Why Is My Air Conditioner Short Cycling?

Why Is My Air Conditioner Short Cycling?

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Air conditioner short cycling is an issue that sometimes affects Atlanta households during the summer months. This HVAC system performance problem negatively impacts indoor comfort and causes damage to your air conditioning equipment.

Short cycling occurs when air conditioners turn on and off too quickly before completing a cycle. Estes Services explains the common causes of short cycling and shares what to do when it happens in your home.

1. Short Cycling Caused by a Dirty or Clogged Air Filter

When the air conditioner’s filter is entirely clogged with debris, it restricts airflow through the air conditioning system and the home. The dirty filter becomes a barrier which prevents warm air in the return duct from entering the cooling system – this causes air conditioner overheating. Once the system overheats, it will shut down, allowing the components to cool in order to prevent damage.

If your air conditioner is short cycling, the first troubleshooting step you need to take is to check your air filter. If the filter media is completely covered with contaminants, dispose of it and insert a new, clean filter into your HVAC unit. In the summer, check your filter monthly to determine if replacement is needed. Air filters sometimes need to be replaced more often during periods where the system is in heavy use.

2. Low Refrigerant Causes Air Conditioner Short Cycling

Leaks in the refrigerant lines or other components cause your cooling system to lose refrigerant. When refrigerant levels are too low, the air conditioner is unable to efficiently absorb and transfer heat. This causes the system to work harder and can lead to short cycling. 

You may be able to determine if you have a refrigerant leak by listening for a hissing sound coming from the refrigerant lines. Refrigerant leaks must be repaired and the system recharged with the correct amount of coolant. This service must be performed by an HVAC professional who holds the proper certification for safe refrigerant handling. 

3. Frozen Coils Lead to Short Cycling

The cooling system’s evaporator coil is responsible for absorbing heat in the home’s air. Low refrigerant level, a clogged filter, or dirt on the coils restrict the component’s ability to remove heat. Refrigerant inside the coils becomes colder because there is no heat to warm it, which causes ice to form on the coils. Ice blocks heat exchange entirely, leading to short cycling.

If you notice your cooling system short cycling, inspect the evaporator coils for ice. They are located within the indoor air handler portion of the split air conditioning unit. If you find ice on the coils, turn off the system and allow ice to melt. You can run the system fan to assist the process. 

Frozen evaporator coils have an underlying cause that must be addressed. Check the filter and replace it if dirty, and assess the coils for dirt and debris buildup so they can be cleaned. Call your air conditioning repair technician to assess the AC system for refrigerant leaks.

4. Improperly Sized Air Conditioners Short Cycle

An air conditioner is prone to short cycling if it is too big or too small for the home. An oversized air conditioner is too powerful for your home. It can quickly cool your home and then turn off, leading to short cycling as well as system wear and tear and higher energy bills. Undersized cooling equipment cannot meet the home’s cooling demands efficiently and must work harder to achieve comfort, which often causes overheating that will shut down a cycle soon after it starts.

If air conditioner short cycling is caused by an incorrectly sized air conditioner, the only way to correct the issue is to replace your unit. Work with a trustworthy HVAC company such as Estes Services which will perform the calculations necessary to correctly size your new air conditioner.

Air Conditioner Repair and Replacement in Atlanta, GA

If your air conditioner starts to short cycle this summer, don’t ignore it! Check your air filters, and if a dirty filter isn’t to blame, call Estes Services to diagnose and correct the problem.