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Understanding the Causes of AC Short Cycling

Imagine the following scenario: it is insufferably hot outside, and you go to turn on your AC unit. It turns on, gives you two or three minutes of relief, and then shuts off. So, you turn it on again, only for the same thing to happen. This problem you’re experiencing is called short cycling. This blog, written by expert HVAC service techs in Lake Magdalene, will discuss how short cycling is defined and its common causes. 

What is AC Short Cycling?

AC short cycling is a term used to describe a situation where an air conditioning (AC) system turns on and off frequently, often after operating for a couple of minutes. Instead of running in a continuous cycle, the AC unit may turn on, run for a short period, then turn off again before the desired temperature is reached.

Common Causes of Short Cycling

Understanding the causes of HVAC short cycling can help you prevent it from happening and extend the life of your HVAC system. Below, we break down the most common causes of short cycling. 

Incorrectly Sized System

An HVAC system that is too big for your home or building will heat or cool the space too quickly, causing the system to shut off before it can properly regulate the temperature. This can result in short cycling, as the system repeatedly turns on and off to try to maintain the desired temperature. 

On the other hand, if the HVAC system is too small for the home, it will overheat as it struggles to accommodate each room. Once it overheats, it will shut down before the home is cooled to the desired temperature. 

Having a licensed HVAC service in Lake Magdalene install your ac will ensure this issue doesn’t happen to you. Technicians can help scale your AC to the needs of your household to provide an efficient and smooth operation of the system. 

Dirty Air Filter

Clogged air filters restrict airflow, causing the HVAC system to work harder to move air through the home. After a certain point, the AC will give out and short cycle. This is one of the many reasons we recommend checking your filters at least every 4-6 weeks. Doing so will ensure that your AC works as smoothly as possible. 

Refrigerant Leaks 

Leaking refrigerant causes the fluid levels to go down. When there isn’t enough refrigerant fluid, the system will short cycle. The compressor will be unable to compress enough fluid to cool the air to the desired temperature. As a result, the system will eventually shut down, perhaps completely. 

Watch out for signs like hissing sounds and liquid pooling around your unit. If you notice these signs, you will need to contact an HVAC service in Lake Magdalene to help repair the leak. 

Faulty Thermostat

A malfunctioning thermostat can cause your HVAC system to cycle on and off too frequently. This can occur when the thermostat is located in an area that experiences temperature fluctuations, such as near a window or in direct sunlight. The thermostat signals the ac system to turn on and off based on the temperatures it senses. The temperatures coming from a window will alter the thermostat’s perception, causing it to turn off too early or turn on when it isn’t necessary. 

Dirty Condenser Coils

Every now and then, the condenser coils of the HVAC unit must be cleaned of the debris and dirt they accumulate.  Dirty coils make it very hard for the air to be transferred from one component of the AC to the other. It wears on the compressor and causes it to short cycle as a result. To avoid this issue, regular maintenance visits are essential. 

Quality HVAC Services in Lake Magdalene

Do you need a repair or routine maintenance check of your HVAC unit? Contact Universal Air and Heat, the home of the very best technicians in the area. We will ensure that your AC is running smoothly and will last you for years.


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