AC Short Cycling: Causes, Effects, & Solutions

residential HVAC systems

Air conditioning units are crucial for keeping homes comfortably cool on intensely hot days. They kick into action to cool the indoors once the temperature surpasses what’s set on the thermostat, progressively bringing the environment to the desired level of comfort. Yet, if an air conditioner begins to cycle on and off rapidly, a phenomenon referred to as AC short cycling, it indicates an issue that, unless addressed, can lead to several adverse effects. 

This article by Van Varick & Sons focuses on the causes of AC short cycling, its possible implications on your household, and the proactive measures you can take to avert this problem.

Explore Our HVAC Services Call To Schedule A Free, In-Home Consultation

Understanding Short Cycling in Air Conditioning

man thinking and trying to understand AC short cycling

Short cycling is a malfunction where an air conditioning system frequently turns on and off without completing its intended cooling cycle. This issue impedes the unit’s efficiency in cooling the space and managing humidity. Ideal cycling maintains consistent temperature and humidity levels, which is crucial for comfort. 

AC short cycling reduces your system’s effectiveness, accelerates wear, increases energy costs, and shortens the unit’s lifespan. Addressing short cycling’s causes is essential for sustaining an efficient, durable air conditioning system.

Get tailored solutions to keep your cooling system running smoothly. Contact Van Varick & Sons today!

Call Today: (973) 694-2777

Common Causes of Air Conditioner Short Cycling

Short cycling in air conditioners can be traced back to various sources, from incorrect sizing to mechanical issues. Here are some common causes:

Oversized AC Units

The adage “bigger is better” does not apply to air conditioning units. An oversized unit can cause more harm than good by short cycling. It cools the area too swiftly and shuts off before it can adequately dehumidify or circulate the air evenly. This leads to uneven cooling throughout your home and increases your energy bills. Ensuring your air conditioner is the right size for your space is vital to achieving efficient and consistent cooling.

Clogged HVAC Air Filters

The importance of routinely checking and replacing HVAC air filters cannot be overstated in preserving your system’s efficiency. Allowing air filters to become overly clogged restricts airflow into the system, forcing it to exert more effort to maintain airflow. This added strain can lead to overheating of vital parts such as the compressor and blower, causing the system to short cycle. Such conditions degrade the system’s performance over time and heighten the risk of major equipment failure.

Following the filter replacement guidelines provided in your equipment manual is vital for keeping your HVAC system in optimal condition. However, it’s important to understand that factors such as air quality and household dust levels might require more frequent changes in some homes. A practical routine is to examine your filter every month and replace it immediately if it shows signs of dirt accumulation.

Learn About Our Cooling Services Call To Schedule A Free Consultation

Frozen Evaporator Coils

Evaporator coils absorb indoor heat but can malfunction if they freeze or get dirty. This leads to system overheating and automatic shutdowns to prevent damage, often before the desired temperature is met.

Mechanical issues in an HVAC system can cause problems, such as frozen evaporator coils, which contribute to short cycling. Homeowners might temporarily turn off their air conditioning to allow the ice to melt. If the coils freeze again, this indicates the need for professional assistance.

Low Air Conditioner Refrigerant Levels

Air Conditioner refrigerant

Refrigerant is vital for an air conditioning system, facilitating the transfer of heat from inside to outside. Maintaining proper levels is essential for efficient operation. Leaks can reduce refrigerant levels, forcing the system to work harder to cool the home. This extra effort can overburden the system’s components, causing short cycling.

HVAC technicians possess the expertise to evaluate refrigerant levels and identify leaks. They can efficiently find and fix any leaks. After repairs, they replenish the system with the correct amount of refrigerant, ensuring it returns to normal functioning.

Click To Make An Appointment Read Our Reviews

Electrical Issues in Air Conditioners

AC technician dealing with electrical issues of the outdoor unit

Faulty wiring, malfunctioning control boards, or other electrical problems can cause short cycling by disrupting the air conditioner’s power supply, making the unit start and stop abruptly. Due to the complexity and potential safety risks, homeowners are advised against attempting to repair electrical components themselves. Instead, it’s best to consult with HVAC technicians who are equipped to diagnose and fix these electrical problems, guaranteeing the air conditioner works both efficiently and safely.

Ensure your cooling system’s efficiency and keep energy bills in check with proper maintenance from our expert technicians. Book an appointment with Van Varick & Sons today!

