Short-cycling is when your AC keeps turning on and off every few minutes. Your central air system should run for about 15 minutes at a stretch and a few times every hour. Short-cycling is a sign that something's wrong.
The problem could be anything from the wrong thermostat setting to an electrical problem inside your system. But whatever the cause, it's important to solve the problem as soon as possible.
Not only does short-cycling make your home uncomfortable. It can also cause your system to break down or not last for nearly as many seasons as it should.
Here's the problem: your heater and central air (they work together, even in the summer) are designed to run for those 15-minute stretches. And they experience the most wear and tear when they kick on and shut off.
So, a short-cycling system endures more wear and tear than it should. All that stopping and starting damages the parts over time. That results in more breakdowns and shorter service life.
Meanwhile, your home doesn't get as cool as it should when the system isn’t running long enough. And, since your air conditioner dehumidifies the air while cooling it, you'll have higher humidity when the system isn't running as long as it should.
That's all the bad news. The good news is that, in many cases, you can fix the problem yourself!
This article will help you troubleshoot the problem and identify cases where you don't need a professional. Then, it lists an easy way to head off problems before they occur.
If you have any questions or notice a problem with the air conditioning in your Fox River Valley home or business, call Compass Heating and Air Conditioning Inc. at (630) 504-8688.
The four common causes for a short-cycling AC are:
The wrong thermostat settings or a problem with the power supply can cause your air conditioning to short-cycle. Since this is the easiest to fix, it's the best place to start.
Check your thermostat. Is it set to "Cool" instead of "Heat" or "Fan Only?" And is it at the correct temperature settings?
It's easy to put your thermostat on the wrong function Or forget to change the setting from winter. As a result, it may be struggling to turn on and off at the right times. Or, if it's set to "Fan Only," it will only circulate air instead of heating or cooling it.
According to the U.S. Department Of Energy, 78 degrees is the ideal cooling setting. It should keep you comfortable without using too much electricity.
Next, change the battery, especially if you haven't done so in a while. Sometimes, low power results in wrong readings or faulty communication.
When your air filter gets clogged with dust, dirt, and debris, air can't pass from your ductwork to the coil inside the furnace. That's where the cooling occurs.
In this case, what happens is that your thermostat turns on the air conditioner when the temperature rises. But, there's not enough air coming into the system to work. So, it shuts back off.
Meanwhile, your house is still warm. So, the thermostat sends another signal for the central air to turn back on. This keeps repeating.
Replace your air filter if you haven't already done so this season. The rule of thumb is to put a new one in every four weeks while your heating or cooling is running. Then, every 12 weeks when it's not.
The screen on the filter is white when it goes in. If it's gray or dark gray with a lot of visible buildup on it when you take it back out, it's been in there way too long.
Closed and blocked vents can cause a problem, much like a clogged air filter will. In both cases, something's preventing air from flowing from each room to the furnace where the cooling occurs.
Make sure every vent in your home is open. You may have closed them during the off-season or if you were doing work in part of the house. Or, you didn't need heat or AC in a few rooms. Whatever the reason, open them all up now.
In general, it's not a good idea to close off a room that you don't want heated or cooled. Your system is sized specifically for your home, so blocking off different areas can mess with the balance.
Next, make sure there's a foot of clearance around every vent. That means no furniture in front of them or over them if they're on the floor.
Today's furnaces and central air systems are smart enough to turn themselves off if a minor issue can lead to more significant problems. The most common one is if the inside of the system is overheating. When that happens, your air conditioner. shuts off right away.
However, it won't be long before the thermostat recognizes that your house didn't cool off. Then, it tells the system to turn back on, and the cycle continues.
At the same time, an electrical problem or bad connection somewhere can cause a similar situation. In that case, it's a matter of bad communication between the components.
You can't fix electrical or overheating problems yourself. If you've gone through the other troubleshooting steps, these are likely the cause, so it's time to call in a professional. But, there are a few things to check.
First, has your circuit breaker tripped since you began using the air conditioning? If so, there could be an electrical problem somewhere.
Next, make sure your outside unit doesn't have trash, lawn clippings, or other objects around it. That may prevent it from expelling warm air, which can back up into the system.
The best way to avoid air conditioner problems like short-cycling is to get a tune-up in the spring. A preventative maintenance call only takes about an hour and costs much less than the average repair call.
You'll have a certified tech inspect dozens of checkpoints to ensure everything is working correctly. They'll clear out any dust and dirt that can cause problems and replace any broken parts or ones that are ready to break.
When they're all done, you'll have a system ready to provide excellent comfort all summer long.
Compass Heating and Air Conditioning Inc. has provided fast, reliable AC repair service to homes and businesses in East Dundee, IL and across the Fox River Valley for more than a decade. Click below to schedule an appointment or call us at (630) 504-8688.