If you’ve never heard of short-cycling, you’re fortunate!
Short-cycling is the name of the process in which an HVAC system rapidly shuts
off and turns back on, rather than going through regular cycles. This is both a
symptom of a problem and a problem itself!
You may be able to make a few simple adjustments to fix this
issue, but if the root cause is serious, then you need The Maynard Man! Unless
you address and eliminate short-cycling, your air conditioner can require more
repairs and even break down a lot sooner than it would have otherwise.
How Does Short-Cycling Happen?
What’s actually happening inside your air conditioner when
it short-cycles? The cooling system prematurely stops the compressor before the
end of the cooling cycle, and then starts back up a short time later. The
compressor is turning on and off multiple times in an hour, running for less
than 15 minutes at time.
Under normal circumstances, your air conditioner powers up
the compressor and runs until the thermostat detects that your home has met the
temperature requested. What this means is that when your AC is short-cycling,
it’s never completing a full cooling cycle.
But something has to cause this process to occur, so what is
it? It could be a number of things, including:
- A clogged air filter
- An overpowered air conditioner (nope, bigger
isn’t always better!)
- Low refrigerant levels (charge) due to leakage
- Air escaping through breached ductwork
- A miscalibrated thermostat reading temperatures
If your short-cycling is caused by a clogged air filter, all
you need to do to remedy the problem is replace the air filter! Try this first,
and see if it helps. If not, the other above-mentioned problems will require a
professional to manage. It’s worth noting, too, if your air conditioner is too
big and that’s the cause of short-cycling, your best option is to replace the
What Happens During Short-Cycling?
We mentioned the causes of a short-cycling air conditioner,
and we also alluded to the fact that short-cycling is a problem in itself.
Negative short-cycling consequences include:
Operation: Your AC draws the most power when the compressor starts. If it’s
constantly shutting down and starting up, then, it will draw much more power
and drain more energy than necessary.
Wear and Tear: Since the compressor is under constant stress as your
cooling system short-cycles, it has the potential to overheat and burnout. The
cost of a compressor replacement is high enough to make it more cost effective
to replace the entire system.
Cooling: Since a short-cycling AC shuts off before completing a cooling
cycle, this leads to uneven cooling throughout the home.
If you suspect your cooling system is short-cycling, the
best thing to do is call in the pros. We’ll help determine what exactly is
going on with your unit, and get your system back on track to keep you nice and
comfy in your home.