Common Causes Of Air Conditioner Short Cycling

feeling hot and sticky due to air conditioner short-cycling

When the home feels too hot, we depend on our air conditioners to give us some relief. Sensors will check whether the ambient temperature is above the thermostat setting. If it is, then it will initiate a cooling cycle that will continue until the room matches the ideal condition. It’s a process that takes several minutes to complete, with incremental improvements over time. The air conditioner should not turn on and off in short cycles since this will stress the system and lead to premature failure. If you are noticing this phenomenon in your air conditioner, then read on to learn about the causes and prevention strategies of AC short cycling.

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Common Causes of Air Conditioner Short Cycling

1. Oversized AC Unit

Air conditioner performance does not necessarily increase with size. You need to match the capacity of the unit with the cooling needs of the space. If you have an air conditioner that is vastly oversized for the house, then expect it to reach the desired temperature far too quickly. This will cause it shut down shortly after turning on, not giving enough time for the system to reduce humidity. The oversized AC will consume more energy than it should, and it won’t even be able to provide consistent cooling across the home.

2. Clogged Air Filters

image of dirt on air conditioner air filter

Air filters are passive blockers of airborne pollutants. They do their job quietly in the background. These are simple yet effective in maintaining good air quality. However, the dirt they catch eventually makes it hard to air to flow through, leading to air conditioner efficiency. Air conditioners are forced to work harder to cool the house. The stress on the blower and the compressor lead to overheating air conditioner components. It is unsustainable. Clogged air filters can even result in short cycling which, in turn, could trigger system breakdown.

Regular filter replacement should become second nature to air conditioner owners. Manufacturers will suggest the ideal frequency and the filter type for your unit. Just remember that you might need to replace your filters more often if you live in a dusty or pet-friendly environment. Perform a monthly inspection to monitor filter conditions.

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3. Frozen Air Conditioner Evaporator Coils

frozen air conditioner compressor

The job of evaporator coils is to absorb indoor heat. They won’t be able to do this if their surface is covered in dirt or frost. The system will become unstable because it is not working as intended. Components may overheat and the unit may shut off by itself to avoid damage.

Short cycling might ensue because of frozen evaporator coils. Don’t let this go on indefinitely. Instead, shut the system down to allow the ice to melt naturally. Wipe off the excess moisture before turning it back on. It should return to normal operation. If it doesn’t, then it’s time to call in the professionals for diagnosis and repair.

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4. Low Air Conditioner Refrigerant Levels

air conditioner refrigerant

The refrigerant is a substance that goes around the air conditioner to move heat out of the house. There must be enough of it in the system for effective cooling. Leaks will gradually reduce the amount of refrigerant present, so there is less heat absorption with each cycle. The air conditioner needs to work harder to make the house cooler. Component strain may lead to short cycling.

Fixing this is a job for HVAC technicians. They have the tools necessary to measure refrigerant levels and find leaks. They can patch these up and add more refrigerant into the system, allowing operations to get back to normal.

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5. Air Conditioning Electrical Problems

Short cycling may be caused by faulty wiring and damaged control boards. These can prevent the air conditioner from receiving the power it needs to operate. With inadequate energy, it may attempt to start but fail to sustain the momentum. Electrical problems are highly technical. It is a dangerous task for amateurs, and wrong moves can make matters worse. Only trained professionals should attempt to perform diagnostics and troubleshooting. They have the skills and experience to do these with confidence.

6. Bad Thermostat Air Conditioner Placement

Sometimes short cycling is the consequence of bad thermostat placement. Ideally, it should be in an area far from heat sources to ensure proper readings. If it is near the window or a heat-generating home appliance, then it might think that the room is hot even if the space is already cooling up. This will make the air conditioner work harder before shutting right back down again. Prevent this by shielding the thermostat from the sun and heat. If possible, relocate the device to reduce the unwanted influence.

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Reasons To Avoid Air Conditioner Short Cycling

1. Cooling System Damage

Air conditioners are meant to achieve their cooling goals in a gradual manner. They are not supposed to fluctuate between on and off states quickly. Operating in such a chaotic state will only stress the components, hastening the onset of wear and tear. If allowed to continue, the system will soon need parts replacement.

2. Soaring Energy Bill

couple looking at energy costs and high energy cost of air conditioning

Short cycling pushes the system to its limits. The most difficult part of air conditioner operation is the startup phase, and having to go through it in quick succession will require tremendous energy. Cooling systems are known to be massive energy consumers even when they are operating normally, so elevating this even further can be quite expensive.

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3. Non-Uniform Temperatures

In a large house, occupants might find that some rooms are cool while others are not while the air conditioner is short cycling. The quick bursts of cold air won’t be able to circulate properly indoors. This will make some rooms uncomfortable during the day, forcing people to move to cooler areas.



Short cycling in air conditioners is a problem that deserves your immediate attention. If allowed unchecked, then it can harm the system, increase energy consumption, push bills up, and create temperature inconsistencies around a house. A homeowner should prevent it from happening in the first place through competent size selection with the help of HVAC professionals. Annual air conditioner maintenance will also be useful in avoiding future problems. Technicians will clean hard-to-reach areas and deal with emerging concerns right away, reducing the risk of short cycling.

Call Townsend Energy For Your Air Conditioning Requirements

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With Townsend Energy, you can be assured of our honest, competitive rates. Our technicians will offer practical solutions that work well within your budget. Even better, we back all of our work with a satisfaction guarantee. Call us today to schedule a free, in-home estimate.

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