Air Conditioner on 15 Amp Circuit Dims Lights

We live in a very old apartment, which is not wired for 220. Unfortunately, the Board of Directors of the apartment complex refuses to upgrade to 220. The whole living room and the master bedroom are on one 15-Amp circuit breaker.

Last year, we put in 2 air conditioners. When they "cycle" the lights dim. I later noticed the A/Cs state that each A/C should be on its own 20-Amp circuit breaker. I asked a licensed electrician about this. He told me that, unless the apartment is wired for 220, it's not worth it. Is this true?


By Richard from Bayside, NY

November 26, 20090 found this helpful

You don't say how many btu's your air conditioners are. I don't think you need to up grade to 200 service if you have 100 amp service. Service is either 100 or 200 amp for homes. The air conditioner label or if you have the user manual should list the voltage and the amps.

I have a 7,000 btu window unit that runs on 15 amps and 115 volts. My electrical service is 200 amps. My plugs for the air conditioner are on a dedicated circuit. You could ask the apartment board if you could have an electrician put the plugs you use for your air conditioner as a dedicated line. That means you would have one wire running from the wall outlet plug to the circuit breaker box. With all the electrical products every home uses it would be a safety matter to have 200 amp service and dedicated service for some of the appliances.

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November 26, 20090 found this helpful

You do not need a 200amp service, especially in a small apartment. While 220 is standard now in a service upgrade, unless you have something that runs on 220, such as an electric water heater, dryer or large a/c unit requiring 220, you do not need it.

The reason your lights dim when the a/c cycles is motor inrush. When a motor starts it takes much more amperage than to keep it running. If the units specify dedicated 20amp circuits, then thats what they should be on. They are specified that way for safety and to prevent fires.

our choices are 1. get the circuits installed, assuming there is enough room in the panel to safely add circuits. 2. replace the a/c units with smaller units but on a single circuit you will still have issues when they start. or 3, which probably isn't possible-move.

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