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Circuit Breaker Problems

What is a circuit breaker?

A circuit breaker is a device that automatically shuts off power supply to a device if there is a problem with the electric supply. If a power surge occurs in the wiring and the amperage exceeds the design limit of the circuit breaker, it will trip and shut off the power to prevent damage to the device drawing it and also prevent the overloaded circuit from catching fire. Normal domestic lighting and wall outlet circuit breakers are typically of 10, 15 and 20 amp capacity. Larger capacities may be needed for air conditioners, washers etc. Read below where Experts answer questions regarding circuit breakers and circuit breaker replacement.

The circuit breaker on my compressor keeps tripping. When I reset it the unit runs fine and the thermostat cuts out as programmed. But when the temperature rises and the thermostat signals the compressor to restart, the breaker trips again. What should I do?

This sounds like a contactor problem. Check the wiring diagram of the air conditioner to locate the contactor – it is the relay that closes when the compressor needs to restart. Check if there are any signs of melting or burning where the contact points connect. If so, the contactor may need replacement. A bad contactor can damage the compressor.

If the door of my Whirlpool ET21GK was left open all night and the GFCI had tripped and even after resetting it continues to trip, is something wrong with the refrigerator?

There are many different circuit breaker types. A refrigerator is not meant to be on a GFCI. Replace the GFCI with a 20 amp dedicated / grounded non GFCI circuit breaker. This should resolve the problem. If the issues persist, there may be a problem with the refrigerator.

The circuit breaker for my air conditioner keeps tripping. It is a central air unit. How do I know if I need to get AC or circuit breaker repair done?

The first thing to do is to locate the electrical control box that is required by code for all central air units. It should be on the side of our house with a wire running to the outdoor unit. It will have a disconnect switch that needs to be turned off. In some models, you may need to open the box and bull out a black box with a handle on it. Once the switch is off, rest the circuit breaker in the house. If it stays on, the problem would appear to be with the AC unit and getting a technician to check it is a good idea.

I have a York model P3HUB16N08001A HVAC unit. The circuit breaker trips when the fan relay clicks on. If the fan is connected directly to the 115v supply on the heater power circuit it runs and draws 20 amps. Do I need to replace the circuit breaker?

Before thinking of replacing the circuit breaker, check the circuit board for water or other damage. If the contacts are bad or weak, this would cause low voltage resulting in higher amps which could cause the circuit breaker to trip. Since the power source is the same, this appears to be the most likely cause. You may need to replace the board.

When I try to turn on my Bryant model 561cj042-e air conditioner, the circuit breaker trips. Should I try replacing the circuit breaker?

Before thinking of circuit breaker replacement, you should check if the AC compressor or fan motor has grounded out. To do this first disconnect the power wire from the fan motor. Secure them so they are not touching anything. Turn the circuit breaker on again. If the breaker does not trip, it indicates that the problem is with the fan motor. If it does trip, that could means that the compressor is the problem. I suggest that you get a technician to check the air conditioner before you replace the breaker.

Circuit breakers are important electrical safety devices. A breaker tripping normally indicates a problem with the wiring or the device using the power. If resetting the breaker does not solve the problem or if the tripping continues, it is best to get the help of experts to resolve the problem. Any mistakes in circuit breaker troubleshooting could lead to devices being damaged or fire hazards. Many times Expert help is needed.
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