4 Reasons Why Your Air Conditioner Keeps Turning On and Off

Our air conditioners are some of the most important parts of our homes, especially during the hot summer months. The further south you are, the more likely it is that your home or business relies on air conditioning to provide comfort throughout the day. 

So when something happens that interferes with our daily comfort, it can be the first thing that’s noticed.

If your AC keeps turning on and off, you’re more than likely facing something called short cycling. Though it can seem bad at first, many of the possible solutions to this kind of a problem are actually rather easy. 

As with many HVAC malfunctions, the issue can seem far more severe than it really is and should be considered calmly. 

Read on to find out more about why you might keep finding that your AC keeps turning on and off and what you can do to stop it. 

If you keep facing this issue even after you tried some of our solutions or if you need professional help making adjustments to your air conditioner, you can contact us or visit our website to schedule an appointment as soon as possible.

What is short cycling?

Simply put, short cycling is what happens when an HVAC system – in this case, your air conditioner – turns off far too early. Normally, this means that the system boots up and starts running but never makes it past the startup phase before suddenly shutting off. The cycle then repeats and you’re left with very little actual cool air.

What are the signs of short cycling?

Some of the signs of short cycling include:

Increased energy bills

One of the many signs that you’re experiencing short cycling, other than noticing your AC turns on then off repeatedly, is a sudden increase in your energy bills. Larger HVAC systems like your home’s central air conditioner use much more energy to start up before lowering down during the time it runs. 

Damaged parts and equipment

The constant short cycling is also known to cause damage to the air conditioner’s parts. If your ac blower keeps turning on and off and you happen to catch it during the time it’s on, check to see what state the blower and other parts are in. The shut off and restart process causes stress on the parts, causing them to wear down faster. 

Additionally, you might find that some parts of your AC are warmer, which is a sign that the air conditioner is working much harder than it normally does.

Uneven temperatures

If you’re at home when you notice that your AC compressor keeps turning on and off, you might find that certain parts of your home are warmer than others. 

This is primarily due to the fact that, during the restarting process, the little amount of cool air that’s released is only enough to reduce the temperature of the area around the vents before shutting off. Parts of your home that are further away are left unaffected and noticeably warmer. 

Why your AC keeps turning on and off — 4 potential causes

Here are some of the common reasons AC units turn on and off:

An incorrectly sized air conditioner unit

One of the potential reasons that your AC unit keeps turning on and off is the size of the unit itself. Your home’s ductwork is specifically designed to suit a certain sized air conditioner, which means that anything larger isn’t going to work as it should, if it does work at all. 

An oversized air conditioner frequently uses more power to cool an appropriately sized, larger home. But in a smaller home, the increase of energy can lead to an uneven distribution and some rooms that cool down faster than others. If one of these quickly cooled rooms happens to be where your thermostat is, the uneven air flow can cause it to turn the air conditioner off and on earlier.

If your air conditioner isn’t the right size for your ducts, you can always call a technician from Clover Contracting to install a correctly-sized AC in your home.

Your air filter is dirty

Another reason is that the air filter you’re currently using is dirty and needs to be replaced. The dirt from both inside and outside your home is run through the filter to remove any dirt or allergens that can cause harm to your family’s health. As a result, those bits of dust and pollen can stick to the filter and build up over time. 

Eventually, enough of it can cause less air to move past the filter, causing the AC’s parts to freeze and the system itself to turn off until it thaws. 

This process only repeats, with very little cool air actually making it to your rooms. To fix the issue, simply take note of the size and thickness of the air filter and reinstall a similar, clean one.

You’re having thermostat problems

The cause could also be the thermostat you have. Since the air conditioner relies on the thermostat’s signal to turn on and off, any faults could also be traced back to it. Check to see if it has enough power in its batteries and if it does, try restarting it. If neither solution works, you might need to call a technician to reinstall it in another part of your home.

Refrigerant leaks

Though it’s unlikely, your air conditioner might also have a refrigerant leak. Since the AC needs a sufficient amount of refrigerant to maintain internal pressure and cooling ability, any leaks can cause the system and the compressor to turn on and off to maintain pressure. Again, you’ll definitely need to call a technician in, since a specific license is needed to handle refrigerants. 


Though many causes and solutions may need reinstallation or a professional’s help, the main cause of your AC short cycling can be far simpler than expected. First, try to troubleshoot the issue yourself with some of the above fixes before checking again. If it doesn’t solve the problem, call Clover Contracting for quick and reliable help.

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