If you notice your air conditioner turning on and off every few minutes, you should address it right away. This is known as short cycling. It wears out the compressor, one of the main components of the outside unit that is very expensive to repair or replace.
Short cycling can lead to other problems as well.
- The repeated system start-ups use more energy and unnecessarily Increase energy costs.
- The excessive wear-and-tear shortens the life-span of your air conditioner.
- Over-worked equipment results in costly repairs.
- High humidity or temperature swings mean decreased comfort.
What can cause an air conditioner to short cycle?
Dirty air filter
One common cause is a dirty air filter, which can inhibit airflow and cause a host of problems. Change the air filter every 30 to 60 days to keep your air conditioner equipment clean and running smoothly.
Dirty condenser coils
When the condenser unit and coils get dirty, they don’t work efficiently, making the whole system work harder and possibly overheat. This triggers the unit to shut off and restart repeatedly. Make sure the area around the unit is clear of debris such as leaves.
Improperly located thermostat
Locating a thermostat improperly can cause the thermostat to misread the actual temperature and turn on and off more than necessary. Make sure your thermostat is installed on an interior wall away from windows, doors to the outside, air vents and direct sunlight.
Frozen evaporator coil
Restricted airflow and low pressure throughout the system can result in ice or frost forming on the evaporator coil.
Oversized air conditioner
If short cycling has always been an issue, it is likely that your air conditioner is too big for your home. An oversized air conditioner will cool your home quickly but without properly dehumidifying the air. In addition to short cycling, this can lead to hot and cold spots, and the lack of efficiency will mean higher energy bills.
Low refrigerant / freon
Low levels of refrigerant may indicate that there is a leak. Any leak should be identified and repaired right away by your HVAC professional.
Because short cycling can be an indication of a serious problem, the sooner you address it the better in order to prevent or mitigate any potential damage.