Why Is My Air Conditioner Running In Short Bursts?

Air conditioners are essential for cooling down homes during hot weather. They are designed to start the cooling cycle when sensors detect that the temperature in the room is higher than the thermostat setting. They then gradually bring down the temperature to the desired condition. However, there are instances where the air conditioner runs in brief spurts, also known as AC short cycling. This can cause various issues unless adequately handled. This article discusses the reasons and consequences of short cycling, as well as measures to prevent it. 

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Common Causes Of Air Conditioner Short Cycling

1. Oversized AC Unit

Air conditioner short cycling can be caused by various factors, including an oversized AC unit. When the unit is too powerful, it quickly pushes out a high amount of cold air into the room, causing it to shut off prematurely. While this may cool the house rapidly, it won’t effectively lower the humidity. The unit does not operate long enough to address this concern. Also, an oversized cooling unit consumes a lot of energy. It creates an unstable cooling situation between different spaces around the house. 

2. Blocked HVAC Air Filters

image of a dirty hvac filter

Regular checks and replacements of air filters are essential for maintaining the efficiency of an air conditioning unit. Dirty air filters can block air from entering the system. This can cause the unit to work harder to compensate for reduced airflow. This puts stress on the compressor and blower. As a result, it can lead to overheating, short cycling, and eventually, equipment breakdown over time. 

It is crucial to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for filter replacement schedules. Some homes may require more frequent replacements than others. A good practice is to check the filter monthly. Replace it when it becomes dirty to prevent short cycling and ensure the optimal performance of your HVAC unit. 

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3. Frozen Evaporator Coils

frozen air conditioner in summer

The evaporator coils play a crucial role in absorbing the heat in the house. When they are frozen or dirty, they cannot function correctly. This can lead to overheating and automatic shut off of the air conditioning unit before reaching the desired temperature. 

Homeowners can prevent further damage by shutting down the cooling system until the ice thaws instead of allowing short cycling to persist. If the coils freeze again, seek the services of a professional HVAC contractor for assistance right away. 

4. Insufficient Refrigerant Levels in the Air Conditioner

image of an hvac contractor examining ac unit refrigerant levels

The refrigerant plays a vital role in the cooling process by absorbing heat from the interior and releasing it outside. A decrease in the refrigerant levels caused by leakage puts a strain on the air conditioning system. It makes the air conditioning unit work harder than necessary to cool the house. This leads to excessive stress on the system’s components and may result in short cycling. 

HVAC professionals can assess refrigerant levels to determine whether a leak exists. They will locate and repair the leak immediately. They can also replenish the refrigerant to restore regular operation. 

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5. Electrical Problems

Electrical problems with air conditioners can sometimes be caused by faulty wiring and control boards. Insufficient power supply due to such issues may result in the air conditioner starting and then stopping abruptly. 

Do not attempt to fix electrical issues. It is best to consult with professional HVAC technicians who can inspect the air conditioning system. They can determine if faulty wiring or control boards are causing the short cycling. They can even proceed to repair or replace the components as needed.

6. Poor Placement of the Thermostat


If the thermostat is poorly placed in the house, it can cause short cycling. You should check if the thermostat is positioned near a window that receives significant sunlight or other heat sources. Even if the room is cool, direct sunlight can trick the sensors into thinking the area is hot. This can cause the thermostat to turn on and off quickly. The thermostat may need to be shielded or relocated to a more appropriate location to prevent this. 

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Why It is Important to Avoid Air Conditioner Short Cycling

1. Damage to the AC Equipment

Frequent on-and-off cycles or short bursts can cause excessive strain on the various components of an air conditioning system. This can lead to significant wear and tear over time. This can eventually result in equipment breakdown, requiring premature replacement of parts and reducing the overall service life of the system. 

2. Rising Energy Costs

image of a man calculating home cooling costs and expense

When a cooling system experiences short cycling, it operates harder than necessary. It also consumes more energy than usual. This inefficiency is particularly unwelcome given air conditioners’ already high energy usage when running normally. Homeowners may notice a significant increase in their energy bills as a result. Neglecting to address the issue with the AC could prove to be a costly mistake. 

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3. Inconsistent Room Temperatures

Room temperatures can be inconsistent, with some areas of the house being significantly colder or warmer than others. Short bursts of air conditioning or heating bursts can prevent cool air from circulating correctly. This can cause discomfort to the occupants of the house.


Short cycling is a major issue that can damage the system. It is also costly for homeowners. To prevent this problem, it is wise to hire a competent HVAC contractor who can help you select the appropriate air conditioner size and install the system correctly. Scheduling an annual AC unit maintenance can aid in quickly identifying potential problems before they result in short cycling. Electrical issues, AC refrigerant leaks, and dirty coils can be addressed before they lead to short cycling, saving homeowners from costly repairs. 

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Call Lake Region Energy For Your Air Conditioning Requirements

At Lake Region Energy, we provide exceptional heating and cooling services to the communities of southwestern Maine. Our team consists of highly trained, skilled, and certified technicians equipped to handle all your HVAC needs, including repairs, installations, replacements, and tune-ups. With our technicians’ expertise and experience, you can be sure that your HVAC system is in good hands.

We are proud to offer the most competitive pricing for our heating and cooling services in the area. Our maintenance services are designed to enhance your comfort and increase your energy efficiency while reducing your cooling costs. If you require an HVAC repair or replacement system, we will help you choose the best one for your home while staying within your budget. Our work is backed by a satisfaction guarantee, so you can trust that we will deliver quality results.

Contact Lake Region Energy today to schedule an air conditioner tune-up or service appointment. We also offer free in-home estimates for your convenience.

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For more information about our propane deliveries and HVAC services, be sure to contact Lake Region Energy. You can click here to contact us, or you can call us at (207) 839-5500 to find out more. We offer a full line of heating and cooling repairs, maintenance services, and installations.

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