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Touchstone Heating & Air Inc. Blog

Why Is the Furnace Turning On and Off So Frequently?

covering-earsIf you’re asking this question, then you’re doing a good job of paying attention to the behavior of your home’s heating system. Detecting early indications of malfunctions in a heater is essential to ensuring you arrange for repairs to fix the problem when it’s still small and to avoid potential health hazards. Odd sounds, strange smells, high bills—all are warnings you may need professional service for your furnace in Starke, FL.

Now, about that problem you’ve noticed with the furnace turning on and off rapidly …

Your Furnace Is Short-Cycling

Yes, there’s a name for this behavior: short-cycling. It can affect other types of heating and air conditioning systems, but no matter the system, it’s bad news on many fronts.

What’s happening is the furnace is shutting off before it completes its regular heating cycle. A full heating cycle for a furnace usually lasts 15 minutes or more. At that point, the thermostat detects the furnace has reached the target temperature and has it begin to cycle down. The furnace turns back on as needed to keep the interior at the desired temperature.

If the furnace shuts off after only 5 to 10 minutes, and turns back on again shortly after, then it’s short-cycling.

Why Short-Cycling Is Trouble

A furnace that’s short-cycling will create multiple problems.

First, it creates uneven heating around a home. The furnace won’t stay on long enough to send heated air to all the rooms, shutting down before its done. You’ll start to notice the rooms the farthest from the furnace are not getting the heat they need.

Second, because a furnace drains the most power at start-up, a short-cycling furnace drains far more power. Your regular utility bills will make a tremendous leap when the furnace is caught starting and stopping twice as much as usual.

Finally, short-cycling increases the strain on the furnace to the point it will cause many more repairs and eventually lead to an early breakdown. Short-cycling is the easiest way to shorten a furnace’s service life.

Why This Might Happen

The tricky part about short-cycling is that there are a variety of reasons it may happen. The simplest possibility is that the furnace filter is so clogged that its trapping excess heat inside the furnace, triggering the furnace overload switch and shutting the system down. Check the filter and if it’s clogged, change it out. This may fix the problem.

Other problems will require call professionals to repair. The thermostat might have a miscalibration, causing it to register prematurely that the furnace has finished the cycle and then shut it off. Duct leaks in the ventilation system causing rapid heat loss may also be responsible. If the furnace is a new one, it may be oversized for the space, in which case the furnace will probably need to be replaced. (Ensuring the right size furnace is installed is one of the reasons to always hire professionals to put in a new heater.)

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