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Why is my Air Conditioner Shutting off Every Few Minutes? Answers From an NJ Tech

Jun. 20, 2019


“Short cycling" is the official term for when an AC turns on and off every few minutes.

Short cycling can cause issues like:
  • Increased energy bills
  • Wear and tear on your system
  • Shortened AC lifespan
There are a few reasons that your AC can short cycle, but 4 of the most common are:
  1. An oversized AC system
  2. A refrigerant leak
  3. A dirty air filter  
  4. Improperly placed thermostat
Below, we’ll walk through each of these issues and discuss what you can do to fix them.

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Reason #1: An oversized AC system

If you’ve recently installed a new AC system, this is likely your issue. If an AC is too large for your home, it will cool your home quickly and shut off.

The solution: Call the company or contractor who installed your cooling system. Before installing your AC, a technician should have done an evaluation of your home and cooling needs, called a load calculation.


Reason #2: A refrigerant leak

Refrigerant is the substance that flows through your AC system, picking up heat inside your home and carrying it outside.

 If there is a leak in the refrigerant line, it can lower the pressure in your AC system, which triggers the compressor (the part of your AC that pumps refrigerant) to shut off.

Once the thermostat calls for cooling again, the AC turns on, detects low-pressure levels again, then turns right back off.

The solution: Contact a professional to repair the leak and then recharge the system. Refrigerant is not only an integral part of your AC system, but the substance itself is harmful to humans. You should not attempt to make this repair on your own.

Warning: A common HVAC scam is to charge homeowners for a refrigerant recharge without repairing the leak (which will just result in that refrigerant leaking out again). Be sure that if your refrigerant line is leaking, the technician repairs the leak BEFORE recharging the refrigerant.



Reason #3: Dirty air filter

If your air filters are clogged or dirty, it restricts airflow to your indoor AC unit. Low airflow can cause your evaporator coil to freeze, which limits your AC’s ability to remove heat from your home. When your evaporator coil freezes, it can cause your AC to overheat, which will turn your AC off.  

The fix: Clean or replace your air filters if they are dirty. A good rule of thumb is to replace your air filters every month during the summer.

clean air filter vs. dirty air filter
Example of a clean filter (left), next to a dirty filter (right).



Reason #4: Improperly located thermostat

Depending on where your thermostat is located, it can be tricked into thinking that your home is a certain temperature when it’s not, causing your AC to shut on and off frequently.

Some faulty locations for your thermostat include:
  • Under a supply vent
  • Near a window
  • Next to a door that leads outside

The solution: Contact a professional to move your thermostat. As we mentioned above, short cycling can cause you money in the long run if it’s not taken care of.



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