Resetting AC indoor breaker; and what's wrong with my AC.

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I would google but my house is so hot, opening the browser again makes the computer overheat.
Someone posted that he feared resetting a high current breaker when the device it powered was on, was bad for the breaker, because of arcing.
I think there was only modest agreement with him, but still, if I'm resetting the indoor double breaker for my AC, and the outdoor double breaker is ON, and the temp of the house calls for cooling, could I stop the load on the indoor breaker by turning off the indoor single breaker that controls my oil furance, which in turn controls the AC?
Normally I wouldn't care, but the indoor double breaker for the AC seemed to make a strange noise when being reset, like a few little metal blades from a tiny metal fan hitting something, like a Chinese fan that a woman carries, which I feared was actually the noise of arcing. And the breaker would NOT reset! So this moise made me feel I was damaging or further damaging it.
But the bigger question is what's wrong with my AC? We have had 5 or 7 days above 90 degrees**, so I broke down and started using it 3 days ago. Normally it turns off after about 4 hours, even when first turned on, but this time it ran many hours, maybe 3 solid days, without stopping, even though the house was cool enough for me after less than a day, and eventually too cold. (I coudn't see and had set the thermostat too low.)
Did running for 3 days damage the breaker?
Or do you think there's a bigger problem?
If there were a short in the compressor, it woudln't reset either. Will turning off the outside double breaker and trying to reset the inside double breaker prove that the problem is the inside breaker if I still can't reset it. Naybe writing this post got me to my next step.
But I still wonder if running constantly for 3 days would damage a breaker, or a compressor?
Thanks a lot.
(For a while I thought it was the radio control by the power company, but that was before I looked at the inside breaker.)
**Already labeled maybe the hottest summer ever, after we had snowmageddon this past February, and the coolest summer of my life last summer (26 of which were here, Baltimore, and others in NYC, Chicago, Indy, and western Pa.).
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If the breaker is not resetting and making lots of noise you probably have a short someplace. Running three days straight wound not ruin the breaker, but evidently, there is a problem of either low charge or possibly a compressor problem. My advice would be to call a service tech. Breakers are fairly cheap if it was ruined.
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On Mon, 28 Jun 2010 05:48:09 -0400, "Ed Pawlowski"

This seems pretty clear now that you've said it. Last night my mind was a blank, other than focusing on my unresettable breker. A low charge would account for its cooling more slowly these 3 days. (I didn't use it all last summer.) OTOH, it was working until or almost until the breaker tripped, maybe it's a compressor problem.
I will check the breaker in a little while, and see if I smell anything at the compressor, and maybe open up the case. Yeah, I know about 220.

I'm supposed to get a new furnace this summer. I've used the AC very little over the last 27 years so I considered not replacing it, despite what you all said about efficiency. But I guess I'll get one. Still, I can easily live without it until then.
It's 85 out at 8:30AM and still very pleasant in the house. Expected 92 today, 88 tomorrow and low 80's after that. I
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Im no electrician or AC pro but I would use a clamp on amp meter at the panel and if load isnt about what is stated on the unit I would call a pro now, if the breaker was cutting out at a low load I would put in a new breaker and hope its a bad breaker. I would not feel safe running it until I knew the issue. Just last night the fire dept was called to my neighbors house for the AC system smelling like smoke, alot of components could be in question on a system, you shouldnt be guessing.
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On Mon, 28 Jun 2010 04:22:42 -0700 (PDT), ransley

Don't I have to somehow separate the black and white wires to measure current with a clamp-on? So I can go around just one of them. Woudln't that be a lot of work?

Thanks for replying. I turned off the outside breaker and the inside one reset with no problem.
While I'm outside, the young wman next door has guys there replacing her compressor. They have to go to their next job and won't look at my unit, but tell me it's the compressor.
They're going to give me an estimate for a new AC and furnace.
My next door neibhor also has original AC and furance from 31 years ago, and I believe all the families who lived there used their AC a lot. Carrier, fwiw. Though that's not the brand they're replacing it with. She's keeping her furnace.
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On your circuit panel its the one wire that goes to each circuit breaker, it shouldnt be a problem with the large spacing and extra wire in there to get a meter on a wire. As motors and the compressor near failure they can draw alot more amps than rated. When the tech comes out and checks my AC he checks for amp draw at the units to check all components individualy, doing it at the circuit panel will give you an idea as long as you read the units running load. At 27 years Im sure it could use service, have you ever looked at the air handler coil, I saw my neighbors that was so clogged he couldnt get heat one winter, we pulled the coil for the winter, it was caked shut. Maybe a full service call would get you through the summer and save alot in electricity
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I don't see how he's gonna measure current with a clamp-on amp meter when the breaker trips as soon as he tries to reset it. To answer some of the other questions and issues along the way:
You can prevent the AC from starting while you reset the breaker by moving the thermostat to the off position or setting it to temp above the actual room temp.
Given the symptoms, it does not sound like it's low on refrigerant, as I don't believe that woud cause it to trip a breaker on reset. It does sound like a short somewhere, either in the wiring or the compressor could be toast
Running it constantly for 3 days should have nothing to do with destroying it, provided it was running normally to begin with as they are rated for continuous duty. However the fact that it ran for 3 days without ever reaching desired temp would indicate that something was already wrong and letting it continue to run like that I would think could have finally resulted in the compressor failing.
If it were my unit, I'd verify that nothing is shorted in the wiring up to the unit. You could do that by disconnecting the two incoming wires from the AC that are connected to the relay in the condenser. Then, with the wires not touching anything, the breaker should reset. If it does, then you could inspect the wiring inside the condenser going to the compressor, fan etc. If no shorts are found, then it's time for a service call.
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On Mon, 28 Jun 2010 10:15:59 -0700 (PDT), snipped-for-privacy@optonline.net wrote:

Thanks, and thanks to Tony and gfretwell and everyone.

