How a Cooling Cycle Works


Air conditioners run in a specific way we call a “cooling cycle.” This kind of method makes sense for total comfort throughout your home, but it’s a very specific way a system operates. Your car, for instance, runs in a different type of cycle than your air conditioner, and it’s worth exploring what that difference is.

If you’re encountering a problem with your AC cycle, like it’s running too frequently or it constantly runs and never meets the thermostat setting, then there’s likely a problem occurring.

Our team can diagnose and fix your HVAC in Greenfield, Indiana, but we think it’s worth it for our customers to know some basic information on how these cycles work and why AC units are designed this way.

So, let’s talk about how the cooling cycle works and why it exists in the first place.

Size, Tonnage, and BTUs

First, let’s step into the shoes of an HVAC technician. There’s a lot of math involved (which is why we highly recommend customers call us for repairs or installations), but we’ll try to keep things as simple as possible.

The air in your home needs to be measured in order for the air conditioning system to fit the space properly. For instance, a small AC unit is not going to have the power to cool a large house. The total amount of air in your home is the tonnage, and that’s going to dictate the size of your air conditioner.

An AC that’s too small without enough BTUs (British Thermal Units, a measurement of cooling power) is going to run forever and never reach the temperature set on your thermostat.

But an AC that’s too large will cool things down too quickly and shut down prematurely, running in frequent cycles. We’ll get into why that’s bad down below.

Air Pressure, Air Flow, and Temperature Control

Based on the air pressure, air flow, and temperature control of your home’s insulation, the comfortable indoor temperatures are going to dissipate over time and your body heat will warm things back up. This is natural, and it’s why our air conditioners don’t just run one time and then shut down forever.

Your AC is going to need to run again in order to cool things down, which is why we call this a “cycle.” It happens, then it stops, then it happens again, rinse and repeat!

But every time your air conditioner runs in a cycle, it’s using electricity and running at full blast. This means that an AC that’s too large and running more frequently is going to drain more energy than one that’s fitted perfectly to your home.

The Basics of a Normal Cooling Cycle

A normal cooling cycle should be about 10 minutes. There’s obvious give and take depending on your home and your system, but you can get a better estimate from a licensed technician from our team. With this in mind, we think it might be a good idea to measure the length of your cooling cycles from time to time to ensure that they’re running long enough, but not too long. Otherwise, you might benefit from repairs.


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