Air Conditioner Short-Cycling: What It Is, What Causes It?

One of the more common problems that air conditioning systems encounter is something called short-cycling. This is when the air conditioner starts up and runs for only a short time before shutting down, then turns on a brief time later, getting caught in a start-and-stop repetition. This is a serious problem for an air conditioner because it places immense strain on its components, particularly the compressor. The amount of energy that short-cycling drains will also result in a steep rise in bills. Because the AC won’t be able to complete its full cooling cycle, it will also result in a poor distribution of cold air through the rooms.

Why Short-Cycling Occurs

There are a number of causes of short-cycling, ranging from problems that are easily corrected to ones that will require the entire air conditioner be replaced:

  • Clogged air filter: The air filter in an HVAC system should be changed or cleaned every 1 to 3 months. Otherwise, the debris caught in it will start to choke off the airflow, which will cause numerous problems—including short-cycling.
  • Malfunctioning thermostat: Sometimes, an air conditioner will short-cycle because the thermostat is reading incorrect temperatures, resulting in it shutting the compressor on and off rapidly.
  • Loss of refrigerant: If an air conditioner starts to lose refrigerant through leaks, it will cause an imbalance throughout the system. Short-cycling is often a good early warning of refrigerant leaks, which is something that needs to be fixed as soon as possible before the compressor suffers damage.
  • Oversized AC: If the air conditioner in your home was not properly sized when it was installed (a common problem with amateur installations), it may be too large. This will cause the system to short-cycle because it will raise the temperature so fast that it will register that it has completed the cooling cycle prematurely. The only way to solve this is to have skilled professionals replace the AC with a correctly sized one.

Comfort Central, Inc. offers air conditioning installation and repairs in Fletcher, NC. We offer caring customer service and invest in doing the job completely and right the first time.

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