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B&B Air Conditioning & Heating Service Blog

Short-Cycling Explained: One of the Most Common AC Problems

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Air conditioning systems are intricate devices, which means many different components can fail and create malfunctions. The good news is that modern AC design makes these systems durable and, with proper routine care for the system—such as professional maintenance done every spring—an air conditioner can make it through its service life of 10–15 years with minimal problems.

 We take care of many AC repairs in Annapolis, MD, so we’ve seen just about everything that might go wrong with a home cooling system. One of the most common is short cycling. In this post, we’ll look at short cycling to help you understand it and deal with it.

Short-Cycling: The AC Caught in a Loop

An air conditioning system runs in cooling cycles. The cycle begins when the thermostat signals a request for cooling in the house. This activates the compressor that circulates refrigerant and turns on the indoor and outdoor fans. The cooling cycle will last for at least 15 minutes, which is the minimum necessary to affect the indoor temperature. When the thermostat registers the house has reached the target temperature, it signals the AC to cycle down. 

Short-cycling is when this cooling cycle gets cut short and the air conditioner turns off early. The thermostat will soon turn the air conditioner back on, and it will then shut off early once more. The result is a rapid start-and-stop pattern for the air conditioner, with the AC turning on multiple times per hour rather than running in longer and efficient cycles. 

The Trouble With Short Cycling

Numerous problems in an air conditioner can trigger short cycling, but short cycling itself creates serious trouble for an AC. An air conditioner draws on the most electrical power when it starts up: it needs extra voltage to overcome resistance and start the compressor motor. When the AC short-cycles, it turns on much more often, and that causes a steep rise in the cost to run the system. 

The extra strain on the AC also damages components. Short cycling causes rapid wear and aging, often leading to numerous repairs and early system retirement. 

Finally, short cycles don’t allow an air conditioner enough time to send cooled air throughout the house. Hot spots will start to appear in the more distant rooms. 

The Underlying Causes of Short-Cycling

There are numerous sources for short-cycling:

  • The air filter is heavily clogged
  • Ice has formed along the evaporator coil
  • The AC is losing refrigerant due to leaks
  • A thermostat miscalibration
  • The ventilation system has air leaks
  • The air conditioner is too old to work effectively anymore
  • The air conditioner is overpowered for the space

Solving Short Cycling

When you notice your AC running in abbreviated cycles, check first on the air filter to see if it needs to be changed. If that isn’t the problem, the next step is calling our team to investigate. We may only need to do a small fix. In some cases (an old AC or one that was installed too large), we may need to replace the system. You can trust we’ll find the best option for your home’s cooling future.

Trust to B&B Air Conditioning & Heating Service when you need air conditioning help. We are always there when you need us.

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