Air Conditioner Turns On And Off Right Away

Guess what season it is? The Spring season. But unfortunately, as the weather warms up, you realize you can no longer use your air conditioning system to lower the temperatures in your room as it turns on and off right away. Frustrating, right?

Luckily, this article will help you understand what could be happening to your air conditioning unit.

Is It a Normal Thing For My AC To Turn On And Off?

It is perfectly normal for your AC system to turn on and off in quick succession. However, when it occurs, your air conditioning is trying to tell you that something wrong is causing the problem. Do not assume or brush off the problem, as ignoring these occurrences could lead to more severe problems in the whole unit.

What Is Short Cycling and How Does It Affect Your Air Conditioner

Short cycling is a term used to describe the short run times or the short off times of a central air conditioner. The central air conditioning unit becomes stuck in the start-up cycle and rapidly turns on and off without completing an entire cycle.

How Does Short Cycling Occur?

Usually, your AC system powers up the compressor and runs until the thermostat registers that it has met the temperature request. The air conditioner then powers down the compressor.

But during a short cycling crisis, the compressor prematurely stops before the cooling cycle is over. When this occurs, the compressor works extra hard to perform its tasks.

How Does Short Cycling Affect Your AC System?

Below are some of how short cycling will affect your AC unit.

  • Short cycling typically consumes more power, primarily when the compressor works extra hard to start up, causing higher energy bills. It also increases the operating cost of your AC system.
  • Short cycling exposes your AC compressor to wear and tear than it otherwise would. The wear and tear can cause the unit to overheat and later burn out when this happens.

How Do I Know If My AC Is Short Cycling?

You can know when your air conditioner is short cycling if;

The air conditioner is short cycling in seconds– If you turn on your air conditioner and within seconds it turns off, it is evident that your AC unit is having problems.

The AC unit is short cycling in minutes- if you notice your air conditioning system has turned and turned off at an interval of one minute or so, then be aware that your air conditioner is experiencing short cycling.

Why Does My Air Conditioner Turn On And Off?

Some of the most common causes of your Ac turning on and off are;

1. A Dirty Air Filter

If your air filters are clogged with dust and dirt, it will affect how your AC unit operates. A clogged air filter will generally restrict the flow of air inside your AC, which will, in turn, cause the evaporator coil to freeze up, causing the AC to prematurely switch off.

You can always open your AC to check the air filters, and if they are clogged, you can clean them up.

2. An Oversized AC

If you have a brand new AC that turns on and off, it can be an oversized air conditioner. If your home has been installed with a big AC, then it will cool your home as quickly as possible and switch off immediately, and the cycle continues.

How is an oversized AC a problem? Because it is unevenly circulating cold air hence behaving irregularly.

3. Refrigerant Leaks

A refrigerant leak is another reason that can cause your air conditioning system to turn on and off right away. The refrigerant that runs throughout the AC regulates the internal pressure and temperature, so if there are any holes in the AC causing the leaks, then problems with the AC will start.

4. Thermostat Issues

One of the most causes of the AC turning on and off right away could be issued with the thermostat, which is the nerve center of the entire AC. So a faulty thermostat will prevent the entire system from functioning as expected.

A faulty thermostat could be due to battery issues, so you could consider replacing them with new ones, or at times your thermostat could need a restart. On rare occasions, if the thermostat is wrongly placed in an area that receives a disproportionate amount of heat or cold, then it will automatically switch off.

5. Frozen Evaporator Coils

Ice building up on the evaporator coils will lead to short cycling. Airflow problems or refrigerant issues commonly cause this problem. The evaporator coil’s work is to remove heat from your home, and when they have restricted the refrigerant inside, the coils become colder hence the formation of ice.

So if you notice any ice forming on the coils, be sure to turn off the air conditioning to allow the ice to melt.

6. Dirty Condenser Coils

If you have not performed any air conditioning maintenance for a while, then your AC could be turning on and off due to dirty condenser coils. The condenser coils located inside the AC and release heat inside your home could cause your air conditioning to overheat and turn off frequently if they are clogged with dirt and dust.

7. Compressor Failures

Just like a refrigerant leak, if the AC compressor overheats or is malfunctioning, it will result in your AC turning on and off and starting back up shortly.

