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 incorrectly
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 system.
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:
- Inefficient 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.
- Compressor 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.
- Uneven 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.