When a circuit breaker trips, it is because too much electrical current was flowing through the wires. The breaker tripped in order to protect those wires and prevent fires. If your air conditioner trips the breaker, you can usually just flip the breaker back on and proceed as usual. Usually, this is just a fluke event, and the breaker won't trip again. However, if the breaker connected to your AC does keep tripping, that is something to make note of. Your air conditioner may need to be repaired. Here are some of the most common issues that might be causing this behavior.
Broken Coil Fan
Your air conditioner contains a small fan called the coil fan. Its purpose is to blow air over the coils and cool them down when they get too hot. (This happens because the coil is discharging heat from your home.) If the coil fan breaks, then the coil cannot cool off properly. Its high temperature will often cause the air conditioner to trip the breaker. When a broken coil fan is to blame, your AC will often run for a cycle or two before tripping the breaker. It takes that much time for the coil to overheat.
An HVAC repair contractor can typically remove and replace the coil fan. It generally comes as a packaged unit. If you need to save money, ask your AC contractor if they can use a generic fan instead of the brand-name one recommended for your unit. Generic parts are often significantly more affordable.
The contactor is basically the part of the electrical system that makes contact between your air conditioner and your home's wiring. Think of it as a bridge or a go-between. Over time, the contactor can become worn. At this stage, it may start malfunctioning, sending too much current through, and tripping the breaker. At first, this may happen occasionally, but it will eventually start to happen every time the AC tries to turn on.
Luckily, the contactor is a small part, and your AC repair person should be able to remove and replace it quite easily. Some AC units even have the contactor right on the outside so your HVAC tech won't have to take the unit apart.
If your air conditioner is repeatedly tripping your circuit breaker, then something is wrong. Chances are, you need to have your contactor replaced or your coil fan replaced.
Contact a local AC repair service to learn more.