Why Is My Air Conditioner Running In Short Bursts?

image of a homeowner feeling hot due to air conditioner short cycling

Homes often have air conditioners that keep them cool when the weather gets hot. When a sensor detects the ambient temperature has grown higher than the thermostat is set at, an AC unit begins its cooling cycle. Once the room reaches the lower temperature, it switches off. This process should happen slowly and steadily, but if an AC runs in shorter bursts, you find yourself dealing with what is called AC short cycling. This process often leads to cooling system problems unless it is promptly and properly addressed. So, let’s tackle some causes & effects of air conditioner short cycling, and then look at things that can help prevent it.

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Some Causes Of Air Conditioner Units Short Cycling

Below, we share some of the common causes for air conditioner short cycling.

1. Having an Oversize AC Unit

Bigger may not always be better in regard to air conditioners. If your air conditioner is too powerful, it is going to push out higher amounts of cold air into the space. Then, it will shut off right after it starts. While this can cool the house faster, it isn’t going to be able to lower the humidity appropriately. The oversized air conditioner will not operate long enough to perform all its tasks. It is also going to consume a great amount of energy. Also, an oversized air conditioning unit creates a situation with inconsistent cooling for the different spaces around a home or other building.

2. Dirty HVAC Air Filters

image of a dirty air filter for an air conditioner causing air conditioner short cycling

Air filters need continuous monitoring and regularly replaced. A homeowner should never allow the filters to get dirty as they will start to block air from getting into the system. Then, the unit will need to work a lot harder to compensate for reduced airflow. The unit’s compressor and blower will be under a lot of stress and will eventually overheat. That will usually lead to the unit short cycling, and equipment breakdown in time.

Create a habit to replace your AC filters on a regular schedule as is suggested by your equipment’s manual. Remember, some homes require more frequent filter replacements. Be sure to check your filters every month and replace them when they are dirty.

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3. Frozen Air Conditioner Evaporator Coils

Evaporator coils are what absorb heat from in the house. If these coils are frozen or get too dirty, they cannot work as they ought. This usually leads to overheating and the unit will begin to automatically shut down to prevent any additional damage before it reaches the necessary temperature.

A variety of mechanical issues may be causing this. Instead of letting short cycling persist, a homeowner may shut down the air conditioning system until all of the ice melts away. If they freeze yet again, it’s wise to call a professional HVAC contractor and ask them for assistance.

4. Low Air Conditioner Refrigerant Levels

image of air conditioner refrigerant

Refrigerant is the lifeblood of a unit’s cooling system. There has to be enough of it to circulate and move the heat from the interior of the system to the exterior of it. A leak in the refrigerant can cause it to run low., which forces the air conditioning unit to work too hard to cool down the home. This will stress the components of the unit, and soon, short cycling is likely to occur.

An HVAC technician will be able to check refrigerant levels and determine if there is a leak in the system. They can quickly pinpoint and repair a leak and can also inject additional refrigerant into your system to replace what was lost.

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5. Air Conditioning Unit Electrical Issues

Sometimes, the problem will be traced to defective wiring or a problem in the control board. It may be that your air conditioner isn’t getting adequate power due to electrical issues. The unit may attempt to start but be unable to do so. This issue is too complex as well as too dangerous for the average homeowner to tackle safely. Ask an experienced HVAC technician to come in and check the air conditioning system. They can help you determine if an electrical issue is the cause of it short cycling. A licensed tech can fix any wiring problems or replace the control board if that is needed.

6. Incorrect Thermostat Placement


Short cycling might even occur from poor thermostat placement. If the thermostat is located near a window, it may get too hot from the sun or perhaps it’s too close to another heat source, like the oven. Even if a room is relatively cool, the sensors could be tricked into sensing the space is too hot if it is, for example, in direct sunlight. It will start and shut off too quickly if this happens. The thermostat may need shielded or even relocated.

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Reasons To Avoid AC Short Cycling

1. Air Conditioning Equipment Damage

Air conditioners just aren’t designed to run in short bursts. Doing so puts a lot of stress on the system’s delicate components. This can lead to considerable wear and tear and it is likely to result in equipment breakdown eventually. Homeowners will then need to deal with the cost of parts replacement as well as diminished life for their AC unit.

2. Elevated Energy Bills

image of a couple with high energy bills and cooling costs

Short cycling causes cooling systems to work harder than needed and also makes them consume more energy than they should. Air conditioners use quite a bit of energy already when they are running normally! So, this kind of air conditioner inefficiency is unwelcome. Soon, a person finds that their energy bill is soaring sky high. Choosing to ignore an AC problem is often costly.

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3. Inconsistent Temperature

Sometimes, rooms in a house can exhibit surprisingly significant variations in temperature. One room may be quite cold while another is just too warm. If your AC is running in short bursts, it does not allow cool air to circulate through the home properly. This creates difficulties for anyone who works, studies, or lives there during the dog days of summer.


In Conclusion

Air conditioner unit short cycling can be a huge problem. It is not only harmful to the system but it’s also really expensive for homeowners. It is always better to avoid those issues by hiring a knowledgeable HVAC contractor who can select the best air conditioner size for your space and who can then install that system properly to ensure it works well. Scheduling yearly air conditioner maintenance visits will help you to spot potential issues fast and make sure they are dealt with in a timely manner. Things like electrical problems, an AC refrigerant leak, or clogged coils can then be addressed before they cause any short cycling.

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hart-logoHart Home Comfort will provide excellent heating and cooling service to clients in Nassau County, Suffolk County, and Queens, New York. We make sure you will get only a competent, certified technician that provides you with outstanding HVAC tune-up service, timely repairs, excellent installations, and the right replacements. Our technicians have both the knowledge and the expertise to service your home’s HVAC system the right way.

Hart Home Comfort guarantees competitive costs for heating and cooling services. Our maintenance services are sure to improve your home’s comfort, amplify your efficiency and even reduce your home’s heating and cooling costs. If you require an HVAC repair or even a replacement system, let us recommend the ideal one for your space while working within your budget. We ensure our work and work hard toward making sure you’re satisfied with every aspect of our service. To book an air conditioning unit tune-up or schedule your service appointment, please give Hart Home Comfort a phone call today. Ask us about our free estimates.

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