Learn About Our Air Conditioning Services Click To Call & Make An Appointment

Poor Thermostat Placement and Short Cycling

Improper placement of the thermostat can cause short cycling. When positioned near a window with heavy sunlight exposure or close to other heat sources, the thermostat may inaccurately read the room’s temperature as overly warm due to direct heat, leading to unnecessary and prematurely ending cooling cycles. Relocating the thermostat to a spot that more accurately reflects the room’s average temperature, away from direct heat and sunlight, can resolve this issue.

Reasons to Avoid Air Conditioner Short Cycling

Short cycling can severely impact your air conditioning system, with several compelling reasons to prevent it:

AC Equipment Damage

HVAC technician dealing with broken centralized air conditioner

The constant starting and stopping exceed the operational tolerance of air conditioners, subjecting their components to extreme stress. This continuous strain speeds up the wear and tear process, substantially raising the risk of equipment breakdown. Consequently, homeowners may encounter premature part replacements and a shortened lifespan of their air conditioning system, incurring avoidable costs and disruptions.

Soaring Energy Bills

Short cycling leads the cooling system to work harder and use more energy than usual. Given that air conditioners are major energy consumers within a household, this increased inefficiency becomes especially problematic. Homeowners may see their energy expenses dramatically increase due to short cycling. Failing to resolve this problem can result in considerably higher operating costs.

Schedule A Free In-home Consultation

Inconsistent Room Temperatures

Short cycling often causes uneven temperatures in different parts of the home, making some areas too cold and others too warm. The rapid, irregular cooling cycles don’t allow for uniform air distribution, resulting in inconsistent temperature levels. This variation can make it difficult for inhabitants to remain comfortable and productive, especially in warmer sections of the house during summer, impacting comfort and productivity.

Preventing Short Cycling: The Importance of Professional Help

tips depicting air conditioner care

Professional assistance plays a crucial role in averting short cycling within your air conditioning system:

  • Regular Air Conditioner Maintenance: Engaging with certified HVAC technicians for annual or bi-annual maintenance is essential. Regular check-ups ensure that your system is thoroughly inspected, cleaned, and fine-tuned for efficient operation, allowing early detection and resolution of possible problems.
  • Professional AC Issues Diagnosis: Promptly consulting professionals upon noticing short cycling is vital. They can pinpoint the precise reason, whether due to mismatched unit size, refrigerant leaks, or mechanical and electrical issues and suggest a fitting remedy.
  • Expert Cooling System Repairs: The intricacies associated with short cycling typically require expert intervention. Technicians, with specialized tools and knowledge, can address and rectify problems efficiently, safeguarding against additional damage.

Relying on professional expertise guarantees proper air conditioning system maintenance, protecting you from the complications and expenses of attempting to solve complex problems yourself. This approach focuses on enhancing the system’s durability and your overall comfort, underscoring the importance of specialized care.

Let certified experts diagnose and address your air conditioning issues. Call Van Varick & Sons and schedule your appointment now!

Learn More About Our AC Systems Services Book An Appointment


Short cycling in air conditioners is a pressing issue that compromises the system’s performance and the homeowner’s finances. Addressing and preventing this problem is essential and can be effectively accomplished by enlisting the expertise of a qualified HVAC contractor. They are adept at choosing the correct air conditioner size and ensuring its proper installation. 

Moreover, adhering to a routine of annual maintenance facilitates the early identification and prompt correction of issues like electrical problems, refrigerant leaks, or clogged coils, preventing them from leading to short cycling.

Get Started - Call Van Varick & Sons Today

Contact Van Varick & Sons for Expert Air Conditioning Services

Van Varick & Sons offers unmatched heating and cooling services, supported by our team of certified HVAC experts known for their skill in system tune-ups, repairs, installations, and replacements. Our technicians provide top-notch care for your HVAC system, combining extensive knowledge with practical experience.

We pride ourselves on competitive pricing for premium heating and cooling services, ensuring you get the best value. Our maintenance services aim to improve comfort and energy efficiency in your home, reducing cooling costs. We offer customized solutions for HVAC repairs or new installations to meet your budget and needs, backed by a satisfaction guarantee.

For a free in-home estimate and to learn more about our services, get in touch with Van Varick & Sons today. Book your air conditioner service or tune up now.

Click here to view our service area. You can click here to contact us now or call us at (973) 694-2777 to find out more!

Call Today: (973) 694-2777 Read Our Reviews
Van Varick Logo Final 600px

Related Articles: