May 28, 2018
By Mark Paup

Why Does My AC Stop And Start So Much?

Updated January 19, 2024

It’s a warm day, and your air conditioner starts working to cool down your home, either because you changed the settings on the thermostat or because the thermostat’s programming has automatically turned on the AC. The compressor kicks on, making a familiar hum. And then, the compressor stops—earlier than you expect it to. Then it starts again. And stops soon after. This continues until you start to wonder if something is wrong.

Yes, Something Is Wrong: Short‑Cycling

Your air conditioner is going through something called short cycling. Although it often happens to air conditioning systems, it’s not a normal operation and indicates problems somewhere. The issue could be something simple you can remedy yourself. More likely it’s a complex malfunction that requires the work of professionals to fix, or even replace, the air conditioner.

When an AC is short cycling, it’s caught in its start-up cycle and shuts down before it can complete a full cooling cycle. This places extra stress on the air conditioner’s components, particularly the compressor, which causes a spike in utility bills, a rise in repair needs, and an early end to the system. No matter what’s wrong, it needs to be fixed as soon as possible.

Below are some of the reasons short cycling may happen:

Clogged air filter

Check on the HVAC cabinet filter to see if it’s thickly congested with lint, dander, and dust. A heavily clogged filter can choke off enough air that the air conditioner will shut down early. Change a clogged filter for a new one and keep up with regular changes every 1 to 3 months.

Loss of refrigerant charge

An air conditioner runs off the same charge of refrigerant for its entire service life. Or at least it should. Refrigerant may leak from the system, causing several different problems, including short cycling. A drop in refrigerant charge will eventually cause a catastrophic breakdown, so have professionals check out the system as soon as possible. Pros can seal leaks and recharge the refrigerant.

Malfunctioning thermostat

It might be the thermostat that’s creating all the grief in the AC. If the thermostat has a bad connection to the compressor or is sensing inaccurate temperatures, it may lead to the compressor shutting on and off. This is usually a simple problem for HVAC professionals to repair.

Poorly sized air conditioner

If your short-cycling air conditioner is a new one, the problem is probably a poor initial installation. If the installers didn’t take the time to properly size the system to meet the cooling requirements of your house, the AC might be oversized. An oversized system will short cycle because it lowers temperatures so rapidly that the thermostat thinks the cooling cycle is finished when it isn’t. If this is the case, you’ll need to have a new air conditioner installed (by more skilled technicians).

We’re the contractor for HVAC in Des Moines, IA who can take care of your AC repair or replacement needs. Call Golden Rule to investigate your short-cycling air conditioner and find out what needs to be fixed.

Contact Us Today for A/C Repair Service!

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