I live on the top floor of an apartment in Southern California and it doesn't have central AC. I have a portable unit (11.4 amp, 115 V, 1310 W, 60 Hz) and it keeps tripping my breaker. I don't have access to the breaker box (I think they are in the basement), so I have to call emergency maintenance to fix it (it's always tripped after hours).

My apartment manager is so terrible that I would be better off without her. I can't ever reach her in person or via phone. I leave messages and she never returns them. I submit work orders and they are never completed. The only success I've had is contacting tenant relations with the management company.

They are dragging their feet on fixing this issue and I am staying on their case because I believe that this is a safety issue. Not su much because I NEED AC, but because it shouldn't be tripping. The only thing on this circuit is the AC unit and... I really doubt that they have me on 10 amp breakers, especially given that I have a fridge.

Anyway, the reason for this back story is I want to know if there is a way to shut off the power at the outlet. Is there a device that would go between the plug of the AC unit and the outlet that could cut off the unit if it draws more than a specified amount of electricity? I really don't want to push things too far with management and make an enemy of the property manager, but I also want AC.

Also worth noting, I've plugged my 10 amp vacuum into the outlet and it hasn't shorted. I don't know if I have anything more demanding than 10 amp, other than the fridge.

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    Any common cheapie electric heater will be 1500W or 12.5 amps. When the air conditioner goes out, what else in the house loses power? Have you tried getting a $20 "Kill-a-Watt" or similar power meter and made sure the A/C unit is actually drawing only the 11.4 amps claimed? I once put a Kill-a-Watt on an old, decrepit supposedly 12A air conditioner (with a 15A plug) and it actually drew 19A continuous. Old junkers do that. They also don't perform very well. Jul 9, 2017 at 22:02
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    Yeah -- put a Kill-A-Watt on that thing and see what it's actually drawing... Jul 9, 2017 at 22:31

1 Answer 1


A gadget that shuts power off at the outlet before it hits 15A load, is not really the solution for your problem. For instance a healthy air conditioner will ordinarily spike above 15A, but return to spec limits soon enough.

The real problem is elsewhere. Either

  • Your air conditioner has a problem, and is drawing more than it's supposed to. This often happens to air conditioners that are near their end-of-life, i.e. that have a slow leak. In any case, 11.4 amps is a lot for a window air conditioner, I suspect a new, efficient one may pay its cost in electricity savings.
  • There are other loads on that circuit that you aren't telling us about, or that you don't know about.

For the first one, you can test with a common power meter such as a $20 "Kill-a-watt". Don't sweat a momentary startup spike, watch for continuous loads higher than advertised. If you see that, window air conditioners are generally not repairable (or worth repairing) and it's better to upgrade to a modern, efficient one anyway. For the same amount of cooling, look at BTU, not watts or amps.

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