Why Is My Air Conditioner Running In Short Bursts?

image of a couple feeling hot due to air conditioner short cycling

When the temperature gets too hot, our air conditioner is the first thing we rely on.

We all know how it should work. Once the sensors detect that the ambient temperature is higher than what we’ve set on the thermostat, the air conditioner starts the cooling cycle until the room reaches the ideal temperature.

This whole process should be slow and steady. However, once the AC starts running in short bursts, then you are dealing with a phenomenon called AC short cycling.

Short cycling leads to several bigger air conditioner problems, and you must address it quickly. In this article, we’re going to talk about the causes and effects of air conditioner short cycling and how you can prevent it.

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Common Causes of Air Conditioner Short Cycling

There are six possible reasons why your air conditioner is short-cycling, and we’re going to talk about them below.

1. Oversized AC Unit

The first and most common reason is you probably have an oversized AC unit. This means that you have an air conditioner that is larger than necessary.

Unlike common belief, bigger doesn’t always mean better, especially when it comes to air conditioners. When your unit is too powerful, it will push out a high amount of cold air into your space and then shut off fast. This process may cool down your home quickly, but it won’t be able to lower the humidity inside.

As you may know, air conditioners don’t just cool your room. To ensure that you also get quality air all the time, they also lower the humidity. However, for these systems to achieve this, they must operate long enough.

Another problem with having an oversized air conditioning unit is that it creates a situation of inconsistent cooling between different spaces around the house. On top of that, you’ll be consuming lots of energy, which means higher electricity costs.

2. Clogged HVAC Air Filter

replacing HVAC filter

It’s also possible that you have a right-sized AC unit, but you have clogged HVAC air filters.

Air filters need to be constantly monitored and replaced. You can’t let them get too dirty as this dirt can block the air coming from the inside of the system, which will make your AC unit work harder to compensate for the reduced airflow.

When this happens, the compressor and the blower will be stressed until they overheat. This then leads to short cycling and will later lead to a full equipment breakdown over time.

Always replace air filters on schedule as suggested by your AC manual. However, there are some cases when your unit might require more air filter replacement than what’s suggested.

So a good rule of thumb is to check your air filter monthly and replace it immediately when dirty.

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3. Frozen Evaporator Coils

Another reason could be that you’ree dealing with frozen evaporator coils.

Evaporator coils absorb heat within your home. However, when they’re frozen or dirty, they won’t be able to work as they’re supposed to. This again leads to overheating, and eventually, the unit will short cycle to prevent further damage before it even reaches your desired temperature.

Instead of allowing the short cycling to persist, you can shut your air conditioning unit off until the ice thaws. However, if the evaporator coils freeze again, you need to call a professional HVAC contractor to check for any problems.

4. Low Air Conditioner Refrigerant Levels

image of air conditioner refrigerant

It could also be that your air conditioner’s refrigerant level is low.

The refrigerant is considered the lifeblood of the cooling system. There must always be enough refrigerant to circulate and move heat from the inside of the house to the outside.

When your air conditioner has leakage, then this can result in your air conditioner running low. When this happens, your system will have to work harder to cool your home. This stresses the components and leads to the short cycling of your unit.

You can call an HVAC technician to check your unit’s refrigerant levels and confirm whether there’s leakage or not. And if there’s any leak, they’ll be able to fix it right away. After fixing the leak, they can also inject more refrigerant into the system until it functions normally again.

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5. Air Conditioner Electrical Issues

There are cases when the short cycling problem can be traced back to faulty wiring and control boards. And when this happens, the air conditioner isn’t getting enough power which can cause the unit to attempt to start and then falter.

This problem is too complex and dangerous for you to handle yourself. So it’s better to call an HVAC technician to check your air conditioning system and determine whether the electrical problem is causing your system to short cycle. If it is, then they can also immediately fix the wiring and control board.

6. Poor Thermostat Placement

thermostat and comfort control

Another reason for the short cycling is the poor thermostat placement within the house.

Is your thermostat placed near a heat source like a window that gets a lot of sunlight? If it is, then this kind of placement can trick the thermostat into thinking that the space is hot even if the room is quite cool. This will make the unit spring into action again and eventually shut off.

If this is the problem you’re facing, you might need to shield the thermostat or transfer it to a more suitable spot to prevent this from happening again.

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Reasons To Avoid Air Conditioner Short Cycling

1. AC Equipment Damage

When air conditioners turn on and off in short cycles, it places enormous stress on its components. This leads to significant wear and tear that can lead to a full equipment breakdown. Eventually, you’d have to deal with premature parts replacement and a reduced system lifespan.

2. Soaring Energy Bill

homeowner shocked at expensive energy costs

Short cycling pushes air conditioners to work harder than needed, which means that your unit will consume more energy than usual.

Air conditioners already use a lot of energy even when it runs normally, so if it runs inefficiently, you’ll find yourself with very high energy bills. So, never ignore your unit’s short cycling problems.

3. Inconsistent Room Temperatures

When your air conditioning units run in short cycles, the rooms inside your house may exhibit large temperature variations. Some rooms will be colder than others, and this is because short cycling doesn’t allow the air to circulate properly.

This situation can create difficulties for people who need to work or study in warm areas during summer.

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The air conditioner short cycling problem is not something that you should take lightly.

It is extremely harmful to the system and expensive for homeowners. Therefore, it’s best to avoid it from the start by hiring a competent HVAC contractor that can select the right air conditioner size for your home and install it properly.

An annual air conditioner maintenance appointment will also help spot potential issues quickly. This way, you can deal with the problem early on, like electrical issues, AC refrigerant leaks, and dirty coils, before they become a big problem.

Call Wilcox Energy For Your Air Conditioning Requirements


Wilcox Energy offers superior heating and cooling services on the southern Connecticut shoreline.

We make sure to hire the best-certified technicians who can provide you with excellent HVAC services which include tune-ups, repairs, installations, and replacements. Each technician has outstanding knowledge and experience to serve your HVAC system needs correctly.

Wilcox Energy guarantees to provide you with the most competitive heating and cooling service costs in the area. Our maintenance services ensure to improve your comfort, increase your system’s energy efficiency, and reduce your home’s heating and cooling costs.

Need your system repaired or replaced? We’ll recommend the best one for your home and is within your budget. The best part is, all our work is backed with a guarantee to ensure your satisfaction.

If you wish to schedule a service appointment, give us a call today! We also offer in-home estimates at no cost at all.

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For more information about heating and cooling systems, be sure to contact Wilcox Energy. You can contact us at (860) 399-6218. We offer a full line of heater and air conditioner repairs, maintenance services, and installations.