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Brown's Heating & Cooling Blog

“What Is Short-Cycling, And Is It Really That Bad?”

Residential air conditioners go through a lot throughout the years, particularly in our area. Wear and tear can lead to issues like refrigerant leaks, failed capacitors, and even breached air ducts. Fortunately, most of these repairs can be pretty simply fixed by our technicians and even prevented with routine maintenance.

There’s one thing that natural wear and tear shouldn’t lead to though, and that’s short-cycling. Wondering what short-cycling is?

Listen to your air conditioner–really listen to it! When the compressor cycles on, it should do so long enough for the temperature in the room to reach the desired setting on your thermostat. If it doesn’t reach this temperature, but cycles back off, only to cycle back on and repeat the failed process a few minutes later then it is short-cycling. Why does this matter?

The Problem with Short-Cycling

The biggest problem with short-cycling is that it increases wear and tear on your air conditioner. Sure, short-cycling is a warning of a problem–like a refrigerant leak. But the real problem is what short-cycling does to your cooling system. It shortens the system’s service life, increases repair needs, causes and increase in energy use and a decline in home comfort. Why is this? Because:

  • Air conditioners use the most energy when the compressor starts up. Since short-cycling is literally the compressor consistently starting up and shutting down more than it needs to, it drains unnecessary power.
  • Your air conditioner’s compressor accumulates extensive wear and tear which can cause the system to overheat and burn-out as a result. The cost to replace a burnt-out compressor is high enough that it usually makes more economic sense to replace the entire system.
  • If your cooling system stops the compressor before completing a full cooling cycle, it won’t have enough time to adequately cool your entire living space.

“Okay, But What Causes Short-Cycling?”

There are a number of possibilities, including:

  • An inappropriately-sized air conditioner. If this is the case, you’ll notice short-cycling shortly after system installation.
  • A clogged air filter. Fortunately, this is something you can (and should) resolve on your own by changing that filter every 1-3 months.
  • Low refrigerant charge due to a leak.
  • Air escaping through damaged ductwork.
  • A miscalibrated thermostat reading incorrect temperatures.

“What Can I Do?”

We don’t expect you to try to diagnose an air conditioner problem on your own. In fact, you shouldn’t try to diagnose a problem like this on your own. If you discover or suspect your system is short-cycling, the best thing you can do is call in a trusted HVAC professional.

Assuming you tried changing your air filter and that didn’t solve the problem, you’ll need an experienced technician to inspect the system and see where the problem is coming from. From there, you can get your system adequately repaired and start saving energy, and subsequently start saving money, again.

If your AC is struggling this summer, don’t hesitate to contact our team for quality AC repair in Colorado Springs. Don’t let the weather get you down, call Brown’s Heating & Cooling!

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