Why Is My AC Turning On and Off?

Jun 25, 2019 | Air Conditioning

Man in awake in bed being kept from sleep by a noisy air conditioner.

When an air conditioner (AC) turns on and off in rather quick successions, without running for longer periods, this is called short cycling. It’s fairly common, but when this happens it means there’s something wrong with your air conditioner. So what should you do?

Don’t leave these occurrences alone. They will increase your energy costs, usually indicate a larger problem, and could lead to permanent damage of your unit, thus requiring a costly replacement. Short cycling also shortens your air conditioner’s life span.

Have one of our professional technicians inspect your heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system as soon as possible. Any one of our experts at Conway Comfort Heating & Cooling can diagnose and repair this issue for you. Don’t delay, so we can get your air conditioner back to its most efficient state for you.

While there are many possible reasons for short cycling, here are several of the most common ones and what can be done to fix them.

Low Refrigerant

The coolant that flows through your system, helping to absorb heat and cool the air inside your home, is called refrigerant. You may know it by one of its brand names—Freon®. When your refrigerant is low, the needed compressor-pressure levels are affected. This triggers your compressor’s low-pressure control, shutting off your compressor.

When the pressure rises and triggers your air conditioner to restart, this causes the short cycling. If your refrigerant level is low, this indicates your air conditioner has a leak, as refrigerant is cycled throughout the compressor, not burned off.

Low refrigerant can also cause frozen coils. One of our professionals can find your leak and prevent any further issues or damage.

While our professional is looking at your refrigerant, be sure to have a conversation about the type of refrigerant used in your air conditioner. To be consistent with the 1987 Montreal Protocol, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has mandated regulated changes to all HVAC refrigerant here in NJ and across the United States. Your air conditioner may be affected. If it is, you will have some decisions to make.

Need HVAC Service?

Call Us at 609-371-4822
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Thermostat Location

Your thermostat acts as the sensor for your air conditioner, telling it when to cool your home. If its location is not optimal, such as near a window or too close to a vent, your thermostat will be sending misleading information to your air conditioning system.
Suppose your thermostat is in the direct line of a vent’s airflow. This will cause the thermostat to think it’s cooler in your home than it really is, and your air conditioner will shut off thinking it’s reached its desired temperature. Since the cool air is no longer flowing through the vent, the thermostat realizes your home is actually still too warm and triggers your air conditioner to start up again. This is short cycling. Be sure your thermostat is located in a central location away from direct sunlight and vents.

Dirty Air Filter

Dirty air filters are one of the most common and easily remedied problems with air conditioners we see here in Princeton. The dirty filters restrict airflow, which in turn causes so many problems, one of them being a frozen coil. This can cause your air conditioner to malfunction and short cycle. Be sure to change your filters regularly to avoid any issues.

Oversized Air Conditioner

An air conditioning unit that’s too large for your home short cycles, because it cools your home too rapidly while it doesn’t dehumidify it properly. So it will shut down and start up frequently.

You will more than likely also find your home has hot and cold spots, and you will experience higher energy bills. If your air conditioner is newly installed, talk to the technicians who installed it to see what they can do to help you.

You want to be sure a Manual J heat load calculation (an Air Conditioner Contractors of America [ACCA] approved method of calculating house cooling loads) is always performed when determining the proper size heating and cooling system for your Princeton, NJ, home. Call our qualified professionals to do a Manual J at your home to determine if your current unit is appropriately sized.

Contact Conway Comfort Heating & Cooling Today

Short cycling causes a whole host of problems with your air conditioner. If you notice your air conditioner behaving like this, call one of our Conway Comfort Heating & Cooling professionals at 609-371-4822 or request service online to assess the situation. You want your air conditioner to cool efficiently and to last for years to come. Short cycling will short change you.

Need HVAC Service?

Call Us at 609-371-4822
- or -


Conway Comfort Heating & Cooling services Monroe Township, East Windsor, Princeton, Allentown, Bordentown, Cranbury, Dayton, East Brunswick, Ewing, Hamilton, Hightstown, Hillsborough, Jamesburg, Lawrenceville, Montgomery, North Brunswick, Pennington, South Brunswick, Newton, Yardley, and the surrounding New Jersey and Pennsylvania communities with their heating and cooling needs. Visit our service area page for more coverage details, call us at 609-371-4822 or request service online today.

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