What Is AC Short Cycling? Fixing AC Concerns
October 02, 2023
Nothing feels worse than a poor AC unit that makes your household unbearably hot during the summer. The truth is that your AC depends on multiple components and regular service to maintain a pleasant temperature. If you notice that your unit shuts down abruptly and starts back up, you might be dealing with a short cycling concern.
But what is AC short cycling, and how do you manage it? This blog will examine short cycling, including its causes, how it affects your AC system’s efficiency, and best practices for resolving this common AC concern. Just remember, if your AC is experiencing short cycling, call us at 206-388-5667 to get the services you need right away!
Understanding Short Cycling
What is AC short cycling? An optimal AC system should typically remain off for about seven to 10 minutes before starting another cycle. If your AC is short cycling, the system turns off and on repeatedly, and the cooling cycle is shorter.
When your AC cycle is shorter than expected, it causes the compressor to turn on and off often. Short cycling means you have an inefficient AC unit cooling cycle. When your system experiences a short cycling cycle, it forces your air conditioner to use much more power than it should, resulting in wasted energy. Consequently, this wears down the compressor, which means you’ll need to call an AC company for a costly repair or replacement service.
Why Is My AC Short Cycling?
Let’s break down AC short cycling problems further for better understanding.
Your AC unit compresses and condenses refrigerant and runs the cooled refrigerant into the home and through an evaporator coil. A fan draws warm air from the house over the evaporator coil, which absorbs the heat from the air. The fan sends the cooled air back through the house, and the air conditioner sends the refrigerant back outside to the compressor. As the refrigerant starts through the cycle again, it releases the heat absorbed from the hot air.
If your system short cycles, the compressor turns on and off more than usual. During short cycling, you’ll hear your compressor turning on and off repeatedly every few minutes.
How Do I Know If My AC Is Short Cycling?
The question remains: How do I know if my AC is short cycling? One clue might be that your system turns on and off more than usual. If your AC is turning on repeatedly, that might indicate a short cycling problem. Short cycling prevents your AC from operating efficiently and can lead to poor humidity control.
Also, when your AC system short cycles, your air conditioner won't circulate cool air around your home as much. This lack of cold air circulation forces your system to work harder than it should, decreasing its performance and longevity.
You might wonder if you should turn off your AC if it’s short cycling. Unless your evaporator coils are frozen, the answer is no. We’ll discuss this more in the next section.
**Tip! It can be distressing trying to diagnose your AC system and determine whether or not you’re dealing with a short cycling concern, especially if you don’t have the expertise to do something about it. If you notice your AC is malfunctioning, give us a call at 206-388-5677, and we’ll send a qualified technician to scope out your AC unit to make expert-level repairs.
5 Probable Causes of AC Short Cycling
Determining the main culprit is the first step in learning how to fix AC short-cycling problems. By doing so, you’ll be in a better position to avoid costly repairs or a replacement. Below are some of the most common culprits of AC short cycling:
Clogged Air Filter
A clogged air filter restricts your air conditioner’s optimal airflow, which is why air filtration system cleanings are recommended. When a clogged air filter causes a short cycle, heat won’t escape the system, and cool air won’t get in. When this happens, your AC system will think it’s hotter than it is, turning on and off inconsistently without cooling your home.
You should change your air filter every three months, but following the guidelines in your system’s manual is best. Inspect your filter for dust or debris that can clog your filter.
Oversized or Undersized Air Conditioning Unit
A short cycling concern might also indicate an improperly-sized air conditioning unit in your home. If your AC unit is too small, you’ll experience excessive heat, as your AC must work harder to cool your home. On the other hand, an oversized AC system will cool your interior quickly before shutting off abruptly without completing its entire cycle.
The best solution for an incorrectly-sized system in your home is to replace your AC unit with a properly-sized model. Luckily, our technicians at Blue Flame Heating, Air & Electric can install a new air conditioner that’s energy-efficient and designed to maximize your comfort level.
Frozen Evaporator Coils
Evaporator coils are HVAC components that remove heat from your home. A refrigerant enters the coils through copper tubing and absorbs indoor heat before expelling it outside. When your evaporator coils freeze, ice builds up inside the coils, causing your AC system to malfunction.
Signs of frozen evaporator coils include visible ice, increased condensation, or if you notice that the AC is running but the air isn’t cooling. Fortunately, frozen coils are easy to fix and don’t usually require extensive repairs. First, turn off your AC unit to defrost the coils and prevent further damage to your AC unit. Make sure to check the filters, turn on your AC fan, and let your coils dry before cleaning them. If they freeze up or your system short cycles again, it’s time to consult with a trained HVAC technician to assess your unit and determine the best course of action.
Low Refrigerant Levels
As established earlier, your AC’s refrigerant expels heat. When refrigerant levels drop significantly, your air conditioning unit won’t absorb much heat and transfer it outside. Insufficient refrigerant can cause AC short cycling concerns.
A low refrigerant level may indicate a refrigerant leak. You'll need to inspect your AC system for leaks. If there’s a leak, call a qualified technician to fix the leak and add refrigerant. Contact the Blue Flame Heating, Air & Electric professionals at (206) 388-5667.
Sometimes, your system might be short cycling because of AC electrical problems such as faulty wiring or damaged control boards. Electrical issues can prevent your air conditioner from receiving the power it needs to function optimally, causing it to short cycle and give off incorrect temperature readings.
If this happens, calibrate the thermostat to ensure correct temperature readings. Regardless of the extent of your electrical problems, you shouldn’t attempt to fix them alone. Electrical malfunctions can become dangerous and lead to possible injuries.
Consult with our trained professional for your HVAC electrical concerns, and we’ll assess damaged or outdated components disrupting your air conditioner. We’ll even throw in some offers to minimize inspection and repair costs.
AC Short Cycling Consequences
Besides the consequences listed above, short cycling can drive up your electric bill by wasting energy. When your air conditioner struggles to provide your indoor setting with cooler temperatures, it requires more electricity to keep up with the demand. The more your compressor accumulates wear and tear, the more likely your AC system will overheat.
You might also notice inconsistent room temperatures around your home. For example, your living room might be at 71 degrees Fahrenheit while the temperature in your bedroom hovers at 80 degrees. It’s simple—there’s no proper circulation in your rooms.
Consult Blue Flame Heating, Air & Electric for AC Repairs
Your AC unit can short cycle for several reasons, and the sooner you identify the cause, the easier it will be to get back to the comfort level you want in your home. If you need quality AC repair services immediately, Blue Flame Heating, Air & Electric is ready to serve you.
You can trust Blue Flame Heating, Air & Electric for all your HVAC and electrical needs. Our commitment lies with our customers, so we offer multiple customer guarantees to ensure your system runs as it should.
Schedule an appointment or call us at (206) 388-5667 to learn how we can deliver exceptional HVAC services for folks throughout the Seattle area.
Last Updated: November 14, 2023