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What Causes My Air Conditioner to Turn On and Off?

An air conditioner that repeatedly turns on and off is more than just a source of frustration. It’s also a recipe for ballooning cooling costs, component damage, and premature system failure. This kind of short-cycling behavior is a sign that you need a timely visit from an East Tennessee HVAC professional. There are many potential causes, but the following issues are usually at the top of the list.

Thermostat Problems

The thermostat controlling your HVAC system is the key to the entire operation. It’s the device that carefully monitors air temperatures and lets your AC know whether or not it needs to run. A malfunctioning thermostat can send your entire cooling system into chaos. If your AC cycling issues have begun recently, it’s possible you may have a faulty control module or temperature sensor.

If the problem has been ongoing, the more likely issue is one of placement. Your thermostat needs to be placed strategically to work properly. It can’t be placed near open windows, air vents or areas that receive direct sunlight. Windows and air vents can easily make temperature sensors read too low, which causes your system to shut off too early. Sunlight, meanwhile, can warm the air locally and prompt your AC to start up again when it isn’t needed. An HVAC technician can help you move your thermostat to a more suitable location.

Leaking Refrigerant

The refrigerant inside your air conditioner is what allows the system to pull heat and moisture out of the air. All sorts of odd things can happen when the level of refrigerant drops. Declining cooling performance is often the first sign. A lower level of coolant means your system is less able to remove heat and moisture from the air. If the leak persists, the loss of coolant can eventually affect the compressor. Without a steady pressure level, the compressor may cycle on and off repeatedly.

Fortunately, a refrigerant leak is a common and simple fix. A technician can easily identify the source of the leak, repair it and recharge your coolant to its proper level. However, it’s important to note that traditional refrigerants are being gradually phased out. A leaky refrigerant system may be a good opportunity to upgrade in preparation for the switch. This isn’t strictly necessary, but it may be a convenient way to future-proof a cooling system that needs repairs anyway. Speak with your air conditioning repair technician to fully evaluate your repair and replacement options.

Improper Sizing

In the decades we’ve served the East Tennessee community, we’ve found that many HVAC issues trace back to installation mistakes. Among the most common of these is poor equipment sizing. A system that’s too big or small for your cooling needs is bound to run less efficiently. This creates greater wear and causes your system to work harder to maintain comfort. It may also cause your air conditioner to continually cycle on and off during operation. In particular, oversized systems tend to cool parts of your home too quickly without reaching others. The result is uneven, inconsistent temperatures that confuse your thermostat and lead to rapid cycling.

Unfortunately, a system replacement is sometimes the only practical solution. Having an expert AC installer evaluate your home and install equipment that more accurately serves your needs will resolve the problem. A skilled installer can accurately calculate your cooling load, which considers your home’s area, orientation, insulation and many other factors. This figure represents the amount of cooling you need in an air conditioning system, making it easier to design the perfect fit.

Don’t leave yourself stuck with a malfunctioning air conditioner during the heart of a Knoxville summer. If your short-cycling system is giving you fits, check out Melton Heating and Air Conditioning’s AC repair services or call 865-210-8942 for the fast, affordable fixes you need.

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