How to fix a short-cycling air conditioner

If you want to fix your air conditioner that is short-cycling, you should clean the air filters and evaporator coils and inspect the thermostat.

Sometimes, air conditioners do not complete their full cooling cycles and this issue is known as short-cycling.

If your air conditioner is short-cycling, you can try to clean its air filters and evaporator coils or check the thermostat to try and fix this problem, as these are common causes for why air conditioning units cannot complete full cooling cycles.

What is short-cycling?

When your air conditioner is operating as it should, it will pass the hot air from your space over a series of coils that are filled with refrigerant.

This refrigerant absorbs latent heat from this air and this is how the air conditioner produces cool air that it blows back into your room.

The latent heat and excess moisture are moved with the refrigerant to the outside of your house in a process that is controlled by the compressor.

When an air conditioner cannot complete this full cooling cycle before it kicks off again, this is known as short-cycling, which means that your air conditioner is not working as it should be.

How to fix a short-cycling air conditioner

A short-cycling air conditioner should be cause for concern, not only because it indicates that there may be an issue with one of the components in your air conditioning system, but also because this causes additional wear and tear on the other components of your air conditioner and this will cause your electricity bill to be unnecessarily high.

The main cause of a short-cycling air conditioner is usually that the unit’s cooling capacity is too big for the space that it is cooling.

However, in this case, your air conditioner would have always short-cycled and the only real solution is to find an air conditioner that is better suited for the space.

If you have had your air conditioner for a while and it has only started short-cycling recently, there are many issues that could be causing this.

Unfortunately, major component replacements or fixes, like refilling the refrigerant if there is a leak or replacing a faulty compressor, need to be done by a professional who knows how to work with intricate electrical components safely.

If you want to try and fix your short-cycling air conditioner yourself, you may want to start with addressing some of the most common causes and solutions for short-cycling units. This includes:

  • Cleaning the air filter
  • Cleaning the evaporator coils
  • Inspecting the thermostat

Clean the air filter

The function of the air filter in your air conditioner is to capture any dirt or debris that is in the air in your space and prevent it from travelling throughout the components in the system.

These filters need to be cleaned regularly, otherwise the build-up of dirt may block the airflow and your air conditioner will short-cycle because it does not have enough air to cool.

Fortunately, the air filters in air conditioners are designed so that they can be removed easily to be cleaned or replaced to fix short-cycling.

Once you have removed the filter from your air conditioner, you can use a vacuum to get rid of any dust or debris on the surface.

If the dirt is very stubborn, you can also use a soft brush and lukewarm water to scrub the filter carefully, but it needs to dry fully before you can place it back into the unit.



Clean the evaporator coils

When you are cleaning your air conditioner’s air filters, it is also a good time to clean its evaporator coils. When dust or debris builds up on these coils, they can freeze over and then your unit will short-cycle because the coils are getting too cold.

The evaporator coils are usually behind the air filter compartment and you may need a screwdriver to remove the front cover of your air conditioner to access them. Remember to unplug the unit before you do this.

Once you have access to the coils, they need to be thawed completely and then you can straighten the fins and use a mould and mildew remover or foaming coil cleaner and a toothbrush to scrub the coils and fix the short-cycling.

Inspect the thermostat

If your thermostat or the internal temperature sensor of your unit is broken or placed incorrectly, it will communicate with the air conditioner incorrectly and this can cause it to short-circuit.

In this case, it is best to replace the thermostat or temperature sensor if it is broken, or move it if it was installed incorrectly, and this should fix the short-cycling.



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