AC Keeps Shutting Off: Causes & Fixes

With the hottest and longest days of summer just around the bend, many home and property owners are using their air conditioners more often and well into the evening time. 

Considering the high heat temperatures that come with summer, it’s only natural to use our air conditioners more often when windows, fans and other cooling methods aren’t doing the trick. However, when your AC keeps shutting off and on, it can interrupt your regular workflow. 

Not only does this reduce the amount of cooling that homes can so badly need, but it also hints at a problem with your air conditioner. Troubleshooting a malfunctioning AC unit can be tricky. So, we’ll cover a few possible reasons why your air conditioner is turning off repeatedly and offer a few suggestions to help you fix it. 

If you can’t find the cause or would rather have professional help, just contact our team, and one of our River Valley technicians will be glad to help you out.

What Is Short cycling?

An AC unit suddenly turning off right after it starts is a common problem homeowners often call us about. This issue is commonly referred to as short cycling.

This repeated on-and-off-again cycle can hinder the regular cooling process, which is why your home can’t cool down properly when this happens. Leaving the problem unattended can also cause more damage to your unit, leading to increased energy usage, strain on the system and poor AC performance overall. 

To guarantee great cooling, energy savings, and a long lifespan of your system, it’s important to find and fix the root causes of the short cycling.

A Few Causes of Short Cycling

Short cycling is a common problem that can interfere with an air conditioning system’s normal functions. As mentioned before, it’s when an air conditioner frequently turns on and off for brief periods without completing a full cooling cycle. This problem can decrease the unit’s efficiency and capacity.  

To restore your AC unit back to normal, it’s good to first identify the cause of the issue. Here are a few reasons why your unit might be short cycling.

An Incorrectly-sized Air Conditioner

Your air conditioner’s cooling capacity and size need to be appropriate for your home. An incorrectly sized air conditioner won’t work effectively and will struggle to properly cool your house. In this case, you will likely notice that your AC unit keeps shutting off. 

An AC unit that’s too small will be forced to work harder to provide the same cooling, quickly causing it to overheat and stop. On the flip side, an oversized air conditioner cools the room too quickly, reaching the set temperature too quickly and shutting off. 

While this doesn’t seem bad, the frequency on and off (short cycling) of an air conditioner can actually cause more wear and tear. Overall, both undersized and oversized air conditioners can lead to excess energy use and much higher energy bills. Speak to a professional about finding the right-size AC unit for your home. 

Dirty Air Filters

When homeowners ask us, “Why does my ac unit keep shutting off,” we ask them to check their filter. The simplest cause of short cycling is a dirty air filter. 

Air filters trap all the dirt and other debris from the air and in your home’s vents. Eventually, your air filters get dirty, restricting the airflow through the system. As a result, the AC unit will have a hard time drawing in enough air, which can impact how well it functions.

To compensate for the restricted airflow, the unit works longer and much harder than necessary, causing stress that can lead to overheating. This causes the air conditioner’s safety features to turn on, shutting down the device to stop further damage. This often happens rather quickly, so the AC starts cycling for shorter periods of time when it turns on and off.

Electrical Problems and Incorrect Settings

If your AC keeps shutting off right before it starts and not a few minutes after, there is a high chance that the problem is caused by an electrical malfunction or damage. The most common of these electric issues is a malfunctioning or badly calibrated thermostat; however, it can even just be a few wrong settings. 

If your thermostat is faulty or badly calibrated, it sends the AC unit incorrect signals, causing it to turn on and off too often. For example, a faulty thermostat might not accurately read the outside temperature or might not keep the temperature stable, leading to bad readings and short cycling.

In some cases, something as simple as a power surge or a sudden change in voltage can prevent the AC system from functioning normally. The system can start as usual, but if there’s a sudden change, your air conditioner can shut off unexpectedly. 

If the air conditioner’s been cycling for much longer than a day or so, there’s a high chance that the cause is faulty wiring, insufficient power, or external factors like damage to the power grid.

Of course, there are other possible electrical causes as to why your ac keeps shutting off, but these are the most common.

Solutions to Your AC Issue

While you may be able to recalibrate a thermostat yourself, most of these AC issues require special tools and in-depth experience. We recommend calling a professional for help. 

An incorrectly-sized air conditioner or a badly calibrated thermostat will require a professional’s specific tools and knowledge. A professional technician, like the ones at River Valley, can help you safely readjust or reinstall your system properly. 

Fortunately, some things, such as a dirty air filter, can be addressed on your own. Dirty air filters can be replaced and, depending on the type, can even be washed. If you need to readjust your thermostat settings, refer to your owner’s manual to correct it. In some cases, even lowering the set temperature can be a big help in helping the AC run longer.

If your AC system needs professional assistance, let us help. 

An air conditioner that’s always shutting off can be incredibly annoying and costly. There are several potential reasons why your air conditioner turns on and off. Fortunately, many of these causes are simple to find and fix with the right maintenance and help. In some cases, you can even fix the problem yourself! 

If you find that your AC is short cycling, contact River Valley Air Conditioning for quick and reliable help.