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Short-cycling in air conditioning: why it’s bad and what to do

Air conditioning systems are more likely to break down during periods of baking temperatures. It’s a paradox that when we need their cooling effects the most, AC units are forced to work harder and can subsequently develop a fault. One of the most common is short-cycling, an issue that can be costly but one that’s easy to identify and fix when spotted early.

Air conditioning cycles

Air conditioning systems run in cycles. A typical day in the life of an office air conditioner will begin in the morning when it powers up. The compressor will then run until the thermostat registers that the air temperature has reached its required setting. For the rest of the day, the AC will operate intermittently to maintain the cooled environment. During hot spells, the air conditioner will run more frequent cycles than on colder days. An average cycle is usually around 10 minutes.

What is short-cycling?

When an air conditioning system is short-cycling it begins its sequence, shuts down prematurely, and then resumes shortly after. The AC gets stuck in a start-up loop, turning on and off quickly without ever going through a full cooling cycle.

As a result, it will use a lot more power than it would ordinarily without efficiently maintaining the desired temperature. Wear and tear will increase, particularly on the compressor which is an expensive part to replace. And for those in its vicinity, the air conditioner simply won’t cool them down as it should.

Causes of AC short-cycling

Short-cycling has a number of causes, including:

  • Thermostat issues
  • Clogged air filters
  • An oversized or undersized air conditioner for the space it is trying to cool
  • Low refrigerant levels
  • Air leaking through the ventilation system

Preventing short-cycling issues in air conditioners

Some simple preventative maintenance actions will prevent most AC short-cycling issues. This includes regular servicing to clean and replace air filters and monitoring refrigerant levels. You might also need to move the thermostat to achieve optimum results, for example positioning it out of bright sunlight or away from doors and windows. In some cases, a new compressor will be needed.

The best thing you can do in order to prevent problems with air conditioning short-cycling is to invest in professional installation, maintenance and repairs. Brooktech delivers a full range of air conditioning services in Stockport and Manchester. Get in touch with our HVAC experts to find out more.

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