When things are working right, your central air conditioner should run for 15 to 20 minutes and then turn off for a few minutes. It will do this two or three times every hour. It may run longer when it’s sweltering outside. And, much shorter cycles can mean there’s a problem.
Most people don’t think much about the cooling cycle times for their AC — unless there’s a problem, of course. If things don’t feel right in your home, you’re more likely to start paying attention to when your HVAC is — and isn’t — turning on.
But, while you were probably aware that the system didn’t run all the time, you may not have known what the proper cycle looked or sounded like. Now that we’ve outlined the basic cycle times, let’s look deeper at why it works like that. And what an unusual pattern could mean.
We’ll go through a few more related questions and problems in this blog. And, if you’re concerned about the central air system in your York, PA home, call or email us here at Air Comfort Technologies.
Why Does My Air Conditioner Turn Off By Itself?
The simple answer is: Your central air conditioner turns off by itself when your house cools down to the temperature you want. Then, when it starts getting too warm again, it will turn back on. However, there are variations to this that could mean something’s not working right.
And, the process isn’t quite as neat as the usual description. In truth, your air conditioner runs until your home is a few degrees cooler than your thermostat’s call settings. The system overcompensates a little, so your house doesn’t get too warm too quickly.
We mentioned that it runs 15 to 20 minutes at a stretch and then two or three times an hour. In that case, there’s occasionally as little as five minutes between cycles. That’s not much time at all.
But, if you notice it turning on and off much more frequently than that, you’re seeing a problem called short-cycling.
Normal Operation Vs. Short Cycling
Short-cycling is when your AC or heater turns on for only a few minutes, turns off, and then turns back on again — over and over. It’s a sign of a problem, and if you leave it too long, it can wear out your system.
Three common causes for an air conditioner to short-cycle are:
- Dirty Air Filter In Your Furnace
- Air Conditioner Is Too Strong
- Problem With The Thermostat
Each of these can fill an entire article. For now, we’ll touch on the key points.
Dirty Air Filter In Your Furnace
The air filter in your furnace traps all sorts of dirt and debris when it passes through your home’s
ductwork. But, if you never change it, the screen gets clogged. Then, not even air can pass through the system.
When the circulation gets bad enough, your AC can’t work the right way. It senses there’s not enough air coming through and shuts down. But then it kicks back on because the thermostat recognizes that your home is still too hot.
Air Conditioner Is Too Strong
A system that’s too strong sends a huge blast of cool air into your home. It immediately cools the area near the thermostat, so the gauge tells the condenser to turn off. It thinks the job is done.
But, you need the air conditioning to run for a while to really cool things down. Otherwise, the temperature creeps back up very quickly. Then, the thermostat tells the AC to turn right back on again. Then, the cycle continues.
Problem With The Thermostat
If your thermostat is broken, it could be taking bad readings or sending the wrong signals to your HVAC system. You can do a quick troubleshoot by changing the batteries because sometimes low power causes it to act strange. After that, call a professional.
Why Does My Air Conditioner Run Constantly?
Unless you have a variable speed motor, a central air conditioner that never shuts off is also a problem. Four possible causes are:
- The Air Conditioner Is Too Weak For The House
- There’s A Problem With The Thermostat
- Your System Is on The Wrong Setting
- There’s A Mechanical Problem In The Condenser
For starters, pay close attention to your system for an hour. You want to be sure you’re not missing small breaks between cycles. If it’s genuinely on all the time, one of these may be the reason.
The Air Conditioner Is Too Weak For The House
When your cooling system isn’t up to the task, it may never get a break. A system that’s too weak will never get your home to the temperature you want. As a result, your thermostat tells it to stay on all the time.
There’s A Problem With The Thermostat
Once again, your gauge may be to blame. Bad readings or commands could mean your cooling system never shuts off. Once again, start with the batteries. Then, hold a thermometer up to the device and make sure the readings match.
If they don’t, you may need to have it calibrated. Or, it’s just time for a new one altogether.
Your System Is on The Wrong Setting
Make sure you’re set to “Cooling” and not “Fan Only.” It’s a common mistake. The “Fan Only” setting circulates the air but never cools it. It’s a way to move air around in the house, so it doesn’t feel stale. It doesn’t affect the temperature, and it will run like that until you turn it off or change the settings.
Does Running The Fan In My AC Reduce Humidity?
The “Fan Only” setting won’t dehumidify your home as the regular AC setting will. You may notice a small difference in humidity as the air moves around. But, you need the condenser turned on. That’s when the system removes moisture from the air in your home.
There’s A Mechanical Problem In The Condenser
This applies to when the system short-cycles as well. If something’s broken in the system, it may not stay on long enough. Or, it can’t shut itself back off. If you’ve done some troubleshooting and haven’t pinpointed a cause, the culprit may be inside the condenser.
Air Conditioner Repair In York, PA
If you can’t get to the bottom of why the AC in your York, PA home won’t stay on — or won’t turn off — call Air Comfort Technologies today. We’ve earned an excellent reputation (check out our reviews!) serving homes across Central Pennsylvania, and we’ll make your home cool and comfortable again as soon as possible.