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JN Electrical Temperature Control, Inc Blog

Is Your AC Turning On and Off Too Rapidly? Here’s What’s Happening


You normally don’t think much about your air conditioning during the summer months once you’ve got it set. It turns on when you need it to, runs for a stretch, shuts down, and then turns back on whenever the house starts to get too warm again.

Except now, something different is happening … The AC is turning on and off far more often. It turns on, only runs for a short time, then shuts off, only to turn back on again a short time later. You’re always noticing the air conditioner turning on because it’s happening so often.

Is this a problem, and what exactly is causing it? Do you need to call us for AC repair in Franklin County? We’ll look into this problem (yes, it is a problem) more below.

It’s Called “Short-Cycling”

Is Your AC Turning On and Off Too Rapidly? Here’s What’s Happening Under normal circumstances, an air conditioner will run in a cooling cycle that lasts for around 15 minutes. The thermostat requests cooling, the blower fan turns on, the compressor activates, and cooled air moves through the ductwork. Once the house is cooled enough, the compressor and then the blower shut down and the cycle is over.

An air conditioner is short-cycling when it’s not completing a full cycle but instead shutting down after 10 minutes or less, only to turn back on a short time later and start the process over. On a hot day, you might expect the AC to go through three cycles per hour, but when short-cycling it might go through 5–8. 

This is a problem because the AC has to do much more work and drain far more power because of these rapid cycles. It takes a lot of electricity to start up the compressor, and when the AC is doing this 2-3 times more often—it adds up on your electric bill! All the extra strain will also cause the system to wear down faster and shorten its service life. Finally, the shorter run time means the AC won’t cool the house.

The Causes of Short Cycling

Short cycling is trouble all on its own, but the underlying cause is often the worst part. Here are some of the reasons for short-cycling:

  • Clogged air filter: A dirty air filter can create many AC problems, including short cycling. Fortunately, you can change the filter yourself.
  • Low refrigerant: An air conditioner can lose refrigerant to leaks, which will lead to several malfunctions, such as short cycling. Low refrigerant threatens to cause an AC to break down, so make sure you have this corrected soon.
  • Oversized AC: If this is a new air conditioner, then the problem may be that whoever installed it put in a system that’s too large. The AC will lower the temperature so fast that the thermostat will mistakenly end the cycle early. The only solution to this problem is to have the AC replaced with an accurately sized unit.
  • Faulty thermostat: The thermostat itself may be the culprit, mistakenly ending the air conditioner’s cycles because of miscalibration or other issues. This is often an easy fix for professionals.
  • Aging AC: If your AC is 15 years old or older, then short cycling often means the system is starting to die and is ready to be replaced. 

JN Electrical Temperature Control, Inc works hard to ensure customer satisfaction with custom comfort solutions. Contact us today for AC repair and other comfort services.

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