What's the Deal with Short Cycling?

7 October 2016
 Categories: , Blog


Short cycling is a surprisingly common issue in the HVAC world, and it's one that can get in the way of your cooling comfort. This issue can have a serious impact on your central A/C system's performance and energy efficiency. Learn what causes this problem, how it affects your A/C system, and what can be done to resolve it.

How Short Cycling Affects Your A/C System

Short cycling occurs when the air-conditioning system turns itself on and off several times in rapid succession. Whereas the typical air-conditioning cycle lasts for 10 minutes or more, a short-cycling A/C system may operate under extremely short intervals of 5 minutes or less. Given that A/C compressors operate more efficiently the longer they run, this condition can shortchange your unit's overall efficiency and performance.

In addition, short cycling adds extraordinary wear and tear on the compressor and other central A/C components. This extreme level of wear can eventually lead to premature system failure, expensive repairs, and even the unexpected replacement of the entire central A/C system.

What Commonly Causes Short Cycling

There are several issues that could eventually cause your central A/C system to short cycle if they're not taken care of within a reasonable amount of time.

  • Oversized A/C Equipment: An oversized central A/C system can cool your home down too quickly, creating extreme temperature fluctuations that cause the unit to short cycle.
  • Frost Buildup on the Evaporator Coils: Heavy frost buildup on the evaporator coils can prevent air from flowing through the coils, causing frequent shutdowns and eventual short cycling.
  • Refrigerant Leak: Not having enough refrigerant in your central A/C system could also lead to short-cycling issues.
  • Thermostat Issues: Short-cycling issues can occur if the thermostat is not working properly or if it's placed in an area where inaccurate temperature readings could occur.
  • Dirty Air Filter: Neglecting the change your air filter can cause a wide range of issues, including short cycling.

How to Fix the Problem

Having your HVAC contractor inspect your A/C equipment is the simplest and most effective way of preventing short-cycling issues. Your contractor can check for refrigerant leaks, clean your evaporator coils, and resolve other issues that could lead to short cycling.

If you're in the market for a new central A/C system, your HVAC contractor can steer you away from oversized A/C units. For instance, a contractor such as Plisko Service Solutions may perform a Manual J load calculation prior to recommending an A/C system that best suits your cooling needs.