AC cycles on and off every 10 minutes. Why?

Imagine sitting in your living room, frustration etched on your face. Your air conditioning unit is behaving in a puzzling way: the AC cycles on and off every 10 minutes.

It’s like a never-ending loop of discomfort, with brief moments of relief followed by sweltering heat.

As such, you can’t concentrate or relax, constantly on edge, wondering why your AC is playing this aggravating game.

Determined to find a solution, you embark on a mission to uncover the cause, longing for a cool home once again.

The good news is that you just found that solution. In this article, I will guide you on how to solve your AC cycling on and off problem once and for all.

AC cycles on and off every 10 minutes / AC cycles every 5 minutes – possible causes and how you can fix them

Before we start, remember that an AC works by cycling on and off to keep the room cool. However, the average time between cycles is 15 to 20 minutes.

Now, several reasons might be causing this, and here’s what you can do to fix them:

Turn off smart mode

Here’s the thing about smart mode…

In most AC models, smart mode has the cool differential set at 0.5⁰F.

This will result in the AC cycling more often (within 10 minutes or less).

The good news is that toggling off smart mode should help you adjust the cool differential.

To toggle off smart mode, follow your model’s instructions (they are in the owner’s manual that came with the AC).

For instance, in Samsung ACs, you can turn off this mode by pressing the Smart Saver button on the remote.

Once you have turned off smart mode, proceed to change the cool differential temperature to at least 1⁰F and then work your way up to see which cool differential range you can tolerate.

Adjust the thermostat settings

Here, I am specifically talking about the min (minimum) cycle off time and compressor min on time.

Again, some models come with defaults that are too low.

Basically, you will want to adjust the min cycle time to a higher value other than 600 seconds (10 minutes).

Also, adjust the compressor’s min on time depending on the cool differential you have set above so as not to overheat/overcool the room.

Clean the coils and filters

If the coils or filters are full of dirt and other debris, they will result in the compressor overworking to cool the room.

In turn, this will result in a high pressure hence the compressor will overheat.

Subsequently, the compressor will shut off (so as to cool) before restarting again – and the process will repeat itself.

That being so, be sure to clean all the filters and coils.

Clean the drain line

Here’s the thing…

If the drain line is clogged, it will result in the water backing up.

And, if it backs up enough, it will kick in the float switch which will automatically shut off the system.

The unit will then proceed to drain slowly (just enough for the float switch to go back down) and the system will restart.

And the process will repeat itself within a few minutes.

Now that you get the point, also be sure to clean the drain line.

Confirm that the room is not too small for the AC you are using

Another thing that I have seen among my clients is using large ACs in small rooms.

Allow me to explain how this results in the AC cycling on/off…

You see, a powerful AC will cool small rooms quite fast.

And, when it reaches the desired temperature, it will turn off only to turn on a few minutes later once the temperature rises again…

And this frequently toggling on/off cycle will continue.

So, confirm that the air con you are using is meant for the size of your room.

A quick way you can use to approximate this is by multiplying the room’s size in sq. ft. by 20.

For instance, if your room size has an area of around 400 sq. ft., then you’ll need an AC of around 8,000 BTUs (400×20).

So, if you are using an AC with high BTUs for your room size, you might consider getting one with lower BTUs depending on the size of your room.

AC cycles on and off every 10 minutes or less – more troubleshooting steps

Check the motors and capacitors

For, this you will want to check and confirm that the necessary motors are good.

That being so, check for rotation in the condenser fan motor and the blower motor.

Pro tip: Remember that this will depend on your AC type as some ACs such as window ACs have one motor.

If rotation seems fine, check the amp draw of the motor(s) and compare it to the nameplate values.

If you note that the motor is not rotating or it the nameplate values do not match, it could be faulty and will require to be replaced.

The good news is that you can easily order an AC condenser/blower replacement motor from Amazon and quickly perform the replacement.

On the other hand, if the motors seem to work fine, proceed to check the capacitor(s) for the correct capacitance.

Again, compare the microfarad readings you get to the nameplate values on the capacitor.

And, if you note that they are out of range, then the capacitor is bad and a replacement is required.

Fortunately, this is a simple DIY task that you can comfortably perform with the right AC capacitor replacement.

It could be a result of low refrigerant levels

Low refrigerant levels will result in the compressor overworking to cool hence it will overheat.

Again, when this occurs, the compressor will shut off (to cool) before restarting – and the process will repeat.

Unfortunately, only an EPA-licensed technician can check the refrigerant levels (and recharge it if necessary).

So, for this, you will need to get a licensed HVAC pro.

The compressor is overheating

Previously, we have looked at the symptoms of an overheating compressor.

And, one of them was the compressor cycling on and off every few minutes.

Now, when the compressor overheats, the AC will turn off to give the compressor time to cool off.

Once it has cooled, the AC will automatically turn on again only to turn off after overheating – and the cycle will keep on repeating.

Now, to troubleshoot and fix this, check our other article symptoms of an overheating compressor – we’ve provided you with steps on how you can fix all the possible causes for an overheating compressor.

AC cycles on and off every 10 minutes – final words

By now, I am sure that you have been able to fix your misbehaving air conditioner.

And, if you run into problems testing/fixing the AC, you can always get an instructional video on YouTube to guide you along.

Till next time!


Symptoms of an AC compressor overheating [and solutions]

Why is my AC compressor overheating and shutting off (and how to fix it)

Split AC compressor not working but fan is running [Fixed]

Window air conditioner not blowing cold air but running [Solved]

Portable air conditioner not blowing cold air but running [Fixed]

Air conditioner modes explained [And when to use each setting]

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