When you notice your air conditioner is turning on and off more frequently than usual—something that disrupts the standard steady sounds you expect during summer days—you’re right to believe there’s a problem. When an AC’s compressor only stays on for ten minutes or less before it shuts down, and then comes back on a short time later and repeats the same process, the air conditioner is short-cycling. This is a common trouble with central cooling systems, and it’s often difficult to detect the malfunction that’s at the root of it.
Short-cycling shouldn’t be allowed to continue. It puts an enormous amount of strain on the compressor, and if the compressor burns out it often means the entire AC must be replaced. The extra strain also means higher costs—an AC uses the most electrical power when it sends voltage to start the compressor at the beginning of the cooling cycle.