Make Sure Your AC Is Not Short-Cycling This Summer

If your home is getting cool, then your AC unit must be working just fine, right? Well, not necessarily. A common problem in AC systems is short-cycling. This is when your system kicks on for just a few minutes, kicks off again, and then kicks on again very quickly. Your system should be cycling on and off only a few times per hour. Here's a closer look at short-cycling, why it's a problem, and what you can do about it.

Why is short-cycling an issue?

Short-cycling is a problem because it uses far more energy than necessary, driving up your electricity bills. It's also very hard on your AC unit to keep turning on and off that frequently, so if you allow the system to short-cycle for a long time, you'll probably have a lot more breakdowns and malfunctions to deal with. Ultimately, you'll be replacing your AC unit a lot sooner – and that can be expensive!

What should you do if you notice short-cycling?

Pay attention to your system's operation for a few hours, and if you notice that it's short-cycling, start taking action to stop the problem ASAP. There are a few things you can try on your own:

Change the filter: A common, simple cause of short-cycling is a clogged AC filter. When the filter is riddled with dirt, it's hard for the AC unit to propel air through it. The unit may overheat, have to turn off, and then switch on again when it's cool, only to overheat again soon after. Slip a new filter into place and see if the problem stops.

Change your thermostat batteries: If your thermostat's batteries are on their last legs, the thermostat may not be operating properly and may be sending on/off signals to the AC unit in error.

Check for refrigerant leaks: Slide a piece of white paper under your AC unit. Leave it there for an hour or so, and see if there is any colored fluid on it when you come back. Clear fluid is nothing to worry about – that's just water. If there is colored fluid on the paper, you have a refrigerant leak, which is probably causing the short-cycling. Contact your HVAC technician to come fix the leak and top up your refrigerant levels.

If none of the problems above seem to be to blame, schedule a consultation with an HVAC company such as CNR Air Conditioning Inc. There's a chance there is something wrong with the electrical wiring of the unit, and this is not an issue to attempt fixing yourself.