This is a great question! Short cycling is something we talk about often on this blog, and it’s also something that we constantly ward against. It’s a problem, but when pressed on why it’s a problem, many people don’t have the answer. That’s okay!
We’re not expecting anyone to be an HVAC expert, especially with how much training is required to actually get licensed and be a pro. If you’ve been told why short cycling is bad before but you just forgot, then this blog post is perfect for you. We’re going to talk about why short cycling is so bad for the efficiency and longevity of your air conditioner, and why it might end up requiring an early replacement if you’re not careful.
Short Cycling: A Recap
So, what is short cycling? Regardless of whether you’re refreshing your memory or learning for the first time, we’ve got your back.
Short cycling is when an air conditioner turns on for a brief, short period of time to run before abruptly shutting off and starting over again in frequent bursts. While a normal AC cycle might be 12 or 15 minutes, a short cycling air conditioner might only run for 5–8 minutes, essentially in half the time that a normal system would run. This is bad for a number of reasons that we’ll get into, but it’s easy to recognize.
Try timing your air conditioner’s cycles to see how long it runs for. Also, try and check how long the system stays shut down before turning back on again. If either of these times seem extremely short, then you’ve got a short cycling air conditioner on your hands.
Why Short Cycling Is Never Good
There are two main reasons why short cycling can be a huge problem for an air conditioner.
- A short cycling air conditioner is going to wear down certain components of the system. The starting up and shutting down of an AC stress certain parts, which means half of your AC is going to need an early replacement, while the other half will be in good condition. This can be bad for the system’s longevity and mean increased repair costs.
- The starting up and shutting down of an air conditioner is the most energy-intensive part of the process, which means your AC will run up your energy bill if it short cycles.
3 Common Causes of Short Cycling
So, how do you know if your air conditioner is short cycling? Here are three examples that could be causing the problem.
- An AC that’s too large. If your air conditioner is too large for your space, it’s going to cool things down too quickly and be unable to complete a full cycle. This can lead to short cycling.
- A refrigerant leak. Low refrigerant levels mean that the system will run in short cycles to compensate, thus causing the problems we mentioned above.
- An electrical problem. Sometimes the thermostat can signal for the air conditioner to turn on and shut off abruptly, even if the system itself doesn’t want to. This could be the result of an electrical component failure and requires immediate repairs.