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Beware of Short Cycling Air Conditioners

When air conditioners run into trouble this time of year, homeowners pay attention. A faulty air conditioner can turn the average home into a hot house very quickly during a heat wave, which can pose a health risk to sensitive family members as well as reducing comfort levels to nil. The sooner one can recognize the signs of a problem, the better. And while only a professional technician should attempt to repair a faulty air conditioner, prudent homeowners can learn to watch for early signifiers indicating something is wrong.

Among the subtler indications of a problem is short cycling, when an air conditioner runs for just a short time and turns off, only to turn on again a few minutes later. It doesn’t sound like much, but in fact, it usually signals a significant problem. If it’s not dealt with effectively, it could spell big trouble for the system itself.

Why Is It a Concern?

Air conditioners use a lot more energy turning on and turning off than they do simply running. Furthermore, the process of firing up the air conditioner places key components under a great deal of strain, and contributes more to wear and tear than running the system does. For that reason, an efficient air conditioner will run for at least 15 minutes at a clip before it turns off. Otherwise, the air conditioner will waste huge amounts of power–raising monthly energy bills in the process–as well as running a greater risk of repairs. Over time, short cycling can even shorten the lifespan of the system, forcing it to be replaced well before its time.

What Are The Causes?

The causes of short cycling are numerous, which is one of the reasons laymen should never attempt to diagnose or repair such an issue themselves. Possible causes can include (but are not limited to) the following:

  • Overpowered. Overpowered units need to be replaced in order to correct the issue, which is why proper sizing of a new air conditioner is so important (and why qualified technicians work hard to determine the precise power needs for a given home before performing an AC installation).
  • Ice on the Coils. When ice forms on the AC coils, it disrupts the cooling process and can create short cycling. Ice can form when refrigerant leaks, there’s a clog in the filter, the fan motor is having trouble or a number of other issues.
  • Electrical Issues. A faulty electrical connection or problem with the thermostat can cause the air conditioner to turn on and off repeatedly.
  • Overheating Components. Many air conditioners will automatically shut down if they detect a key component overheating. They will start up again when the component cools off, but until it is fixed or replaced, the process will continue.

Do not attempt to correct an issue with short cycling and don’t continue to run the air conditioner if it is engaged in short cycling. Instead, call the professionals.

Yost & Campbell Heating, Cooling & Generators offers quality air conditioning repairs throughout the Pelham, NY area.

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