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Is Your AC Short Cycling? Here’s Why

Your AC system cycles to gradually cool your home. When it's short cycling, you'll notice your AC turning on and off more frequently than usual. Let's get to the bottom of why you have an AC short cycling to help avoid damage to the system.

Issues That Cause AC Short Cycling

If your unit is turning on and off by itself before reaching the set temperature, you probably have an AC short cycling.

As temperatures climb outside, the temperature in your home should remain comfortable — that's what your air conditioner is for. But sometimes your AC unit has a different plan, and when it does, you'll need to be ready to troubleshoot to cool things down.

Potential Issues

  • AC keeps turning on and off
  • air conditioner won’t turn on

Like all electronics, your air conditioner has wires that control the flow of power to its electrical components. If those wires get damaged or wear down, it can cause a huge range of problems that will impact your whole AC system. If your AC's electrical is starting to fail, you’ll need to have it inspected and repaired. This type of troubleshooting requires training and knowledge that should be handled by a technician.

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  • AC keeps turning on and off
  • air is too hot
  • air conditioner won’t turn on
  • not reaching temperature set on thermostat

The outside unit, called a condenser, does the majority of the work to cool your home. It's made up of a compressor, refrigerant coil, fan motor with a blade, capacitors, and a contactor. The compressor circulates refrigerant, which traps heat in the indoor unit and transfers it to the outdoor unit. Once it's outside, the heat is released into the wild, leaving your home cooler than it was before. If the condenser isn't working properly, then your cooling system won't be effective or may not work at all.

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  • AC keeps turning on and off
  • furnace keeps turning on and off

Your thermostat regulates the temperature in your home. When it detects a temperature change, it signals your heating or cooling system to run until the temperature reaches the setpoint. If your thermostat is faulty, it may tell your HVAC systems to start and then stop at seemingly random times resulting in an uncomfortable living space temperature.

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  • AC keeps turning on and off

Thermostats control the temperature in your home by measuring the air around the thermostat and turning your heating and cooling systems on or off based on that measurement. Even if your thermostat is functioning properly, it may be fooled if it’s near a window, a vent, a ceiling fan, or if it has the sun shining on it. Thermostats should be in an area that represents the average temperature in your home in order to properly control your HVAC system.

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  • furnace keeps turning on and off
  • AC keeps turning on and off

Each home has different needs. Having an oversized piece of HVAC equipment can be just as big an issue as having an undersized one. Too small and your home will get too hot, too large and your HVAC might short cycle.

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  • whistling noise from the ductwork
  • furnace keeps turning on and off
  • home is unusually dirty
  • AC keeps turning on and off

In order to properly provide hot/cold airflow in your home, the HVAC filter needs to be clear of debris to let air pass through. Over time, the filter on your heating and cooling system collects dirt and dust. You must clean the filters on a regular basis to keep the air in your home and your system running efficiently.

  • puddle around the indoor air conditioning unit
  • air is humid
  • moisture on cold surfaces
  • not reaching temperature set on thermostat
  • blower sounds strange
  • AC keeps turning on and off
  • air smells strange
  • air is too hot
  • furniture is warped

Your AC unit works to cool the air in your home by way of its evaporator coils. The coils allow the cooling chemicals (needed to cool your air) to evaporate from liquid to gas and absorb the heat in your air, which is how your air gets cooled. Because this part is exposed to such cold temperatures, it is vulnerable to freezing. The coil will freeze if the system is low on refrigerant or has an airflow issue, as a result of a dirty coil, filter, fan wheel, or heat exchanger. If this occurs, and is not caught in time, the issue can escalate further and the larger refrigerant line may freeze. If this is the case, you will see ice on the suction line leading from the inside unit to the outdoor unit.

1) dirty indoor or outdoor coils due to lack of annual maintenance 2) refrigerant charge is low due to a refrigerant leak 3) Improper airflow across either the evaporator or condenser coil

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