When an air conditioning system maintains the correct temperature and doesn’t need to cool by more than a few degrees, it will typically only run for 12 to 20 minutes at a time. It may run longer on extremely hot, humid days. Otherwise, it will usually just perform two or three cycles an hour. You don’t want your AC cycles to be too long since this leads to greater energy usage and more wear and tear, but the cycles also shouldn’t be too short to where the system constantly turns on and off every few minutes.

This issue where an AC keeps cycling on and off in quick succession is known as short cycling, and it is extremely hard on an AC system and will almost always greatly shorten the system’s lifespan. Short cycling also wastes huge amounts of energy since it takes far more electricity for an AC system to turn on than it does for it to run. Short cycling can occur for a variety of reasons, and this article will explain the most common causes and what to do if your AC is short cycling.

Check the Thermostat and Thermostat Location

The thermostat is obviously what controls an air conditioning system and signals it when to turn on and off. Several different issues can lead to the thermostat sending false signals and telling the system to turn off too quickly or turn back on before it needs to. This can sometimes happen simply because the batteries in the thermostat are low, leading to the thermostat occasionally cutting out and the AC system shutting down prematurely. A thermostat that is malfunctioning or is dirty on the inside can also send false signals or not measure the temperature in the home correctly.

The thermostat should be installed in a location that accurately represents the temperature in the rest of the home and is not exposed to sunlight. If the thermostat is in a warmer location or exposed to sunlight, it will think the home is warmer than it is and signal the AC to turn on before it needs to. If it is in a cooler location, it will also register the incorrect temperature and signal the system to shut down too soon.

Replace the Air Filter

A dirty air filter can lead to a variety of issues with your AC system, which is why you usually need to replace the filter every two to three months at the very least. While a dirty filter will normally lead to an AC system having much longer cycles than normal, it can also cause short cycling at times. The reason is that a dirty filter forces the blower to work a lot harder, which can cause it to overheat and the system to quickly shut down after just a few minutes.

Clean the Condenser Coil

A dirty condenser coil can also lead to short cycling since it makes it more difficult for the system to release or disperse all of the heat it removed from the home. This can easily lead to the AC compressor overheating and the system shutting down after a short time. If the unit does overheat, it will usually turn on again within a few minutes since the thermostat will keep signaling it to run. Cleaning an AC condenser coil is something you’ll need to have a technician do, and it is also something that should be done every year as part of your spring AC maintenance.

Check the Refrigerant Level

An AC system that is low on refrigerant will also often have issues where it frequently short cycles. In this case, what happens is that the refrigerant pressure drops below a certain point, leading to the low-pressure switch automatically shutting the system down. The system will then turn on again almost immediately since the thermostat will still be calling for cooling. The refrigerant level is another thing a technician will check when inspecting your AC to determine why it is short-cycling. If the level is low, it usually indicates that there is a leak somewhere in the system that will also need to be repaired.

Upgrade to a Properly Sized AC Unit

An oversized AC unit that is bigger than what the home needs will almost always short cycle. Unfortunately, the only thing you can do to fix this issue is to replace it with a correctly sized unit. This issue is why you must hire an experienced technician when installing a new AC unit so that you can ensure you get the correct size.

El Indio AC has been helping Tolleson residents with their air conditioning and heating needs since 2002. We offer expert AC and heating repairs and maintenance, and our team can help you overcome issues with short cycling or any other problems. We’re also the area’s top choice for HVAC installation and can help if you need a new AC, heat pump, or furnace. Contact us today if you need to have your AC inspected or to schedule any other HVAC service.

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