routine basis. Many experts agree that you should change your filter at least once a month during the peak of the cooling season.
Not only does the filter have an impact on your home’s indoor air quality, but it also has a huge impact on how well your AC is operating. If the air filter is dirty with dust, pet hair, pollen, etc., your air conditioner has to work harder than usual to push cool air through it — so that cool air can make its way through your ducts and into your living space. This can cause premature wear and tear on your unit, as well as tripped breakers or blown fuses.
The AC is low on refrigerant.
If your air conditioner is trying to operate without enough refrigerant, it could potentially cause the unit to work overtime to keep your family cool and comfortable. The primary responsibility of the refrigerant in your system is to absorb heat from the air and cool it once it travels through the evaporator coils and compressor. When you don’t have enough refrigerant for your AC to work like it should, the extra strain may cause the system to blow a fuse or trip a circuit breaker.
The capacitor isn’t working as it should.
Additionally, your breaker or fuse symptom could be a result of a malfunctioning capacitor, the part of an AC unit that controls the electrical flow. When there’s a problem with this component, the first warning sign will likely be that the air conditioner keeps tripping a breaker or blowing a fuse when running. If you believe this may be the problem with your cooling system, have an expert diagnose and treat the problem.
Electrical wiring to the unit is damaged.
Another common cause could be damaged electrical wiring in your air conditioner, or with the wiring to your home’s breaker/fuse box. Issues could include fraying from age and expanding/contracting of the wire itself due to temperature extremes. This is another problem that should be handled by a professional — working with electricity can be extremely dangerous if you don’t know what you’re doing.
How can I prevent a blown fuse or tripped breaker?
The best thing you can do is properly maintain your air conditioner, including scheduling an annual tune-up with a cooling professional. At a maintenance tune-up, the technician will thoroughly inspect all working components inside the unit to be sure things are clean and running as efficiently as possible. Additionally, potential issues which could lead to tripped breakers or blown fuses — or a breakdown — can be caught early and taken care of.
When it comes to the outdoor part of your air conditioning system — the condenser — keep a minimum of two feet of clearance around it so that air can freely move to and from the unit. Also, keep it clean and hose it off from time to time to prevent the build-up of dirt, leaves, and other outdoor debris which could restrict airflow.
What should I do if my AC continues to blow a fuse or trip a circuit breaker, even with proper maintenance?
If your AC continues to have issues after you’ve applied the suggestions above, get in touch with a cooling repair professional. He or she will be able to determine the cause and fix the problem so your family can enjoy a cool and comfortable home once again. Keep in mind that there’s a rule of thumb that if a diagnostic or repair work involves electricity/wiring in any way, the average homeowner should step back and leave the work to the experts to prevent a serious injury or damage to the unit.