Electrical Question about a Tripping Circuit Breaker
Why does my circuit breaker keep tripping? The Most Common Causes of a Tripped Circuit Breaker.
Guide to Diagnose the Cause of a Tripped Circuit Breaker
Electrical Question: Why does my circuit breaker keep tripping?
- There is only one item on this breaker, the air conditioner. Sometimes it trips right away, and sometimes it trips after running all day.
- The condition is very inconsistent. This would exclude a short, my only guess is the breaker is not strong enough?
- The size of the breaker is 15 amps which should suffice.
- The AC unit is a somewhat older as well.
- Is it safe to upgrade to higher amperage breaker?
- Can I install a 20 amp breaker possibly? Any suggestions?
Received from a Handyman in Lawrence, New York.
How to Fix a Tripping Circuit Breaker Problem
Application: Troubleshooting a Tripping Circuit Breaker.
Skill Level: Intermediate to Advanced – Best repaired by a Licensed Electrician.
Tools Required: Basic Electricians Pouch Hand Tools and Voltage Tester and Amperage Meter or Current Recorder.
Estimated Time: Depends on personal level experience, ability to work with hand tools and electrical troubleshooting skills and access to the circuit components and equipment.
Precaution: Identify the circuit, turn it OFF and then Tag it with a Note before performing any wiring or inspections.
Note: Electrical troubleshooting is best performed by a qualified electrical contractor or equipment service technician.
The Most Common Causes of a Tripping Circuit Breaker
- Circuit Breaker Basics
- The most common types of circuit breakers are deigned according to the voltage and amperage for the specific circuit. Amperage is the flow of electricity that is consumed by the circuit. Amperage is also referred to as Current or Load.
- Circuit breakers are sized to protect the electrical wiring from overheating.
- The circuit breaker also protects the devices or electrical equipment that are used on the circuit in the case of an overloaded condition or an electrical fault, such as a short circuit in the wiring.
- What Size Should a Circuit Breaker Be?
- Circuit wiring is designed for the specific purpose for which it will be used.
- The Two Most Common Types of Home Electrical Circuits:
- General Purpose Branch Circuit which is used for lights and receptacle outlets.
- Equipment Circuit which consist of a dedicated circuit that provides power for one unit of equipment.
- NOTE: Dedicated circuits are sized according to the nameplate that is attached to the equipment or the specifications as described in the installation manual.
- Can I Increase the Size of the Circuit Breaker or Fuse?
- NO! Increasing the size of a tripping circuit breaker or fuse that is blown is extremely dangerous and could create a hazardous condition that can lead to damaged equipment and a house fire.
- Why a Circuit Breaker Trips
- A circuit breaker may trip because of a fault or short circuit within the electrical wiring.
- A circuit overload condition can also cause a breaker to trip off.
- A bad or faulty circuit breaker can cause the breaker to trip.
- How to Test and Diagnose a Tripping Circuit Breaker Problem
- An amperage recording is the most common test to see the exact amount of electrical current that is being placed onto the circuit wiring and connected equipment.
- The amount of amperage that is recorded is compared to the size of the circuit wires and the breaker size.
- If the amperage reading is less than the size of the circuit breaker then the circuit breaker may be faulty and needs to be replaced.
- If the amperage reading is higher than the size of the circuit breaker then there is most likely a problem with the equipment or a device that is plugged in or connected to the circuit.
- Keep in mind that equipment with a motor will cause the amperage reading to spike high when the motor first starts, which is normal if the amperage spike is within the range specified by the equipment nameplate information.
- If the Circuit Breaker Trips off Immediately when Attempting to Turn it On:
- This is typically an indication that there is a short circuit condition which can be a fault or problem within the circuit wiring, or a dead short within a device or equipment that is connected to the circuit.
- This type of condition will require further testing and isolation of equipment components which will help to locate the problem.
- Air Conditioners, Electric Motors and other Equipment
- Make sure the AC unit condenser fan is working and free from obstructions.For stand alone AC units the condenser fan is located on the top of the equipment and blows air upward.
- The condenser coils around the AC unit should be kept clean and clear to provide air flow through the coil unit.
- The Freon levels should be checked to make sure they are at the proper levels and there are no freon leaks within the AC system.
- Start or Run Motor Capacitors:
- Capacitors are typically found on the AC refrigerant compressor, and the condenser fan, depending on the exact AC unit you are working with.
- If a motor capacitor has become faulty this can cause the amperage to read high and can cause an overload condition which can trip the circuit breaker off.
- Replace faulty motor capacitors as needed.
More about Circuit Breakers and Electrical Wiring
For more information about Circuit Breaker
Troubleshooting and Repairing Electrical Wiring
Electrical Troubleshooting Methods used to solve the majority of the home electrical problems and wiring failures encountered.
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Be Careful and Be Safe - Never Work on Energized Circuits!
Consult your Local Building Department about Permits and Inspections for all Electric Wiring Projects.
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