Three Common Causes Of Short-Cycling Air Conditioners

Posted on: 20 May 2017

Your air conditioner should only be kicking on and off a couple of times per hour. If it's not too hot outside, it may turn on even less often than that! When the system starts cycling on and off every couple of minutes, this is not a good thing. Known as short-cycling, this problem has several possible causes, some of which are easy to address on your own and others of which need to be fixed by an HVAC professional. Here's a look at the most common causes of short-cycling.

A Clogged Filter

This is definitely the first thing you should check if your AC is turning on and off too often. Air filters are not meant to last forever. They typically last a couple of months before they become too full of dust and debris. When the filter gets clogged, the air conditioner's motor has to work harder to propel air through it. This can overheat the motor and cause the AC unit to turn off before it completes its cooling cycle. It then turns on again, but soon overheats and turns off again. Slide the old filter out, put a new one in, and see if that solves your problems.

Weeds Near the AC Unit

Your outdoor AC unit draws in air. If there's not enough air flow near it, the coils may become too cool, which can cause the system to turn on and off frequently. The most common cause of air flow obstruction is weeds or bushes overgrowing the AC unit. Trim any weeds and bushes back to leave at least 3 feet of space on each side of the air conditioner. Also make sure you move any furniture or equipment that may be blocking air flow to the air conditioner.

Refrigerant Leaks

If changing the filter and trimming weeds do not solve the short-cycling problem, then you may have a refrigerant leak. In other words, the coolant in your AC coils may be slowly seeping out. This can cause the remaining coolant to expand too far and over-cool, which in turn can lead to short-cycling. A refrigerant leak, unfortunately, needs to be dealt with by an HVAC specialist. They can repair the leak and also add more refrigerant to the system.

Keep in mind that if your system is quite old, it may be smarter to replace it rather than to repair a refrigerant leak. The refrigerant used in older air conditioners is currently being phased out, so it can be expensive and hard to come by. Talk to a company like Aggressive Mechanical Contractors, Inc. for more advice.