Air Conditioner Short Cycling: Causes & Effects

a homeowner feeling hot and sticky due to an air conditioner short cycling

AC short cycling can cause your energy bills to skyrocket and damage your air conditioner. Short cycling is a phenomenon where an air conditioner turns on and off repeatedly in a short amount of time. This can lead to several problems, including increased energy usage, system wear and tear, and even a breakdown.

It’s essential to understand the causes of short cycling so that you can address them and prevent them from happening in your own home. In this article, we talk about causes and solutions for short cycling.

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What Causes AC Short Cycling?

1. Large Air Conditioning Units

Oversized air conditioners can cool your house quickly, but they can also be wasteful, create humidity problems, and result in an inconsistent cooling experience around different spaces. You’ll find that some spaces are always hot, while others are cold. This is because the unit can’t turn off quickly enough, and it’s constantly cycling on and off. Rather than purchasing an oversized air conditioner, fit it to the size of your h0me. While choosing the biggest and most powerful AC unit available may be tempting, this is not always the best decision.

2. Blocked HVAC Air Filters

image of an hvac air filter replacement

Homeowners need to regularly replace their air filters and monitor them to ensure proper airflow. The system will work harder if the filters get too dirty, leading to air conditioner short cycling and an eventual breakdown.

Filters should be replaced regularly in all homes, but some require it more frequently. Ideally, check them monthly and replace them when they are dirty. Some homes (those with pets, for example) may require a more frequent filter replacement than what is recommended by the manufacturer. Checking and changing your filter when it becomes dirty should be a monthly ritual.

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3. Unclean Or Icy Evaporator Air Conditioner Coils

dirt on air conditioner coils

The evaporator coils are the part of the air conditioning system that absorbs the heat from the air in the house. Dirty or frozen evaporator coils will not be able to do this properly, which can cause the air conditioner to overheat, leading to automatic shut-offs. Cleaning or replacing the coils can help the air conditioner run more efficiently.

There are several reasons why your evaporator coils might freeze. One of the most common reasons is a mechanical issue, such as a dirty air filter or a problem with the blower motor. If the coils keep freezing, then it’s likely that there is a more serious underlying issue that will require the assistance of a professional HVAC contractor.

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4. Inadequate Air Conditioner Refrigerant Levels

image of an hvac contractor checking ac refrigerant levels

A few things can cause your air conditioner to short cycle, but low refrigerant levels are one of the most common. When it comes to moving heat from the inside to the outside, you need the refrigerant at an optimum level. When there’s a leak, the refrigerant loses its efficiency, and the air conditioner will continually turn on and off to maintain a comfortable temperature inside the house.

You can fix this by having a qualified HVAC technician come out and check if there is a leak. If they find one, they can repair or replace the necessary parts. Refilling the air conditioner with the appropriate amount of refrigerant will also prevent short-cycling behavior.

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5. Air Conditioner Electrical Problems

Defective wiring and malfunctioning control boards might sometimes be the source of the short cycling. Electrical problems could be the reason for your air conditioner’s under-performance. Homeowners should not try to fix air conditioning electrical issues on their own, as it can be hazardous. Instead, they should ask HVAC technicians to check the system and determine whether the wiring or control board is faulty.

6. Incorrectly Positioned Thermostat

If your thermostat is located near a window that gets a lot of sunlight, it may cause your AC to short cycle and turn off too quickly. Take a look at all the heat sources in the house, as they could be fooling the sensors into thinking that your indoor temperatures are higher than they are. After a brief pause, it will reactivate and turn itself off again. You may need to insulate or reposition the thermostat to a more suitable spot.

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Why You Should Prevent Air Conditioner Short Cycling

1. Air Conditioner Equipment Damage

The sudden start-and-stop cycling of an air conditioner places enormous strain on the system components, which can eventually break down. Over an extended period, this will lead to massive repair costs and a reduced service life that proper maintenance could have avoided.

2. High Utility Bill

image of homeowners paying high cooling costs

When an AC system keeps turning off and on, it needs to cool the area again, using energy that costs the homeowner money. This on-off cycling of the air conditioner can add up to a significant amount over a month.

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3. Uneven Temperature

You’ll also find that conditions are uneven throughout the room where the AC unit is located. When an air conditioner short cycles, it can cause one section of a room to become significantly hotter than the rest of the space. The short bursts of warm air don’t allow cool air to circulate correctly, making the room quite uncomfortable.


In Summary

Short cycling is a common problem with air conditioners and can be very harmful to the system. It can also be expensive for homeowners, as it can cause the air conditioner to work much harder than it should and can lead to premature failure.

Scheduling a yearly AC tune-up will allow you to keep an eye out for possible problems and address them as soon as they arise. Short cycling can be prevented by addressing electrical problems, refrigerant leaks, and filthy coils.

When You Need Help With Your Air Conditioner, Call Point Bay Fuel


Point Bay Fuel provides top-notch heating and cooling services in Ocean and Monmouth County, New Jersey. When it comes to HVAC repairs, installs, and replacements, you can count on our certified technicians to deliver superior service. Your HVAC system will be serviced by top-notch professionals who will identify and address short cycling and any other issues with your system.

Point Bay Fuel ensures the most affordable heating and cooling service prices in the area. Thanks to our HVAC system maintenance, your home’s cooling expenditures can be reduced while you enjoy improved comfort and increased efficiency. If your air conditioner is short cycling, don’t delay addressing the issue — the sooner you get repairs, the sooner you can enjoy comfortable home temperatures once again.

We can also help you choose the best HVAC system for your home while staying within your budget if you need it replaced. For your peace of mind, we guarantee all of our work. Make an appointment with Point Bay Fuel to get your air conditioner serviced. We provide in-home estimates for all our services.

And the best part? Our service is hassle-free. There are no pressure sales tactics, just great service at great prices. So, don’t let your air conditioner short cycle! Give us a call today!

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