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4 Signs Your AC Needs Electrical Work

Engineer holding blue helmet standing on High-voltage tower
Your HVAC system is a complex and crucial part of home life. When it malfunctions, you may sometimes have difficulty in discerning who to call, especially if you don't know if the problem is electrical or mechanical. Do you call an electrician or an HVAC technician? Here are four signs that the issue could be electrical.

1. Circuit Breaker Keeps Tripping

A one-time tripped circuit breaker is usually a nonissue. But if your AC unit does trip its breaker, keep an eye on it for the next couple of weeks and see if it happens again. A constantly tripping breaker doesn't just mean that you can't rely on your system to keep the house cool while you're at work; it also means the unit probably has an electrical problem.

If your unit has always had a tendency to cause this problem once in a while but now it's tripping the breaker more often than it used to, you may simply need a breaker with a higher capacity. The AC unit could have been replaced without regard to whether its circuit can actually handle the new unit's power requirements or not.

If the problem has just started happening recently, you could have a more hazardous problem. A wiring default might be to blame, which could put you at risk of electrical fire or electrical shock. Or your AC might just be really run-down; units that aren't well-maintained tend to run less efficiently, meaning that they work harder and overheat more often.

2. Lights Flicker When AC Comes On

If your AC unit doesn't have its own dedicated circuit, you may see visible signs of whether or not the circuit is capable of supporting what's running on it. For example, if your AC unit causes your lights to flicker every time it cycles on, that's a sign that the sudden power draw is more than the circuit can comfortably handle.

Flickering lights can also be a sign that you have a wiring problem such as loose connections or wires or even a damaged wire. So if the problem has appeared recently and you haven't had it checked out yet, call in an electrician and have them take a look at your circuit breaker box and your wiring.

3. Unit and Thermostat Don't Seem Connected

Even if your unit and thermostat receive power, that doesn't mean you don't have a wiring issue. Sometimes the wiring that runs from the thermostat to the unit becomes compromised so that the signals don't get through. This can make the unit fail to cycle on when the thermostat settings indicate that it should.

An electrical expert or HVAC professional can examine the wiring that connects the unit to the thermostat, checking for and repairing any problems.

4. Unit Doesn't Have Power 

If you've tried resetting the circuit breaker but the unit still doesn't appear to have power, you may need a new breaker or even a new circuit breaker box. The normal lifespan of the breaker box is 60 years, but a circuit breaker may need replacing every 30 to 40 years (although it can last much longer as well).

Another possibility in this situation is that the wiring has been damaged between the circuit breaker box and the unit. Or the unit itself could have a bad connection. 

These four signs can all indicate that your AC's electrical supply is compromised and needs expert electrical work. If your unit is malfunctioning in a more AC-specific way (for example, if it's running but only blows hot air), you may need an HVAC specialist. If you're still not sure which contractor you need, call Family Electric or contact us online to discuss your problem.

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