Short cycling occurs when your air conditioner shuts off before it can complete its entire cooling cycle. When your AC turns on, it will usually need to run for anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes to cool your home completely. If the AC turns on and quickly shuts off again within a couple of minutes, there might be a major issue causing your unit to short cycle. Short cycling often happens due to overheating, but it can also occur due to faulty, malfunctioning, or worn-out components, this is where our AC repair services come in.
Short cycling is a serious issue for several different reasons. Not only will it affect your AC's ability to keep your home cool, but it also stresses the entire system. This can result in major repairs or cause your AC unit to burn out entirely. To ensure this doesn't happen, let's take a closer look at some issues that can cause an AC to short cycle and how to address them.
HVAC Air Filter Is Clogged
The least-complicated reason your AC might short cycle is that you need to replace your air filter. If the filter is clogged, there won't be enough airflow to keep your AC working properly. This results in heat getting trapped inside the system, which can cause the condenser to overheat.
The AC condenser outside your home has a safety mechanism that will automatically trigger if it overheats. When this trigger is activated, it instantly shuts the system off to ensure the high heat doesn't damage any of its components. If the air filter is extremely dirty, it sometimes takes just a few minutes for the AC to overheat on hot days.
A dirty air filter is also one of the many reasons your evaporator coil might freeze. If this happens, it can also lead to the system overheating or failing to produce any cold air. The only thing you can do in this situation is to turn your AC off until the coil completely thaws out.
Evaporator or Condenser Coil Is Dirty
Your AC system has two different coils that work to absorb or release heat. Inside your home is the evaporator coil, which uses refrigerant to remove heat from the building. The unit outside your home houses the condenser coil, which disperses this heat into the outside air. These coils often become caked with dirt and dust, preventing them from working as they should. This happens because the caked-on grime insulates the coil and prevents air from reaching it.
A dirty evaporator coil will usually freeze quickly. If no hot air can reach the coils, the refrigerant stays too cold, and the pressure drops. This results in the condensation on the coil turning into ice before it can drip away.
If the condenser coil is dirty, it won't be able to release heat as easily. This can cause the condenser to overheat and shut down. In either case, the best solution is to have a technician clean the coil and test it to see if a good cleaning solves the problem.
Condenser Unit Is Clogged with Debris
The sides of the condenser unit often become clogged with leaves and debris, which prevents it from getting proper airflow. If there isn't enough air to help cool it down, it will again overheat and shut down. To fix this, simply inspect the sides of the unit and vacuum or brush away any debris.
Refrigerant Level Is Low
All AC systems require a specific amount of refrigerant to function well. If the refrigerant level is too low due to a leak, it puts much more stress on the compressor and can cause it to overheat. A refrigerant leak is also one of the main causes of a frozen evaporator coil. Your only option in this situation is to have a technician check the refrigerant level and the system for leaks. After fixing any leaks, they will recharge the system with more refrigerant.
Thermostat Is Malfunctioning
Your short cycling issues may not have anything to do with your air conditioner. Instead, they could be caused by an issue with your thermostat. Over time, thermostats may start to malfunction and no longer measure temperature accurately. When this happens, it might signal the AC to shut off too soon because it registers that the home is cooler than it actually is. A malfunctioning thermostat could also cause your AC to run much longer than it needs to and your house to become too cold.
Short cycling might occur if the thermostat is too close to a vent. In this case, the cold air from your AC vent will make the thermostat register a lower temperature than the rest of the house. This can also happen if your thermostat is in part of the home that is always colder. In either case, the only real solution is to have a professional move the thermostat to a better location within your home.
Low-Pressure Control Switch Is Faulty
Inside your AC condenser, there are control switches that shut off the unit if the refrigerant pressure gets too high or too low. Either issue can put a massive strain on the compressor and potentially cause it to burn out. In some cases, the low-pressure switch stops working correctly and will signal the system to shut off when the pressure is normal. The only way to identify this problem is to have an AC technician inspect the control switch to see if it works correctly. If it doesn't, your technician will need to replace it to eliminate the short cycling.
Compressor Motor Is Starting To Wear Out
If your compressor motor isn't working well, you will likely need to have a new AC unit installed. Compressor motors fail due to normal wear and age. Short cycling can also speed up the rate at which the compressor motor wears out due to the added stress. Unfortunately, this problem will eventually prevent your AC from turning on at all.
If your AC unit was installed in the last five years, the compressor motor might have warranty coverage. If this is the case, you might want to proceed with a compressor motor repair. While you will still have to pay labor costs for the job, using your warranty should still be cheaper than installing a new AC unit.
If your AC isn't under warranty, it's almost always better to replace the entire unit instead of just the motor. In most cases, you'll pay approximately the same price for either.
Award-Winning AC Services
At TR Miller Heating, Cooling & Plumbing, our technicians will quickly get to the bottom of your short cycling issues. We service all makes and models of air conditioners, and our skilled staff performs the most complicated AC repairs. We are also ready to help if you need to replace your old AC with a new model, and we carry a wide selection of highly efficient units for any size of home. We also repair, install and maintain residential heating and plumbing systems in Plainfield and throughout the Greater Chicago Area. Give TR Miller Heating, Cooling & Plumbing a call to schedule your HVAC service!