Air Conditioner Short Cycling: What It Is and How to Fix It

As your home heats up, your thermostat begins to read a higher temperature, and in turn, the thermostat tells the air conditioner to kick on and cool things down. If your air conditioner seems to stop running before your home has reached the set temperature, this signifies a problem. It’s called air conditioner short cycling, and it can be caused by several different things.

Air Conditioner Short Cycling Simplified

Air conditioner short cycling occurs when something within the system prevents your unit from completing a full cooling cycle. A full cooling cycle occurs from the time that the unit kicks on to the time that the temperature you set at the thermostat is reached and the unit kicks back off again. It makes it impossible to stay comfortable in your own home, and because the unit kicks on and off so frequently, it can also drive up your energy bills significantly and decrease your system’s longevity.

Why Is It Short Cycling?

There are many different things that may cause air conditioner short cycling, but the most common include the ones below.

  • Your air filter is dirty or clogged. When the filter is clogged, the system cannot pull enough fresh air through. As a result, your system may overheat, which will cause it to kick off before the cycle ends.
  • The evaporator coils have frozen. This may occur when you run your air conditioner while it is cool outside, or it may be the result of any number of mechanical problems. Simply shut your system down and allow it to completely thaw. If the coils freeze again, you will need to contact a professional.
  • Your air conditioner is too large for your space. If your air conditioner is too large, it is also too powerful for your home. It will put out far too much cool air, resulting in air conditioner short cycling. The only way to resolve this issue is to replace the oversized unit with one that better suits your home.
  • The refrigerant is leaking and has become low. Low refrigerant levels cause your air conditioner to work overtime to cool your space, and this can cause malfunctions that lead to air conditioner short cycling.
  • There are problems with the AC’s electrical system. Wiring and control boards may experience issues that result in short cycling, as well. You should always call a professional if you suspect an electrical issue, and you should not run your unit in the meantime.

How to Fix the Problem

Of all the reasons why air conditioner short cycling occurs, there are two you may be able to resolve on your own. First is your air filter. Turn off your system, then remove and replace the filter with one specified by the manufacturer before turning it back on. Next is your evaporator coils. Simply look at the coils, and if there is ice present, leave the system off until the coils completely defrost. If your air conditioner short cycling issue does not resolve, it is time to call a professional for help. You may need a smaller unit, you may need more refrigerant, or you may need to replace or repair electrical components inside your central air conditioner.

If you are experiencing air conditioner short cycling, you are aware of the frustration and discomfort it can cause. The good news is that you can contact your local HVAC professionals for an inspection, diagnosis, and repair that can improve your home’s comfort and reduce your energy bills at the same time.