Why Is My Air Conditioner Running In Short Bursts?

homeowner suffering from high humidity at home due to ac short cycling

Air conditioners are essential in homes to reduce the heat during the summer season. When sensors detect that the temperature in the home is greater than the thermostat’s settings, the AC unit will initiate a cooling cycle until the room reaches an optimal condition. Ideally, this process should occur gradually and consistently. However, if the AC unit operates in brief intervals, it may be short cycling, which can result in various issues if not resolved correctly. This article will cover the reasons and consequences of AC short cycling, as well as preventative measures to avoid this issue, to begin with.

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Common Causes Of AC Unit Short Cycling

Oversized AC Unit

When it comes to air conditioners, a larger size does not always mean better performance. If your AC unit is too powerful for the space it needs to cool, it will release a high volume of cold air into the home and shut off quickly. This can quickly cool down the home, but it won’t be able to reduce humidity levels effectively. The unit will also consume more energy than necessary. Furthermore, a large AC unit will result in uneven cooling throughout different areas of your home.

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Clogged Air Filters

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Keep a close eye on air filters. Replace them regularly to maintain efficient functioning. If left unattended, the accumulation of dirt and debris can obstruct the airflow, causing the unit to work harder. This strains the compressor and blower. Eventually, this can lead to overheating, short cycling, and even HVAC equipment breakdown.

To avoid such issues, follow the recommended replacement schedule mentioned in the equipment manual. Some households may require more frequent filter replacements than others. As a general guideline, inspect the air filter every month and replace it promptly when dirty.

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Frozen Evaporator Coils

The function of evaporator coils is to absorb the heat inside a home. However, they cannot perform efficiently if these coils become dirty or frozen. This can result in overheating and may cause the unit to shut down before reaching the desired temperature to prevent further damage.

Several mechanical problems can cause this issue. Rather than allowing short cycling to continue, homeowners can turn off the air conditioning system until the ice thaws. If the coils freeze again, seek help from a professional HVAC contractor. Also, be sure to schedule an annual AC tune-up for best performance.

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Low Refrigerant Levels

image of hvac contractor performing refrigerant refill on air conditioner

The refrigerant is a crucial cooling component that facilitates heat transfer from the interior to the exterior. Sufficient refrigerant is necessary for this process to work effectively. However, a refrigerant leak can cause it to run low, causing the air conditioning unit to work harder than usual to cool down the house. This, in turn, stresses the system’s components and leads to short cycling.

HVAC technicians can examine the refrigerant levels and identify any leaks. They can then promptly repair the leak and add more refrigerant to the system until it returns to normal functioning. The refrigerant is a vital element in the cooling system that must be maintained at optimum levels for optimal performance.

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Electrical Issues

Faulty wiring and control boards are sometimes to blame for air conditioning problems. When electrical issues prevent the air conditioner from receiving sufficient power, it may try to start up but fail. Homeowners should avoid attempting to resolve these complex and hazardous issues on their own. Instead, it is wiser to enlist the help of HVAC technicians to assess the air conditioning system and determine if wiring or control board problems cause short cycling. Technicians can fix any air conditioner wiring or control board issues that may be present.

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Poor Thermostat Placement

adjusting thermostat

Poor thermostat placement within the house could lead to short cycling. You should evaluate whether the thermostat is near a window that receives a lot of sunlight or some other heat source. Even when the room is actually cool, the sensors may be deceived into believing that the area is hot due to direct sunlight. As a result, the thermostat may rapidly turn on and off the air conditioner. You may need to relocate the thermostat to a more appropriate location or shield it from direct sunlight.

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Reasons To Avoid Air Conditioner Short Cycling

  1. Air Conditioner Equipment Damage: Air conditioning units are not intended to be switched on and off frequently. Doing so can cause considerable strain on the system’s components. This can lead to notable wear and tear, which may ultimately cause the equipment to malfunction. As a result, premature replacement of parts and reduced service life are among the challenges that owners may face.
  2. Soaring Energy Bills: When an air conditioning system short cycles, it must operate harder than necessary, leading to increased energy consumption. This inefficiency is particularly unwelcome given that air conditioners already consume a lot of energy when functioning correctly. Homeowners may observe a surge in their energy bills as a result. Failing to address this issue could result in significant expenses.
  3. Inconsistent Room Temperatures: Temperature fluctuations within the house can be significant, with some rooms being notably colder or warmer than others. Short bursts of air conditioning can hinder the proper circulation of cool air, which may pose challenges for individuals who need to work or study in warmer areas during the summer.

Related Article: What To Do When Your AC Unit Freezes Up


Short cycling is a major issue that can cause significant harm to the AC system and result in costly repairs for homeowners. Engage a skilled HVAC contractor who can accurately size and install the air conditioner to prevent this problem. Also, as mentioned above, scheduling yearly maintenance for the air conditioner can help identify and address potential issues promptly, such as electrical problems, refrigerant leaks, and dirty coils. 

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Call Miller Oil Company For Your Air Conditioning Requirements

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At Miller Oil Company, we provide exceptional heating and cooling solutions throughout Hartford County, Connecticut. Our team consists of certified technicians who can deliver outstanding HVAC maintenance, repairs, installations, and replacements. You can trust that our technicians have the knowledge and expertise to service your HVAC system correctly.

We offer the region’s most affordable heating and cooling services, and our maintenance services can optimize your comfort, enhance energy efficiency, and reduce cooling costs. If you require an HVAC repair or replacement, we can suggest the most suitable option for your home while staying within your budget. Our work is backed by a satisfaction guarantee to make sure you are happy with our service. Contact Miller Oil Company today to schedule an air conditioner tune-up or service appointment, and we provide free, in-home estimates.

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To schedule a service appointment, contact Miller Oil Company today. We also offer free, in-home estimates. Click the link to view our service area.