Let’s say you’re sitting in your living room, trying to enjoy the comfort of your air conditioner, but it keeps switching on and off in rapid succession. Not only is this an annoying sound, but it’ll make you wonder if something is wrong with your air conditioner as it struggles to keep you cool. And we have some news–something is wrong with your air conditioner.
This phenomenon is known as short-cycling, and it places a lot of wear and tear on your system by forcing it to work inefficiently and ineffectively. This will cause a spike in your energy bills and leave you uncomfortable no matter where you set your thermostat to. To help you out, we’ve uncovered below what exactly short-cycling is, why it occurs, and why it’s bad for your air conditioner. Read on!
What Is Short-Cycling?
As we described above, short-cycling is when the air conditioner rapidly turns on and off. In other words, it never actually completes a full cooling cycle. This leads to sky-high utility bills and will eventually lead to emergency repair needs you never would have had otherwise.
Why Does Short-Cycling Happen?
There are a number of possible reasons this might occur. First off, your air conditioner might not have been properly sized for your living space from the beginning. If this is the case, however, you would have noticed the problem right after installation. So assuming you’ve had your cooling system for a while, short-cycling may be caused by:
- A Clogged Air Filter: Your cooling system accumulates dirt, dust, and debris as the air gets drawn in from your home. That is, it would if it weren’t for the air filter. The air filter stops this debris before it has a chance to infiltrate your air conditioner. However, if the filter gets too clogged up it restricts airflow into and out of the system, which causes hot air to become trapped in the system. Your AC will shut down as a safety measure, and when it cools off enough it will kick back on–but if the air filter is still too clogged you’ll continue to have this issue. Be sure you’re changing your air filter every 1-3 months during periods of HVAC use!
- Frozen Evaporator Coils: The compressor of your AC system is tasked with pushing refrigerant gas through the AC system after it has been evaporated in the evaporator coil. Your compressor also helps keep the rhythm of the air conditioner so that it is able to consistently move heat out of your home and expel it. But if the compressor gets damaged due to frozen coils, then it will start to malfunction, leading to short-cycling.
- A Refrigerant Leak: A low refrigerant level–or charge as we call it here in the HVAC industry–will force your air conditioner to run sporadically trying to compensate for it’s loss of fluid that makes the cooling process possible. It’s important that you keep an eye out for a refrigerant leak. If you feel a loss of cooling power or hear the system hissing from somewhere internally, it’s a sign of a refrigerant leak.