Why Is My Air Conditioner Running In Short Bursts?

Air conditioners cool down homes when it gets too hot. It is equipped with sensors that are triggered whenever the ambient temperature is higher than the thermostat settings. This will start the air conditioner’s cooling cycle until the room reaches the set temperature. This should be a slow and steady process. Air conditioner short cycling is when the AC runs in short bursts instead. AC short cycling can result in several issues unless it is properly resolved. Read on to know short cycling causes and effects and how to prevent it.

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Common Causes Of Air Conditioner Short Cycling

image of a homeowner using a fan to keep cool due to ac short cycling

Here are some of the most common reasons for air conditioner short cycling:

Air Conditioner Is Too Large

Bigger doesn’t always mean better for air conditioners. A unit that is too powerful will force out a high amount of cold air into your home and turn off immediately. This cools your house faster, but the unit cannot lower the indoor humidity. It won’t operate long enough to handle this concern. The air conditioner will also use more power. An oversized air conditioner will also create uneven cooling between different rooms around the house.

HVAC Air Filters Are Clogged

image of a dirty air conditioner filter that needs replacement

Air filters need to be constantly checked and regularly replaced. It shouldn’t be allowed to get too dirty as it will only block the air’s passage into the system. Therefore, the unit strains to compensate for the reduced flow of air. The compressor and the blower will work harder until they overheat. This causes short cycling, and the unit may break down eventually.

Replace the filters regularly and on a schedule per the equipment manual’s suggestion. However, remember that some homes need to replace their filter more often than others. A general rule is to check the filter every month and replace it when it’s dirty.

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Frozen Air Conditioner Evaporator Coils

Evaporator coils gather the heat inside the house. Frozen or dirty evaporator coils will not work as intended. They can also overheat, and the unit will automatically switch off to stop any more damage from happening before the set temperature is reached.

Different mechanical problems can cause this issue. Homeowners can shut down the air conditioning system entirely until it defrosts instead of letting the short cycling persist. If frozen coils reoccur, call an HVAC contractor for professional assistance.

Low Air Conditioner Refrigerant Levels

image of an hvac contractor checking ac refrigerant levels

The refrigerant acts as the air conditioner’s lifeblood. There should be adequate refrigerant levels in the cooling system so it can circulate and transfer heat from the inside to the outside. A leak can cause the supply to run low. As a result, the air conditioner is pushed to work harder than usual to cool down the house. This causes stress to the components, and short cycling eventually happens.

HVAC technicians can check how much coolant your unit has and determine if there’s a leak or not. They will find the leak and repair it immediately. They will also top up the refrigerant to ensure it works back to normal.

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Air Conditioner Electrical Issues

The problem can be due to malfunctioning control boards and wires in some cases. The air conditioner might not be receiving sufficient energy because of electrical issues. It may try to start but fail. Homeowners shouldn’t conduct DIY repairs as this is a complex and dangerous issue. It is best to consult a licensed HVAC technician. They can check the air conditioner and find out if this is the reason behind the short cycling. They can also repair the control board and wirings when needed.

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Poor Thermostat Placement

modern programming thermostat for air conditioning unit

Short cycling can also happen when the thermostat is poorly placed in the house. It may be near a window that receives direct sunlight or a heat source. The sensors may think that the space is hot due to the sunlight or other heat source even when the room is already cool. This will trigger it to turn on only to shut off again. The thermostat needs to be shielded or relocated to a better spot to stop this issue.

Why You Should Prevent Your Air Conditioner From Short Cycling

Here are three reasons you should keep your air conditioning system from short cycling:

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Air Conditioner Unit Damage

Air conditioning systems weren’t built to switch on and off in short bursts. This significantly burdens the components of the system, causing hastened wear and tear. As a result, the system breaks down prematurely. Owners need to deal with early parts replacement and a shorter AC system lifespan.

Soaring Energy Bill

image of a homeower dealing with high air conditioning costs due to short cycling ac unit

Short cycling forces the cooling unit to work harder than it should. It uses more energy as well. Air conditioners already consume high amounts of energy during normal operations, so this air conditioner inefficiency is unwelcome. Homeowners will see a significant spike in their energy bills as a result. Remember that neglecting to address this air conditioner problem can be expensive.

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Inconsistent Room Temperatures

Rooms in the house may feel different from one another. For instance, the bedroom may be warm while the living room may be cold. Short cycling doesn’t allow proper air circulation. This can be difficult, especially if occupants need to study or work in warm rooms during the summer.



It is a big problem when air conditioners short cycle. It places a heavy burden on the system and the homeowners’ pockets. Hire a competent HVAC contractor from the getgo to ensure that the air conditioner is the right size and is installed properly. Schedule air conditioner maintenance every year as well because it will help spot potential problems faster, so they are also resolved quickly. Refrigerant leaks, electrical issues, and dirty coils can be fixed before they trigger short cycling.

Tevis Energy’s sister company, Modern Comfort, performs HVAC installations, heating and cooling replacements, tune-ups, and more. Our technicians can provide you with expert HVAC services to ensure that your system provides you with the comfort and efficiency you deserve. Call now to schedule an appointment.

Call Tevis Energy For Your Air Conditioning Requirements

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Tevis Energy provides high-quality HVAC services in central Maryland and southern Pennsylvania. Rest assured, we only have the best professionally certified technicians for all your heating and cooling service needs, including replacements, repairs, installations, and maintenance. All our techs are highly knowledgeable and experienced in servicing your HVAC system correctly and promptly.

For the most competitive HVAC service rates in the area, call Tevis Energy. Our tune-up services increase energy efficiency and improve your comfort while lowering your energy costs. When you need to replace or repair your HVAC system, we can recommend the most fitting solution for your home within your budget. All our work is guaranteed to ensure your satisfaction. Book your next air conditioner tune-up or service appointment with Tevis Energy today. We offer free, in-home estimates.

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