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Residential Heating and Air Conditioning Blog

What Is Short-Cycling and Why Is It Bad News?

white-question-mark-on-blue-circleShort-cycling can be as ominous of a phrase as it sounds. Unfortunately, it’s also a relatively common malfunction within HVAC systems. That is, if the system was not properly installed to begin with, or if you don’t have it professionally maintained on a regular basis.

To give you a short description of what short-cycling is, it’s when the compressor of your air conditioning system turns on and off in rapid succession–to quickly to actually finish a cooling cycle, and too fast for your air conditioner to effectively manage. Keep reading to learn more.

The Basics of Short Cycling

Your air conditioner plays an essential, if not the most important, role in the functionality of your air conditioning system. This is the component of your air conditioner that changes the liquid refrigerant within the system into a hot, high-pressure gas, which travels through the AC system first absorbing heat from the indoors and then releasing that heat outside before starting the cooling process.

If your air conditioner’s compressor is cycling on and off more frequently than this, this is known as short cycling.

Why Short Cycling Is an Issue

You may be wondering why short cycling is such a big deal. After all, if your cooling system is still sending cool air out of the vents, that’s fine right?

Well, not quite. There are actually two problems happening here:

  1. if the compressor isn’t running long enough, then the cooled air won’t have enough time to reach all the rooms in your living space. This means that your house will have hot spots in it where it simply wasn’t able to get cool enough.
  2. Short cycling also causes your compressor to essentially “work harder” leading to issues like a spike in utility bills, more frequent repair needs, and a shorter system lifespan in the end.

What Causes Short Cycling to Happen

There are a few different things that can cause an air conditioner to short cycling, ranging from minor problems to major issues. These include:

  • Your HVAC air filter is clogged. This air filter is in place to block contaminants like dust and other debris from getting inside the system. You can, and should, be changing these air filters every 1-3 months during periods of system use.
  • The air conditioner has a refrigerant leak. There is a common misconception that refrigerant is a “fuel” and that it runs out as fuel does from a car. The fact is, if your system is losing refrigerant, it means that it has a leak, and that leak must be located and repaired.
  • Your thermostat is miscalibrated. if the thermostat is reading the temperature incorrectly, it can be prematurely signaling the compressor to shut down.
  • The AC system is too big for the space it’s installed in. If you’ve had your AC for a while, and it just started short cycling, then this isn’t the issue. But if you have a brand new system and notice short cycling, this is a problem. Unfortunately, it means your home wasn’t properly matched with the right air conditioner. We can help!

For professional AC repair in Minneapolis, MN, contact Residential Heating and Air Conditioning

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