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What Is Short Cycling And Is It Bad For My AC?

When you discover an issue with your home’s AC and call in a professional to assess the problem, one of the terms that you might hear is short cycling. And unless you are intimate with HVAC lingo, you are not going to have any idea what the term refers to, or what it means for your AC unit. And both are very important.

In Common Language

Short cycling is when an AC unit runs, turns off, and then turns back on in just a short time. An air conditioner that is working correctly will run until it achieves the desired temperature in the home, and then it turns off. Under normal circumstances, it takes a good bit of time for the temperature to rise and trigger the AC to turn on again. The off-time can range from 20 to 30 minutes or more. But when the entire cycle of on, off, on occurs very quickly, the unit is short cycling. And that not good.

The Damage Caused By Short Cycling

As with most mechanical devices, the starting and stopping process is when the majority of the wear and tear occurs. It makes sense when you think about the energy needed for the machine starting from rest and having to get all of the parts and components up to speed. This process takes more work than merely continuing to maintain a set rotation per minute on the motor. Think of the effort needed to push a car that has broken down in traffic. It takes a massive amount of force to get the car rolling, but then it becomes much less taxing to keep it moving. The same is true of AC operation.

So by short cycling, your air conditioner is experiencing exponential wear and tear every time that it turns on and off. Essentially, it is wearing out before your eyes. And the reason for this excessive wear needs to be determined and corrected very quickly. Left to run in a short cycle pattern, you could decrease the life expectancy of the unit by years, in just a few short weeks. And on top of the expense of replacing your air conditioner, you will find that your energy bill has gone through the roof because of the added stress on the unit.

What Causes Short Cycling?

There is not one single cause of short cycling. However, the professionals at Gordon AC & Plumbing are experts at assessing air conditioner function and determining the root of the problem. Some of the most common causes of short cycling include:

  • A very dirty air filter will starve your air conditioner for air and can cause it to begin short cycling. The unit overheats without proper air circulating, and a safety mechanism will cause the system to shut itself down. But because the house temperature is still above the desired temperature, the unit almost instantly turns back on. In many cases, replacing a clogged and dirty air filter will remedy the situation, and your AC will begin to run normal cycles.
  • A faulty capacitor could also be the culprit causing short cycling. This piece is an electrical component that keeps an AC running consistently. And if it fails, you will notice the system turning off and on constantly. A call to (318) 202-9144 is essential to prevent additional damage to your air conditioner. If left to short cycle for a long time, you could face a much more costly repair.
  • A refrigerant leak is a worst-case scenario. Unfortunately, you might think that the issue is related to a dirty air filter when, in fact, it is much more serious. The refrigerant in your AC is what helps to keep it from overheating. It is much like driving your car with an empty radiator. With no refrigerant or even low refrigerant, your AC motor can easily overheat and be destroyed.

The most critical piece of information that homeowners need to know is that short cycling is bad. And no matter why it is happening, it needs to be corrected immediately. If you notice your AC short cycling and a new air filter does not stop the issue immediately, call (318) 202-9144 to schedule an emergency service call. A Gordon AC & Plumbing pro will arrive quickly to diagnose the problem and provide you with cost-effective solutions to fix your air conditioning before the damage is permanent.