Well, it means your system is short-cycling, but is that a
bad thing? Well, yes. There is never a circumstance in which short-cycling is
normal. It’s a sign that your air conditioner is not functioning as it should
be. In fact, it could mean that your cooling system is in need of major work.
However, it’s not always indicative
of a serious problem. So why worry about it?
Because, while your air conditioner might not break down
entirely right away, and even if the issue is relatively simple to fix, continuing to run a short-cycling HVAC
system is going to negatively impact that system and you in a number of ways! We
really can’t stress this enough—no problem, minor or not, should be ignored.
Keep reading to learn more about what causes this symptom, and the toll that
short-cycling takes on your system.
First, Check Your Air Filter
If you use a forced-air HVAC system, such as a central air
conditioner, furnace, or heat pump, then a dirty and clogged air filter might
be enough to cause the system to short cycle. This is frustrating, of course,
but it’s also the best case scenario. Why do we say this? Because it’s a
problem you can solve on your own!
When an air filter is too clogged up, it creates airflow resistance and can cause your system to start overheating. Your system might cycle down in an effort to protect itself from damages caused by overheating. If a clogged air filter is the problem, all you need to do is change it! It should be changed every 1-3 months anyway.
When It’s Time to Call the Pros
Let’s say you changed the airflow, and that didn’t solve the
problem. Obviously, an air conditioner that’s turning on and off rapidly and
failing to do its job properly is frustrating and disconcerting. This may lead
you to try to find an online tutorial of what to do next, or call your handy
neighbor down the street. Please don’t do either of these things—you might
accidentally do more harm than good.
There are other causes of short-cycling that are a lot more
complex than just a dirty air filter, and you’ll need a professional to resolve
them. These problems can include:
- A faulty run capacitor in the air conditioner or
- A faulty thermostat or thermocouple.
- A heater’s thermocouple working fine but
shutting down the system due to unsafe combustion conditions.
- A refrigerant leak in your air conditioner or
heat pump—this one will do serious damage if left untreated, so if you suspect
this to be the case, please call our pros ASAP.
When your HVAC system short-cycles, it costs more to run. It
does an inefficient job of cooling (or heating) your living space, and it
accumulates a lot of unnecessary wear and tear that could have otherwise been
avoided. So while it may not seem like a huge emergency, resolving problems
with short-cycling should definitely be a priority for you.