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What Causes an AC to Short Cycle and Why It’s a Problem

woman-covering-her-earsUnfortunately, air conditioners suffer from wear and tear, just like any other appliance or piece of equipment. Not all problems have to be catastrophes though! If you keep up on maintenance each year, and schedule repairs as needed, you can keep your AC system in great shape for as long as possible (typically 10-15 years). One of these repair needs we speak of is short-cycling. Short-cycling is not only a symptom of a problem but it’s also the cause of a problem. Fortunately, you may only need a few simple adjustments from a trained professional, or the problem could be a little more complicated. But you won’t know until you give us a call to check it out!

Ignoring short-cycling means you could find yourself facing a premature air conditioner replacement. In the meantime, you could waste a lot of energy and money. Read on to learn more about this particular AC problem!

The Facts of Short-Cycling

The phrase short-cycling comes from what our professionals in the HVAC industry call a cooling system or heat pump system that gets stuck in the start-up cycle, and turns on and off rapidly, without completing a full cooling cycle.

Under normal circumstances, an air conditioner powers up the compressor and runs until the thermostat registers that it has met the temperature request. Then the air conditioner powers down the compressor. However, with the air conditioner is short-cycling, the compressor stops before it’s supposed to, without finishing the cooling cycle. When this occurs, the compressor is getting overworked and can burn out (among other AC issues).

The Causes of Short-Cycling

There is no one, singular cause of short-cycling. As we mentioned above, short-cycling is often the symptom of a problem. This problem could be:

  • A clogged or blocked up air filter
  • An oversized air conditioning system
  • Low refrigerant charge (level) due to a leak
  • Air escaping through a leaky ventilation system
  • Miscalibrated thermostats reading temperatures incorrectly

Fortunately, one of these problems is very easy to resolve, and prevent! That’s changing your air filter. The air filter that comes standard with your air conditioner should be replaced or cleaned every 1-3 months. Leaving a clogged air filter in place can lead to other problems in addition to short-cycling.

If, however, the problem is an oversized air conditioner system, that’s a bit more serious. Unfortunately, the only “fix” in this case is replacing your air conditioner with a properly sized system.

What Short-Cycling Leads To

Shorty-cycling is as much a cause of problems as it is a symptom. For instance, your air conditioner uses the most power when the compressor starts up. When the system is short-cycling, the compressor is going through the start-up process rapidly. This can cause it to start breaking down, burn out, or succumb to wear and tear a lot sooner than it otherwise would have.

Your air conditioner will be subject to wear and tear no matter what, but you can definitely slow the process by having this problem handled ASAP.

For professional Salt Lake City air conditioning services, contact our team–and see what keeps our customers saying, “I Love My Design Comfort!”

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