8. Electrical Problems

Apart from the above causes that lead to short cycling, electrical issues are also part of why your Ac is misbehaving. If there is an issue with the electrical supply line or the capacitor being broken, this could lead to your air conditioning unit turning on and off.

How Often Should the Air Conditioner Come On And Off?

In normal circumstances, especially during mild days, your air conditioning unit should run for about fifteen minutes and almost constantly during hotter days. However, if it struggles to run for less than ten minutes, then it will be wise to call an HVAC professional to look at the AC unit.

Should I Turn Off My Air Conditioner If it is Short Cycling?

Yes, be sure to turn your air conditioning system when you realize it is short cycling. Why? To avoid stressing your AC compressor to functioning, thus leading to wear and tear and avoiding high electricity bills due to the high consumption caused by a short cycled AC.

At times, a simple AC tune-up could be all your AC unit needs to resolve the problem of short cycling, and if the problem does not go away, then calling a trained technician would be a good idea.

What Should I Do Once I Notice My AC Turning Off?

As we have mentioned above, if turning your air conditioning system off will not help with the issues, calling a professional to look into the matter would be the best way to go. The air conditioning going on and off is always a sign that there is something wrong with your system, and if ignored, it could lead to more severe problems in the long run.

Is It Possible To Reset My AC To Stop The Turning On And Off

Of course. Sometimes your air conditioning unit could stop turning o and off after resetting it. So how do you reset your AC? You can reset your AC by turning off the thermostat, and you do not want it to call your AC unit for cooling until you finish resetting it.

THen search for the breaker box and look for a metal box or metal panel placed against the wall, which may be painted to blend in with your home. You could always find it in your basement, garage, crawl spaces, or laundry area.

Once you find it, shut off your AC at the breaker and wait at least one minute before switching the breaker switch on. Afterward, take at least 30 minutes before turning your AC back on at the thermostat. To make sure it works, be sure to set the thermostat at least five degrees below room temperature.

How To Fix A Short Cycling Air Conditioner

There are plenty of ways you can do to put an end to the short cycling problems. They include;

  • Checking the air filter, it is always a good idea to check the air filter for any dirt and dust that could cause them to clog. If you find the air filters clogged, make sure to clean them out, and by doing so, your short cycling problem could go away. A dirty air filter can be the reason why your AC turns on and off.
  • Checking the AC’s refrigerant levels- You can always call a trained technician to check the refrigerant levels and, if necessary, add more refrigerant if they notice low refrigerant levels. You could also ask the technician to track down any leaks within the air conditioning.
  • Checking the compressor- Issues with the AC compressor will always lead to short cycling issues, so checking the compressor for any visible issues can be a good idea.
  • Checking the thermostat placement- Having your thermostat placed in a centralized location could help fix the issue of the AC turning on and off. So make sure you place your thermostat in an area not close to the air register to avoid it being confused by the influx of cool air and producing wrong readings.
  • Replacing the low-pressure control switch- If after checking tall the above and the short cycling has not stopped, then there is the need to replace the low-pressure control switch with a new one.

Should The AC Compressor Cycle On And Off?

This will depend on several factors, such as the design of the AC, the house, and the temperature. All this will affect the duty cycle of the compressor. So your AC compressor cycle turning on and off will vary wildly when trying to get a steady-state temperature of operation.

Can The AC Turning On And Off Cause Any Damages Or Harm

Short-term damages, yes. Long-term damages, another yes.

Short- Term:

When it comes to short-term damages, short cycling cuts down on the air conditioning’s output capacity, preventing the AC from completing an entire cooling cycle. With the AC trying to reach the target temperature set by the thermostat without any success, it will make your home feel a little bit more uncomfortable than usual.


Prolonged short cycling accelerates the rate at which the system accumulates wear and tear. This will further cause other air conditioning parts to break down a lot faster than usual, making your air conditioning unit lifespan a little less.

Final Thoughts

The longer you let your air conditioning unit short cycle, the worse it will get and the more damages it will cause. Do not ignore any signs that you believe could lead to a short cycle, and be sure to contact a professional to help you resolve the issue. A faster response will prevent more damage to your AC, increasing the lifespan of your system.