If you turn on the air conditioner or furnace and your circuit breaker trips immediately, you have a problem. The initial problem is the lack of cooling or heating performance that you need to keep your indoor spaces comfortable. But, there are more serious problems to consider. When HVAC equipment trips a breaker, there could be damage to the electrical system, and there is even a risk of fire. So, it’s important to discover the source of the problem, and this is a job for an HVAC technician. Let’s take a look at why your HVAC system may be tripping the circuit breaker and what you can do to fix the problem.
Understanding the Purpose of Your Circuit Breaker
The circuit breaker in your home is designed to trip if a connected electrical device is drawing more amps from the home electrical circuit that it is rated for. This typically occurs when you ask the breaker for more amps than it can carry safely. As an example: if you have an HVAC system that requires 30 amps and you only have a 20 amp circuit breaker, it will trip to protect your electrical circuit.
A circuit breaker is an essential safety measure in any modern home with an electrical circuit installed. If an over current occurs, and the circuit breaker doesn’t trip, this can lead to an electrical fire. Any fire can spread quickly and lead to a house fire that’s extremely dangerous for the occupants and nearby neighbors.
So, when a circuit breaker trips, it can be seen as an annoyance, but it’s actually a warning sign that something is wrong. This is a considerable safety risk, and if your HVAC system is the source of the problem, it needs to be professionally investigated.
How Can an HVAC System Trip a Circuit Breaker?
There are a number of reasons why your HVAC system might be tripping your circuit breaker. In most cases, the homeowner will not have the skills, experience, or diagnostic tools to determine the cause. Even DIY enthusiasts with some electrical knowledge may struggle to locate the fault and fix it promptly. The HVAC field is a very specialized area, and it’s easy to make a mistake if you’re not sure what you’re doing. Unless you have specific knowledge of HVAC equipment and electrical systems, leave the fault finding and repairs to the professionals.
If your HVAC system is tripping the circuit breaker, there are six common reasons why this could be happening:
- The motor inside the unit has shorted out.
- The compressor unit is failing or has failed entirely.
- The air conditioner outside unit is dirty and needs cleaning.
- The air filter is dirty, and it needs cleaning or replacing.
- The HVAC system was not installed correctly.
- The circuit breaker itself has developed a fault, and it needs repairing.
In the majority of the possible causes, it’s going to require a professional technician to diagnose and fix the problem. An HVAC technician will be able to determine the cause quickly and fix it for you. But, if they eliminate all of the possible causes above and it’s clear that the circuit breaker is the fault, an electrician can take a look at that for you.
As you can see, one of the possible causes is a dirty air filter in your HVAC system. When the filter is clogged, it can prevent fresh air from entering the HVAC system, and this can lead to problems. A clogged air filter can cause the system to work harder than it needs to, and this can lead to equipment failures and premature replacement.
It’s always worth checking your air HVAC air filter first because it’s easy to do, and you need no special skills. The air filter in your system should be cleaned or replaced every month and even more frequently if you have pets in your home. The full instructions to clean or replace your air filter are detailed in your owner’s manual, and if you cannot locate the manual check online for a pdf.
Don’t Ignore the Underlying Problems
We’ve already looked at the possible dangers of avoiding underlying problems related to your HVAC system and the circuit breakers. It’s tempting to ignore the problem and simply reset the breaker every time it trips. This is a serious mistake, and it’s important to investigate the problem and fix the underlying issues. Aside from the aforementioned risks of electrical damage and fire, there are other considerations.
Let’s face it, an HVAC system represents a signficant investment for any homeowner. For this reason alone, it makes good financial sense to protect your heating and cooling equipment from damage. This is why it’s so important to schedule regular servicing and maintenance for your HVAC system. This should happen prior to each heating and cooling season to ensure that your HVAC system is ready for the winter and summer months. To protect your HVAC system, it’s important to only use professional HVAC technicans to work on your system.
If the circuit breaker problems are caused by a poor installation, this needs to be corrected. It may be the case that your HVAC system isn’t correctly sized for your home. When a new HVAC system is installed, a professional load calculation is required to make sure that the system isn’t too small or too large for the space. An incorrectly sized HVAC system can have impaired performance, and it may not match the energy efficiency that the manufacturer intended for the system. This can lead to short cycling problems where the system shuts on and off quickly. Short cycling can damage your HVAC system leading to unnecessary repair bills and premature equipment failure. A professional HVAC technician can carry out a new load calculation to determine if your system is the correct size for your home.
If you’re concerned about your HVAC system tripping the circuit breaker in your home, contact a local HVAC specialist for expert help and advice today.