What Size Breaker for AC Unit

What Size Breaker for AC Unit?

When it comes to installing a new air conditioning unit or replacing an old one, it is important to ensure that the electrical system can handle the load. One crucial aspect is determining the right size breaker for your AC unit. The breaker is responsible for protecting the electrical circuit from overloading and potentially causing damage to the unit or starting a fire. This article will guide you through the process of selecting the appropriate breaker size for your air conditioning unit.

Determining the Correct Breaker Size:

1. Check the AC unit’s electrical requirements: Start by examining the AC unit’s specifications or user manual. Look for the electrical requirements, which typically indicate the voltage and amperage the unit needs to operate effectively. Make a note of these values.

2. Calculate the required amperage: The amperage needed by the AC unit is crucial in determining the breaker size. Most residential AC units require a 240-volt circuit. To calculate the amperage, divide the unit’s wattage by the voltage. For example, if your unit requires 5,000 watts, divide it by 240 to get approximately 20.83 amps.

3. Consider the NEC guidelines: The National Electrical Code (NEC) provides guidelines for electrical installations in the United States. According to the NEC, the circuit breaker should have a rating of 125% of the unit’s load. This means that if your AC unit requires 20.83 amps, you should round it up to the nearest standard breaker size, which would be 25 amps.


Q: What happens if the breaker is too small for the AC unit?
A: If the breaker is smaller than what the AC unit requires, it will trip frequently, causing the unit to shut off. This can be frustrating and may indicate a potential electrical hazard. In such cases, it is crucial to upgrade the breaker to a larger size to prevent damage to the unit and ensure safety.

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Q: Can I use a larger breaker than what is recommended for my AC unit?
A: It is not recommended to use a larger breaker than what is required by the AC unit. Breakers are designed to protect the electrical circuit and the unit from overloading. Using a larger breaker may compromise the safety of the system and lead to damage or even electrical fires.

Q: Should I consult an electrician for assistance?
A: If you are unsure about selecting the right breaker size for your AC unit, it is always wise to consult a licensed electrician. They have the expertise to assess your electrical system and recommend the appropriate breaker size based on your AC unit’s requirements.

Q: Can I upgrade my electrical panel to accommodate a larger AC unit?
A: Upgrading the electrical panel may be necessary if your current panel cannot handle the load of a larger AC unit. This should be done by a professional electrician who can assess your electrical system and make the necessary adjustments to ensure safe and efficient operation.

In conclusion, selecting the right size breaker for your AC unit is crucial for the safe and efficient operation of your air conditioning system. By considering the unit’s electrical requirements, calculating the required amperage, and following NEC guidelines, you can ensure that your AC unit is properly protected. If in doubt, always consult a licensed electrician to avoid any potential hazards and ensure the longevity of your AC unit.