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What Is Short Cycling, and Why Is It a Problem?

short-cycling-air-conditioningSummers mean increased use of your air conditioner, which in turn means keeping an increased eye out for potential problems. Most breakdowns are preceded by some kind of warning, which canny homeowners can spot and respond to before the system shuts down in the middle of the summer. Generally speaking, anything you detect as out of the ordinary in your air conditioner’s functioning should be grounds for concern, and some signs are subtler than others.

Among the things to watch for is the phenomenon of short cycling, when the air conditioner runs for just a short period of time and turns off, only to turn on again a few minutes later. It sounds innocuous enough and might even be hard to spot at first. Unfortunately, it’s a sign that something is seriously wrong.

Short Cycling Damages Your System

Short cycling is problematic because it can damage your system, though the reasons why may require some explanation. Your air conditioner uses much more energy turning on and turning off than it does simply running, which can lead to higher monthly bills when short cycling is involved. Furthermore, the wear and tear on the system’s components can be considerable, heightening the chances of a breakdown and repair job. Over time, it can even shorten the system’s lifespan, forcing you to replace the whole air conditioner months or even years before you would otherwise need to.

Ideally, your system will run for at least 15 minutes every time it turns on. That preserves its efficiency and keeps wear and tear from causing excess damage.

What Causes Short Cycling?

The most troublesome cause of short cycling comes at the very start of your air conditioner’s life. Many people but overpowered units for their home, thinking that cooling the air quickly is the best option. That can end up costing them a great deal, and unfortunately, the only recourse for an oversized system is to replace it with a smaller one. That’s why it’s so important for the technician to determine the optimum power levels for your home before a new air conditioner is installed.

Other causes of short cycling can be identified and corrected by a trained technician. For instance, if frost forms on the air conditioning coils, it will interfere with the cooling process, and can result in short cycling. (The frost can be eliminated by recharging leaking refrigerant or cleaning dirty filters.) Many air conditioners will also shut down automatically if an individual component starts to overheat, only to turn on again when it cools off. The component will need to be repaired or replaced in order to stop the short cycling.

Regardless of the causes, you should never attempt to diagnose or repair a short cycling air conditioner yourself. Instead, turn the system off and call in a repair service as quickly as you can to get the problem addressed before it wastes more money and causes bigger problems.

At Your Service Plumbing, Heating & Air provides quality air conditioning repair service throughout the Holladay, UT area.

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