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Why Does My Air Conditioner Keep Turning On and Off?

When you’re expecting your home to be a cool retreat from the heat, it can be disappointing for your air conditioner to malfunction. Air conditioner problems are more common than you think, and many people experience issues with their air conditioner turning on and off unexpectedly. Though it may seem like your air conditioner is a lost cause when this happens, there is often a simple solution to the problem you’re experiencing. Professional HVAC technicians at Entek in the Portland-Vancouver area can assist you in finding the true cause of your air conditioner problems and are often able to correct them without needing to replace the unit entirely. Here are a few common air conditioner problems that people experience.

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Dirty Air Filters

Unclean air filters are a common reason air conditioner problems occur. While people are often impressed with the results of their air conditioner, it’s easy to forget that those results are often dependent on having good airflow. The air filter does its job by trapping things like pet dander, dust, and debris, but it’s the owner’s job to clean or replace that filter often so that your air conditioner can continue to work well.

A dirty air filter significantly restricts airflow in your air conditioning unit, making it necessary for the unit to work harder to produce the same results. Having to work too hard to get through an unclean filter can cause the system to shut down unexpectedly and can also cause the evaporator coils to freeze. If you’re experiencing unexpected turn-offs with your air conditioner, one of the first things you should look at is the status of your filter.

Oversized Unit

When it comes to your air conditioner, size matters. It’s easy to think that a bigger air conditioning unit will provide you with better cooling results, but that isn’t always the case. Sure, it may be able to cool your home more quickly than a smaller unit, but finishing the job too quickly could also cause it to turn off and on multiple times throughout the day. While having the unit off may seem like a way to save on energy bills, it can actually cause your energy bills to increase. This is because it often takes more energy to be continually restarting your air conditioner than it does to leave it running for a significant amount of time.

There are a few ways for you to know which sized air conditioner is right for your space. All units come with a BTU number that, when taken into consideration with the total square feet of your home, can lead you to find the right-sized unit. Still, it doesn’t have to all fall on your shoulders. The professionals at Entek can help you to find an air conditioner that is the appropriate size for the room or rooms you’re trying to cool.

Dirty Condenser Coils

If you have an outdoor air conditioning unit that keeps turning off and on, dirty condenser coils could be the culprit. These coils aren’t always as accessible as things like air filters and can often go unchecked by homeowners for long periods of time. Condenser coils that are suffering from excessive dirt and debris could cause your system to overheat more often, which would also make it turn off. A professional HVAC technician can check your condenser coils easily and properly clean or repair them and solve the problem. Having occasional maintenance performed on your unit will allow technicians to check the condenser coils and clean them before they cause problems.

Leaking Refrigerant

Leaking refrigerant is another possible culprit for your air conditioner turning on and off. The refrigerant in your air conditioner helps absorb the heat from indoor air and is an important part of making sure your unit is working properly. If you have low levels of refrigerant, or if your unit is experiencing a refrigerant leak, you may experience sudden malfunctioning. This is caused by the coils freezing up. As they freeze, the unit will turn off, and when they thaw out again, the unit will turn back on. If you suspect the problem has to do with the refrigerant, contact a certified professional to repair the problem.

Thermostat Issues

While your thermostat is an extremely useful addition to your home, it could also be the reason for your air conditioner problems. One thing in particular about the thermostat that could be causing your air conditioner to turn on and off is its placement. This is often a surprise to homeowners, who had no option in the placement of the thermostat—it was there when they moved in.

Still, where your thermostat is located is an important aspect of figuring out this issue, as it determines how well it can really tell what the temperature is in the house. For instance, if your thermostat is located near a window that gets a lot of sun or a warm air vent, it may mistake the temperature change from those things as the temperature in the whole house. This would cause the thermostat to turn the air conditioner on or off in an effort to achieve your desired household temperature.

Another common culprit for issues with your air conditioner could be as simple as your thermostat being low on batteries. The thermostat is what controls the temperature in your home, and when the batteries are running low, it can cause your thermostat to turn on and off. This issue isn’t as noticeable as your air conditioner turning on and off, so it can be hard to tell that it’s happening right away. Be sure to check your thermostat to see if it’s blinking at all or if the screen is blank. Addressing this problem could be the answer to your air conditioner problems as well.

What to Do

If you have been experiencing issues with your air conditioner turning off and on, it may be time to contact your local HVAC technician. The technicians at Entek will properly diagnose the issue causing your air conditioner to malfunction and address it accordingly.

Professionals are a great resource when you’re having common air conditioner problems, but they can also be helpful in preventing those problems from occurring in the first place. Programs like Entek’s Planned Maintenance Program allow technicians to service your unit occasionally and to check for any issues that may be brewing. Taking part in one of these preventative programs can result in fewer emergency repairs, lower utility bills, and overall healthier air quality.


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