HVAC Troubleshooting: What is AC Short Cycling?

Posted on: April 13, 2016

Why Do Air Conditioners Cycle On and Off Randomly?

Problems with AC Cycles AC systems naturally turn on and off to maintain the temperature that is set on the thermostat. Cycling is necessary for AC function due to the refrigeration process. The refrigeration process is the most economical approach to cooling an area. The process begins by removing heat via refrigerant (freon), then cooling through a cycle of compression. The heat absorbed by the refrigerants is then expelled to the outside air.

How Does Air Conditioning Cool Your Home?

Air conditioning’s task is removing heat, cooling an area, and successfully expelling that heat to the outside air. The system must go through a cycle of changing the form of heat – from liquid to gas (cooling), and gas back into liquid (heating). Changing the form of heat is accomplished through compression, condensation, expansion and evaporation. Compression is the key component to the refrigeration process.  This is why the compressor is the heart of an AC system.

How To Determine Irregular AC Cycling

Cycling is a normal operational process for HVAC systems, however cause for concern happens when the frequency of the cycling increases.  Typically, three cooling cycles will occur within an hour on a moderate summer day. This means the compressor will run for 10 minutes, then shut down and start up again after 10 minutes. If your AC cycle is inconsistent and the set temperature of your home is fluctuating more than usual, then your system is most likely short cycling. Short cycling is the most common issue homeowners have with their AC unit, and it occurs when your AC is turning on and off irregularly.

AC short cycling could be caused by several factors including an obstructed compressor, faulty thermostat, leaking refrigerant, icy coils, dirty air filter, electrical/board issues, or a HVAC system that is too big for the building in which it is installed. AC short cycling can have a lot of negative effects on your HVAC system, and comfort. It creates stress on the HVAC system that can lead to mechanical breakdowns and costly repairs. AC Short cycling also causes temperature swings and increases your energy bills.

How To Prevent Irregular AC Cycling

Irregular AC Cycles Proper maintenance of your HVAC system is the best way to prevent AC short cycling from occurring. Scheduling a tune-up once a year will keep your system running efficiently and increase the lifespan of your HVAC system. In the meantime, make sure you are changing your air filter regularly and paying attention to the frequency of AC cycles and temperature fluctuation.

If you are experiencing short cycling with your AC, or to schedule your yearly tune-up, call the experts at Action AC 800-400-4152. We are dedicated to your comfort, and our Nate-Certified technicians guarantee efficient and convenient service.