AC Short Cycling Explained


Whether you have ducts in your home or you rely on a ductless hvac system, you expect your air conditioner to do the work necessary to cool down your home effectively. But that can be tough to accomplish when your air conditioner isn’t operating long enough to reduce the temperature to a comfortable level. 

The purpose of your air conditioning is to switch on and run long enough to cool the home to the temperature you’ve set on your thermostat. Once it reaches that level, the air conditioner will switch off, only to turn on again when the thermostat detects that the temperature has risen once again. 

However, an air conditioner will turn on but then switch off before the room temperature has reached the desired level, leaving the home to remain too warm for your personal comfort. This is called “short cycling” and it can be extremely frustrating to deal with in a home cooling system, especially in the dead of summer. 

Understanding Short Cycling

Cycling is the term used to describe the operational routine that your air conditioner goes through in order to cool down the home. When you set your thermostat to a certain temperature, that signals the air conditioner that it’s now on duty and it will perform a series of on-off cycles to maintain your desired temperature level. 

But if you notice the air conditioner switching on and off with repeated frequency, the system isn’t effectively cooling down your home. This poses two distinct problems, the first being that you won’t ever reach the desired comfortable temperature in your home, and the second is that short cycling can drive your electric bill sky high. 

Reasons for Short Cycling

It’s important to know what’s making your system go through a short cycling routine. These are some of the most common reasons you could be dealing with issue, so keep these short cycle air conditioning tips in mind to alleviate the problem should you encounter it with your home system. 

Air Filter

You should change out your air filter every two-three months. Failing to do so can overtax the system due to a blockage of air flow. When this occurs, the air conditioner can start to overheat and shut itself down as a precautionary measure. 

Low Refrigerant

The same overheating problem can occur if the system is low on refrigerant, which is a vital component for the proper operation of your system. If you are low on refrigerant, the system can overheat and shut down too soon. But more than just short cycle the system, an air conditioner with low refrigerant can also exhibit additional malfunctions that can damage the whole hvac system. 

Frozen Coils

You need your coils to work properly or else the system won’t be very effective in cooling down your home. In some cases, you may find your coils frozen over and this won’t allow the system to remove the warm air from the home, causing the system to work improperly and eventually shut down.