Why Do Heat Pumps Trip Circuit Breakers?

Turning on your heat pump for the first time of the season can sometimes trip the circuit breaker, which is a relatively normal occurrence. However, if this happens frequently, it could be a sign of a problem that needs corrected. In today’s post, the HVAC contractors at Schmitt share a look at what causes heating systems to trip the circuit breaker and what can be done to prevent this.

Heat Pumps Trip Circuit Breakers

Electrical overload. A standard electrical circuit can accommodate several devices, appliances and fixtures, and the more of them that are plugged into the same circuit, the closer you get to reaching its load capacity. If a major appliance—an air pump, for instance—is turned on and there happens to be little room left on the circuit’s electrical load, the circuit becomes overloaded, which will then trip the circuit breaker.

Ideally, heating and cooling systems need to be connected to a dedicated circuit. That is, it should have its own circuit breaker. If the house’s electrical system doesn’t have one, a licensed electrician will need to install a new circuit. This helps ensure that the heat pump’s operation won’t affect your other electrical devices, and vice versa.

Clogged air filters. HVAC systems are equipped with air filters for trapping dust and other particulates in the air. Air filters are supposed to be replaced every three months, and sometimes  as often as every month during seasons of heavy usage when they get clogged faster. One of the problems clogged air filters can cause is to restrict airflow, which can increase the workload on your heat pump and raise its power draw until it reaches its circuit’s load capacity and trips the circuit breaker.

Dirty condenser coils. Condenser coils are part of the heat pump’s condenser unit, which is located outdoors. Their primary function is to remove heat from the refrigerant during a cooling cycle. Since heat pumps are essentially reverse air conditioners, it can also pull heat into the HVAC system when it’s in heating mode.

In either case, the condenser coils need direct contact with air to operate efficiently, which can’t happen if they’re covered in dirt. Like clogged air filters, condenser coils can hinder heat pump performance and consequently increase its workload. Making sure that the HVAC system receives regular maintenance can help prevent overloading that would trip the circuit breaker.

Call Schmitt for Your Heating Needs

Schmitt is your leading provider of residential and commercial HVAC repair services. Give us a call at (415) 689-7849. You can also fill out our contact form to schedule an appointment. We serve customers in San Francisco and the surrounding communities.

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