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Why Is My Heat Pump Tripping the Breaker? A Phoenix Tech Answers

October 13, 2020

Have you reset your heat pump breaker multiple times because it keeps tripping?

If so, it means there’s an issue that needs to be addressed, such as:

  1. A dirty air filter
  2. A dirty outdoor unit
  3. Low refrigerant
  4. An electrical problem
  5. A compressor problem

We’ll go into more detail about each of the issues below. We’ll also tell you right off the bat that besides changing a dirty filter, you will likely need the assistance of a trained HVAC technician to fix the rest of the problems listed above.

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Want a professional to repair your heat pump? Our skilled technicians are standing by, ready to help!

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Problem #1: A dirty air filter

If your air filter is clogged with dust, it acts as a barrier that prevents air from passing through it. As a result, components in your heat pump such as the fan motor have to work extra hard to pull in a sufficient amount of air to be cooled/heated by the heat pump.

The harder these components have to work, the more power they draw. Eventually, they can draw too much power, which causes the heat pump circuit breaker to trip.

Solution: Go to your air filter and check to see if it is dirty. If it looks like the one in the image below, it’s dirty and should be replaced ASAP.

Dirty Air Filter
A dirty air filter
If, after replacing the dirty filter, the heat pump continues to trip the breaker, do not keep resetting the breaker. Allowing your heat pump to continue tripping the breaker could damage internal components. Instead, contact a professional for further assistance.

Problem #2: A dirty outdoor unit

Inside the outdoor unit of the heat pump are condenser coils, which either release or absorb heat, depending on whether your heat pump is in cooling or heating mode.

However, if the condenser coils are dirty, then the heat pump will struggle to heat or cool your home. Similar to a dirty air filter, important components in your heat pump will work overtime to compensate, which causes your heat pump to pull extra power and trip the circuit breaker.

Solution: Have a professional clean inspect your outdoor unit and clean the condenser coils if they are dirty.

Problem #3: Low refrigerant

Your heat pump uses a liquid substance called refrigerant to heat or cool your home. If your heat pump is low on refrigerant (which is usually caused by a leak), then the entire system will struggle to keep your home warm or cool.

To compensate for the lack of refrigerant, your heat pump will work extra hard to meet the desired temperature set at the thermostat. All of this extra stress can cause components to draw too much power, which will trip the breaker.

Solution: Contact an HVAC professional to inspect your heat pump and measure the refrigerant levels. If your heat pump is low on refrigerant, the professional will need to find the source of the leak and repair it.

Problem #4: An electrical issue

Several electrical problems can cause the heat pump breaker to trip, including:

  • A shorted fan motor: An electrical short is when electricity bypasses its normal path. In a fan motor, shorts are often created when the insulation around the wires deteriorates. When this happens, the wires receive more electricity than they are designed to handle, which causes the circuit breaker to trip.
  • Loose or worn-out wiring: Similar to a short, loose or worn-out wires (which are more common with older heat pumps) can pull too much power or heat and cause the breaker to trip.
  • A faulty breaker: Breakers can start to malfunction as they age—especially if they have been tripped a lot. This could explain why the heat pump circuit breaker trips constantly.

Solution: Have a professional inspect the fan motor and wiring in your heat pump and make any needed repairs or run new wires if necessary. If the technician finds the breaker is faulty, they may be able to replace the breaker or refer you to an electrician who can help.

Problem #5: A compressor issue

The compressor is the “heart” of your heat pump, located in the outdoor unit. It circulates refrigerant throughout the heat pump and is essential to the cooling/heating process.
Compressor

The compressor, located inside the outdoor unit

Because the compressor is such a vital part of your heat pump, it naturally draws a lot of power during normal operation. However, certain issues could cause the compressor to draw too much power, causing the circuit breaker to trip.

Compressor-related issues that can cause the breaker to trip include:

  • A hard-starting compressor: As a compressor ages, it may struggle to start when the heat pump turns on. A hard-starting compressor often pulls in too much power during startup, which can cause the breaker to trip.
  • A grounded compressor: A grounded compressor is when the electrical windings inside the compressor hit the side of the metal casing and create a short, which results in a tripped breaker.
  • A bad capacitor: The capacitor is a part that helps the compressor turn on. When a capacitor starts to go bad, it will struggle to kick-start the compressor. If you hear your outdoor unit trying to start and then the circuit breaker trips, this could be the cause.

Solution: A professional will need to inspect the compressor and figure out what’s causing the issue. Some compressor issues can be fixed by a technician but others cannot. The compressor is tightly sealed, which makes it difficult (if not impossible) for a technician to perform repairs in the field. If a repair is not possible, replacing the compressor may be the only option.

The bad news is that replacing a compressor is expensive. The good news is, if your manufacturer warranty is still valid, you may not have to pay for a replacement. The professional you hire to fix your heat pump can help you determine whether your warranty is still valid and if compressor replacement is necessary.

Need a heat pump repair from a Phoenix pro?

Our skilled technicians can quickly find what’s causing your heat pump to trip the circuit breaker and fix the problem. When you hire Patrick Riley, you can count on exceptional customer service and that the repair will be done correctly—the first time.

Learn more about what to expect when you hire us by visiting our heat pump repair page.

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