December 4, 2019 • In Electrical • 3 Min Read

What to Do First if The Power Goes Out: Check the Circuit Breaker



Did all of your lights go out? Or maybe your thermostat is calling for cooling on a hot day, but your air conditioning system won’t turn on? I guess you could use candles and a hand fan if you’d like—or, you could fix it yourself! There are a few things that you can check before you call your electrical service provider. First things first: the circuit breaker.

Believe it or not, service technicians have shown up to houses where there’s been a power outage to either the house of the entire neighborhood. If it seems like it’s just the air conditioner being spazzy, it could actually be your electricity! Check first to see if you have electrical power to the unit.

Keep in mind that you’re dealing with electricity. It’s often more prudent to call a professional than to do it yourself, especially if you don’t have tools such as a voltmeter and knowledge of basic electricity. We don’t want anybody getting hurt!

If you’re a brave soul and decide to go for it on your own, be cautious.

There are three places where you can check for power to your air conditioning unit: 

  • 1. The main electrical panel that’s in your house (typically in your basement or garage). 

Open the door to the electrical panel (what used to be called the fuse box) and check the labels next to each of the switches. 

Note: If you have an older home and an older breaker box where the labels have been hand-written next to the switches, keep in mind that the labels may not be accurate. 

Be that as it may, look for labels for the air conditioner and the furnace and see if any of the switches for your system are in the “Off” position. One popular brand of circuit breaker displays an orange square when the breaker has been tripped. If the circuit breaker is showing an orange square, turn it off and then switch it on. If the circuit breaker is in the off position, turn it on. If the breaker trips immediately, call a professional.

  1. 2. At your furnace. Many jurisdictions require an On/Off switch for the furnace for safety reasons for when the unit is being serviced. 

Hint: The switch, which looks like a light switch, is mounted on or near your furnace. Make sure the switch is in the “On” position.

  1. 3. The disconnect switch that’s mounted on the wall of your house next to the outdoor air conditioning unit. When you open the cover on some of them, they’ll have an On/Off switch that may have tripped off. Try to reset it. 

Note: Once again, if it trips immediately, call a professional. The disconnect switch will also contain large fuses that may have blown. 

Check the condition of the fuses. Replacement fuses are available at your local home center. 

Beware! Never use a fuse that’s rated higher than what’s called for in your A/C owner’s manual. And never, ever, try to jumper the fuses by plugging in a length of copper tube. That’s a good way to either damage your air conditioner or start a fire.

Pro Tip: If you have a voltmeter and know how to use it, check the wires running to the disconnect for voltage going to and coming from the outdoor unit. You should get a reading of 208/240V on both sides.

It’s important to remember that tripped circuit breakers or blown fuses are not a cause, they are a symptom. Something else is going on with your system to cause it to overload. 

You may be able to get whatever system gave up on you to restart, but you must call a professional to look into the problem further. So, give us a call at GEM, or book an appointment today! We can make sure that nothing else gives up on you! 

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