Short-cycling is about as ominous a word as it seems, and unfortunately is a fairly common malfunction with an air conditioner—that is, if it wasn’t installed properly or you don’t have it regularly maintained.
To give you a brief definition, short-cycling is when the compressor of your air conditioner turns on and off in rapid succession—too quickly to do any good, and too quickly for your air conditioner to efficiently and effectively manage.
Read on to learn more about what this is and why it’s bad news for your cooling system overall.
Short-Cycling: The Basics
Your AC compressor plays a vital, if not the most important, role in the operation of your air conditioner. This is the part of your AC that changes the liquid refrigerant in the system into a hot, high-pressure gas that travels through the air conditioner, first absorbing heat from the indoors and then releasing that heat outdoors before starting the cooling process.
Your compressor does not run continuously while your air conditioner is turned on. The length of time it needs to stay on will depend on the temperature setting in the area it is cooling. Ideally, it should run in 15 minute intervals to complete a cooling cycle.
If the compressor is cycling on and off more frequently than that, this is referred to as short-cycling.
Why It’s a Problem
You might be wondering why this is such a big deal, if the cooling system is, well, still cooling your home. There are actually two issues with this:
- If your compressor isn’t staying on long enough, the cooled air won’t have any time to reach all the rooms. Your home will have hot spots in it where it simply wasn’t able to get cool enough.
- Short-cycling caused your compressor to work much harder than it should have to, leading to problems like higher electric bills, more frequent repair needs, and a shorter system lifespan overall.
Why Short-Cycling Happens
There are a few reasons short-cycling can occur in an air conditioner, ranging from minor to major:
- The air filter is clogged. Make sure you’re changing your air filter every 1–3 months during the time when your air conditioner runs regularly.
- The air conditioner is losing refrigerant. This is a significant problem, and it means you have a leak that must be repaired to restore your AC operation.
- The thermostat is miscalibrated. If your thermostat is reading the wrong temperature, it may be prematurely signaling to the compressor to shut down.
- Your air conditioner is too large for the space. If this is the cause of your system’s short-cycling, you will have noticed the problem right upon installation. Unfortunately, the only thing you can really do if this is the case is replace the air conditioner. Too small of a system is detrimental as well, but too large of a system is something you simply cannot overcome.
When you do need air conditioning repair or even replacement, you needn’t look any further than our team. Please let us know if you have any further questions about short-cycling.