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Troubleshooting AC Short Cycling: Causes and Solutions

Troubleshooting AC Short Cycling, Your HVAC system is your comfort companion in every season. When your air conditioner starts and suddenly stops after a few moments without entirely cooling your house is a prevalent issue referred to as “short cycling.”

Several reasons your AC system might turn on and off continuously include a terrible air filter, refrigerant issue, electrical issues, and a defective capacitor. To know in detail how you can troubleshoot the short cycling problem-Read on

What Is Short Cycling?

Typically, the air conditioner has a standard on and off cycle based on the thermostat setting and the outside temperature. However, it is called short cycling when it keeps turning on and off after a few seconds.

The premature termination of the cooling cycle forces your air conditioner to quicken the cooling cycle process and ends it before the house obtains proper cooling. As a result, you lose energy efficiency, which translates to high electric bills.

Besides paying massive utility bills, short cycling puts extra strain on the compressor, increasing the chance of a system breakdown and reducing the air conditioner’s lifespan.

Also, there will be an uneven distribution of heat in the home, thus insufficient cooling as the HVAC system struggles to operate. 

Why Air Conditioner Starts Then Stops After Only A Few Seconds

Troubleshooting AC Short Cycling

Thermostat Problem

Your entire house cooling depends upon the thermostat, whose work is to read the room temperatures and regulate them. Troubleshooting AC Short Cycling has an issue, it won’t function effectively, meaning it will send wrong information on room temperature leading to short spurts.

Low thermostat battery power will also be another reason for the random on and off of your AC. You can detect this if the thermostat screen is blank or fading.

Solution: Try and replace the batteries and then restart the thermostat and if the issues persist, call a professional to examine the thermostat.

Poor Thermostat Placement

The temperature around your air is measured to determine when to turn on your AC system. There are times it may record inaccurate information, thus poor readings of your house’s temperatures if it is located:

  • Where there is direct sunlight, like near a window
  • Closer to a hotter room, like the kitchen or bathroom
  • Beneath supply air vents, where it gets direct airflow

Solution: Relocate your thermostat to a better, more centralized location

Dirty Air Filters

 Clogged air filters trigger most AC issues as they restrict the airflow to your AC system, causing several problems, including short cycling.

Solution: Do regular checks and replace your filters if they’re dirty.

Refrigerant Leak

Refrigerant is a coolant that cycles through your AC system, absorbing heat and cooling the inside air. Any leakage on it causes low refrigerant levels due to the escape of the refrigerant.

As a result, the compressor malfunctions and shuts off your compressor due to low pressure. While the compressor is off, the pressure will rise again and turn back on. Therefore, a short cycle is created, causing intensive wear and tear on your AC system, potentially resulting in some parts going bad or system failure.

Solution: Refrigerant leaks can be hazardous; call a local HVAC company to find and fix the leak

Oversize Air Conditioner

An oversized AC system lacks an appropriate refrigerant cycle, thus cooling your space too quickly and turning off before dehumidifying the air. It leads to uneven cooling of your home and will turn back on sooner than required.

This problem may cause a lot of inconveniences, such as 

  • Shorter lifespan of your air conditioner
  • More repairs due to the much energy used during the short cycling cause an impact of wear and tear on your AC parts.
  • Increased energy bills due to the repetitive on and off lead to more energy.

Solution: Use an AC sizing calculator to approximate your size measurements or contact your HVAC Company for installation guidance.

Electrical Problems

Another common cause of short cycling may be a problem with the electrical supply line or the broken or failing capacitor. An electrical issue would be due to electrical connections in the system, thermostat or the circuit board.

Solution:  Calla local technician to diagnose the issue as these problems can be vital. 

Bad Run Capacitor

The run capacitor gives the initial boost of energy it requires to turn on and also offers constant power for your AC system to keep running. When this part goes terrible, an intermittent power supply makes the AC turn on and off unexpectedly.

Short cycling may be due to the capacitor hence needs a replacement

Solution: Contact a local HVAC company to examine and possibly replace it as its malfunctioning causes drastic degradation of other parts due to high wear and tear.

Dirty Condenser Coils

Troubleshooting AC Short Cycling

Air restriction or blockage through your condenser coils which are outside your home that is responsible for cooling the refrigerant

Solution: Check the panels outside your house and, if need be, clean them to fix the issue.

Faulty Control Board

The control board acts as the brain of the air conditioner. It receives cooling instructions and communicates them to other parts of the cooling system. A faulty control board can lead to multiple problems with any HVAC system, such as a blown-out fuse on the board complex.

Solution: You can fix this by resetting your HVAC system at the circuit breaker or the switch near the furnace. If that doesn’t work out, resolving the issue may need a replacement. You can also call a professional 

How Can You Manage A Window Air Conditioner?

Troubleshooting AC Short Cycling  notice issues with your AC while turning it on and off, clean your window air conditioner for better results.

  • Disconnect the power cord from the window air conditioner
  • Uninstall the whole front cover plate holding the device together
  • Remove the air purifier from the window AC
  • Refresh the air purifier from the window air conditioner
  • Now wash up dirt and particles from the front cover
  • Wash the coils to remove any dust, sediment or grime
  • Thoroughly clean around the compressor to remove  all wastes, dirt, or pollen
  •  Wipe any dust, dirt or debris from the fan
  • Put the air quality filters in your window air condition
  • Reconnect the front cover
  • Lastly, connect the window air conditioner and check whether it is functioning.


It is essential to keep the AC unit properly. When required, regular checks on the air filters, cleaning, and replacement are significant. We have discussed the possible causes of the AC’s sudden stop a few seconds after starting and ways you can troubleshoot them. Otherwise, contact your professional for help.