Well it actually got cold enough, in maybe 6 hours and it even got too cold by the third day. But it never turned off because the temp was still set for the winter, at 68.
Still, it might not have been working as well as it used to.

Aha! Thats what I should do. Later today when it's not so hot.

In that case, I'll just hurry up finding someone to replace the furnace and the AC.
It's interesting that when I was out there this morning, my next door neigbor had someone replacing her compressor, also from 31 years ago. And all of the people who lived here used the AC all summer. I used mine no more than 20 days a summer, usually 0 to 10. And the guy before me was from Louisiana and always too cold, so he probably didn't use it much either. Yet mine and my neighbors failed within less than a week of each other. (of course the others in the n'hood were replaced over the last 15 years.)
He told me she has the original furnace too, but I'm guessing didn't have enough money to replace them both, even with the energy credit that she will lose by waiting until 2011.
Thanks.
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On Mon, 28 Jun 2010 07:13:34 -0700 (PDT), ransley

Oh. Okay. Thanks.

Can't do that. It trips immediately. Once I held it closed for about 3 seconds. That was a mistake. Might have damaged it. It doesn't seem so but I'll see when the new one is in.
I turned off the outside double breaker, turned the inside back on, and turned it on again outside while watched the compressor fan. It ran for a second and stopped, and the inside double breaker wss tripped again.

Everyone here uses the phrase air handler, but I don't know what it means. The condensor coil doesn't get very dirty, but I've cleaned it a little and it's clean enough. The A coil is not accessible. I cut a 3" x 5" hole to see why the condensate was going on my floor, but never tried to make a bigger hole. I haven't looked for 10 years.

Well the AC was working fine the last time I used it, almost two years ago, and pretty well for three days just now. It was actually cool enough in the house after 4 or maybe 6 hours but it never turned off, because I had the thermostat too low (68, from the winter), When I set the thermostat to 72 or 3, the AC went off a little while later, and didn't go back on. I guess that's was either a coincidence, or I still think maybe something about running for 3 days straight cause it to fail.

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That 3x5 hole might be bigh enough to see if the coil is dirty, I cut in a 12x12 hole and made a cover. You really need a pro to go over everything, your monkeying around wont address any of the many issues you have from wear and a lack of regular proper maintenance, so pay the 200 and get it checked out right, you might save 400 in operating it this year.
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On Mon, 28 Jun 2010 08:05:15 -0700, Smitty Two

I was too brief. He said it was probably the compressor. Given that it and the coil are no dirtier than it was two years ago, when the AC worked fine, is there any part that can trip the breaker other than a burned, shorted compressor?
And this is only an estimate and one out of several.
I already know I need a new furnace, and everyone says if my AC is 31 years old, I can buy a more efficient one. (Not that I disagree, but when I only use it zero to 15 days a year, it's probably still cheaper not to replace it. Until it broke, that is.)
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I used to run our (window) AC about the same. As we get older and health is not quite as good. I'm quick to flip the switch these days.
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On Mon, 28 Jun 2010 21:02:27 -0400, "Ed Pawlowski"

Yeah, that might happen to me too. I've noticed once I turn it on, I want to use it the rest of the summer, even if it gets cooler.
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WOW, talk about uninformed... Your AC unit and furnace share the same air ducts... When was the last time you used your furnace for heating ? The AC coils can get dirty from dust and particulates like pet fur and human hair that get sucked into the ducting when the heat is being used and build up and restrict airflow...
Your mistake was leaving your AC off for two years and expecting it to turn right back on with no issues... YEARLY maintenance is required on split AC systems to keep them in peak operating condition and ready to cool...
Sounds like you are looking at cleaning the coils first then looking at why the heat pump unit outside is not working... Two years is a long time for a slow leak to let out your refrigerant and you might not have enough left in your system for it to do anything at this point...
~~ Evan
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Run! Run!
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She is not very smart. In five years she'll be paying a lot extra to have an inefficient furnace replaced. Easier to to it all now.
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On Mon, 28 Jun 2010 20:58:21 -0400, "Ed Pawlowski"

Yeah, she didn't ask my advice. I may have overdone it with the advice on plugging her basement sink, so that when the stream floods, her basement won't. The lowest 4 townhouses in my n'hood have this problem, especially mine and hers, which are lower than the next two.
I'll bet she didn't do it, because it's hard to worry about something she's never seen that even I say might not happen for 5 years (although on average it's once ever two years).
She's a school teacher and just bought the house, started with a roommate, whom I never see anymore**, so maybe she's paying the mortgage alone.
**Of course I see her only once every several months, and I know she's there.
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You could, of course, try shut down the furnace. Reset the breaker, turn furnace back on. The funny noises, sounds like the current draw is about trying to trip the double breaker for the outdoor unit. If it trips again, I'd call a service company for help.
An AC shouldn't trip the breaker. If it is, something is wrong.
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mm wrote:

Which breaker? One for the ODU or blower? One is 220V one ganged, one is 120V one usually.
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wrote:

Carefully touch (or measure with an IR gun) the temperature of the outside breaker case after the A/C has run a few minutes. If it is running hot I bet it is bad. With the inside breaker off, cycle the outside one a few times and try it again. If it still runs significantly hotter or you hear sizzling sounds, replace it. That can cause problems but you may need a "hard start" capacitor in your condenser. That is a way to nurse a little extra time out of an old unit. You should still be thinking about a replacement. The newer systems are efficient enough, compared to old ones,. that your payback time is not that long.
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