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AC FAQ: Why Is My System Shutting Down So Much?

Technician working on an outdoor AC unitIt’s a frustrating problem. Your air conditioner cycles on starts to cool your home and to provide you with some relief from the heat, but then it cycles back down again before much headway can be made. What gives?

Well, this problem actually has a name: short cycling. And like most problems that earn an official title, short cycling is actually much more serious than you may realize. It’s certainly much more than an annoyance.

In today’s post, we’ll be looking at what short cycling is, what can cause it, and what the repercussions of a short cycling air conditioner might be. In one case, it is actually a problem you can resolve on your own. In another, it could be the result of one of the most serious problems that an AC can encounter! For this reason, a professional diagnosis is always best once the most obvious cause is ruled out. When you need air conditioning repair in Atlanta, GA, you need to call us.

Short Cycling Defined

Short cycling simply describes the scenario in which your air conditioning system (or heating system, for that matter) starts up but runs only very briefly before cycling back down. This is not the way that HVAC systems are intended to operate. When you run your air conditioner, it should not be running constantly. However, it also should not be cycling on and off too rapidly. There is a sweet spot in the middle where your system runs in full, even cycles, maintaining desired temperatures along the way.

Why Does Short Cycling Occur?

There are a few different reasons, as mentioned above. First, and best-case scenario, is a dirty air filter. If your air filter is too dirty, then your system can really start to overheat and will cycle down to protect itself from damage. Dirty filters simply generate a lot of airflow resistance. If you haven’t changed your filter in a while and your system is now short cycling, that’s definitely the first step to take.

Another potential cause of short cycling is a faulty run capacitor. The run capacitor in the system is what maintains the charge necessary to keep your system up and running once it’s started. If your run capacitor is not functioning properly, short cycling is bound to occur.

You could also have an AC that is too big for your home. That may not sound like a problem, but it can actually cool your home so rapidly that the system short cycles. If your AC has always short cycled, then this might be the case.

Finally, there is the potential for a refrigerant leak. Refrigerant leaks are serious business. If you continue to run an air conditioner with a refrigerant leak, then you run the risk of damaging the air conditioner beyond the point of repairs.

Why Is This a Problem?

Short cycling has several undesirable effects on air conditioners.

  • Reduced energy efficiency
  • Reduced reliability
  • Reduced performance levels
  • Shortened system lifespans