One of the most popular service calls we get and, unfortunately, one of the most damaging problems for an air conditioner, is about a system that is short-cycling. This is the name given to the process where an air conditioner or heater cycles on and off in rapid succession without ever completing a full cooling cycle. Short cycling is both the symptom of a problem already in your air conditioner and the cause of further problems.
Sometimes, all that might be needed to fix the issue is a few simple adjustments. In most cases though, short-cycling requires a professional to come in and repair an issue. You want a trained and experienced technician for this kind of work!
The bottom line is, short-cycling has to be fixed, and not ignored. Otherwise, you face the very real possibility that you’ll have to prematurely replace your entire air conditioner, and until then you could waste a lot of energy and subsequent money. Read on to learn more!
What To Know About Short-Cycling
The phrase “short cycling” itself comes from what our professionals in the HVAC industry call an air conditioning system, heat pump, or furnace that gets stuck in the start-up cycle, turning on and off rapidly, as we described above.
When an air conditioner is working as it should, it powers up the compressor when the thermostat signals it to do so and runs until the thermostat registers that your desired temperature has been met. Then, the air conditioner powers down the compressor. But when the equipment is short-cycling, the compressor stops too soon, before the cooling cycle actually finishes. When this occurs, the compressor is essentially doing doo much work–running more than it should have to.
What Causes Short Cycling?
As we mentioned above, short cycling is both the symptom of a problem and the cause of further problems. When it’s a symptom, it could mean that you have:
- A clogged air filter
- An undersized or oversized air conditioner
- Low refrigerant levels (charge) indicating a refrigerant leak
- Air escaping out of a leaky ventilation system
- A miscalibrated thermostat reading incorrect temperatures
Fortunately, if the problem is a clogged air filter, it’s very easy for you to fix on your own! This is one of those maintenance tasks that homeowners not only can do by themselves but should. Every 1-3 months during HVAC system use, you should be changing out these air filters.
The type of air filter and the level of contaminants in your home will both play a role here, but please let us know if you need any guidance on when to swap out the air filter.
The other problems–in particular the case of the over or undersized air conditioner–will require a professional to fix. In fact, oftentimes the only “fix” for an improperly sized air conditioner is to replace it with a more appropriate air conditioner. Trying to operate an air conditioner that doesn’t fit the space it’s installed in can severely exacerbate wear and tear and decrease equipment lifespan.
Do you think your system is short cycling? Then it’s time to give our team a call!