All that happens is when you start the ac the first time, the
compressor runs and builds up a good pressure inside. When the
ac turns off, that pressure slowly drops.
The motor can start the first time because it's got a low
pressure to work against, and starts normally. IF it's turned
off, then on too quickly, before the internal compressor
pressures can equalize, or at least drop considerably, it's too
much work for the motor and the motor simply cannot turn the
compressor because of the high pressure still there.
The older air conditioners have temp relays in them that limit
how long a motor can try to start the compressor. When it gets
hot enough, it opens and stops the motor from working. When it
cools, the motor starts again, and so on until the motor is able
to start. You can actually hear it clicking inside most air
conditioners when it turns on and off.
They are designed, by UL/CSA ETL etc requirements to work that
way. It's very seldom the motor or anything else is damaged
unless you maybe "wear out" a circuit breaker. Typically, if the
ac is on a ckt breaker of the recommended size it will NOT pop
the breaker open; the motor will just cycle, trying to start the
compressor until it finally succeeds. That's why they always
recommend in the install instructs that the unit be on its own
electrical ckt - so it won't pop the breaker. And the breaker is
supposed to have a time-delay spec also. It's in almost all of
the manuals that come with the air conditioners.
If the rapid on/off doesn't happen, they can usually also be
run on a smaller capacity breaker, or with other things on that
ckt, but then there is a lot better chanc e of popping the
So, what the OP described is perfectly expected operation and
NOT a sign that some super dangerous event is about to happen.
It simply indicates, as the OP said, that there is not enough
current available due to an undersized breaker or other loads, so
the breaker/fuse opens.
The newer units may well have time delays built into them that
control that, and I know a few I've read about also depressurize
the compressor quickly if it stops running. The latter seems to
be more prevalent in this area. I've never noticed one with a two
minute or whatever delay between starts but i don't look for them
Starting and running currents are on every nameplate I've ever
looked at on any air conditioner. So it's not really a big
mystery for those who bother to look.
: May I please ask for your help? I live in an apartment
: night, I turned my air conditioner on, then I turned it off,
: turned it off again (all within a couple of seconds).
: Now half of my apartment doesn't have power - outlets are dead,
: switches don't work.
: How bad is the damage - will my whole apartment have to have
: installed? Or do I simply have to ask the super in my building
: the circuit breakers?
: Thank you!!