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Cool Touch Air Conditioning and Heating Blog

Why You Have a “Start-Stop-Start-Stop” Air Conditioner


You’ve been searching online to find out why your air conditioning system seems caught in a rapid start-stop loop. Of course, you expect your AC to turn on for a stretch and then turn off for a period before it turns on once again: this is the regular operation as long as your house is warm enough for the AC to need to turn on in the first place. 

But an air conditioner shouldn’t start and stop repeatedly over a short time. If you have an AC that is running for less than ten minutes, staying off for about the same time, and then coming on to repeat the cycle, you’re right to believe there is a problem.

Fortunately, you’ve found the contractor who offers the Glendale, AZ air conditioning services that can solve this problem.

This Problem Has a Name: Short-Cycling

What you’re experiencing with your AC is a problem that all HVAC technicians are familiar with. It’s known as short-cycling. It can also occur in heating systems like furnaces, but it’s most common in refrigerant-based air conditioners and heat pumps. It means that the AC is not completing a full cooling cycle and shutting down early, then repeating the same abbreviated cycle over and over. A properly working AC should run for at least 15 minutes before cycling down. If it’s taking less time than this, it’s short-cycling.

Why You Don’t Want This Happening

Short-cycling is bad for an air conditioner and your house for several reasons:

  • A short-cycling AC won’t stay on long enough to evenly distribute cooling to the rooms. You’ll probably notice hot spots in the house. 
  • Because an AC draws on the most power when it starts its cooling cycle, short-cycling drains far more energy than standard operating. You can expect to see higher electrical bills because of this.
  • The extra strain placed on the AC’s components because of short-cycling will cause the system to age rapidly. You’ll face more repairs and possibly an early replacement for the air conditioner.

Why Short-Cycling Can Occur

This is difficult to answer, because there are many different causes for short-cycling. Here are the ones we see the most often:

  • The AC is losing refrigerant to leaks.
  • The air filter is clogged and needs to be replaced.
  • The thermostat is incorrectly sensing indoor temperatures and sending the AC the signal to shut down early.
  • The evaporator coil has iced over. 
  • The ductwork is losing conditioned air to leaks.
  • The AC was incorrectly sized when installed so that it’s too powerful for the house. 
  • The AC’s compressor is starting to fail.

Some of these problems are easily fixed: you can replace the filter yourself, and technicians can quickly recalibrate a faulty thermostat. Other problems will either require technicians to repair the AC, or in the case of the dying AC or oversized one, replace it entirely. 

When you call our experts to check on your short-cycling air conditioning system, they’ll get to the bottom of the problem and help you with the right solutions. 

Call on Cool Touch Air Conditioning and Heating: Kick back and relax. We’ll keep you cool! 

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