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Hidden Danger: Is Your Furnace Short-Cycling?

Fall is finally here, and for many homeowners throughout the Columbus area, our furnaces are already starting up.

We’re hoping your furnace fired up easily this year, because early fall is one of the busiest times of year for our service techs… who are out performing furnace tune-ups and safety checks to help our customers get ready for the coming winter.

After laying dormant during cooling season, a few of our customers’ furnaces aren’t quite ready to get to work– especially if they haven’t been maintained and prepped for the coming cold weather.

One common furnace problem is called “short cycling.” This is when the furnace starts and stops too quickly and too often, almost like it’s stuck in an on-off loop. Short cycling is a problem usually associated with AC Units, but furnaces can suffer from it at the same time, and for similar reasons.

Here are the three primary reasons why your furnace may be short cycling, as well as the tried-and-true fixes.

1) Your Furnace is Too Big for Your Home.

If you just installed a new furnace and are experiencing short cycling right from the beginning, this may be bad news you just don’t want to hear. Short cycling may be the result of a furnace that is just too large and powerful for your space, and it’s a mistake that can end up being quite expensive long term.

Most of us want our furnaces to heat up our rooms quickly, but given the choice, we would also like that to be a relatively economical process. This is why we work so hard (and ask so many questions) putting together an installation spec that matches your home’s space.

If the furnace is too powerful for your home, it will use too much energy while heating your home to your desired temperature. This process may also cause warm air to not get distributed properly, causing the furnace to turn on again after a brief time.

This can be very bad news in multiple ways. Short cycling itself is likely to drive up your energy bills; it also causes greater deterioration on your HVAC fan. This additional workload could require that the fan be replaced ahead of schedule, all while you pay more per month for an inefficient system.

If you’re not sure whether your furnace is short cycling for this reason, reach out to Pickerington Heating & Cooling to have one of our expert HVAC techs check it out.

2) Shutting Off to Prevent Overheating.

Your furnace is designed to prevent damage and enhance safety by shutting itself down in the event it’s overheating. When a furnace unit is overheating, it can potentially crack the heat exchanger, causing dangerous and deadly leaks.

Cracked heat exchangers can release carbon monoxide gas (a by-product of the combustion in your furnace) into your home. Carbon monoxide is an odorless, invisible gas that can make your family very sick or kill you!

If your furnace is overheating (even when it short cycles to save itself), it can cause cracks over the course of time. It’s extremely important to have a qualified HVAC service technician check it at least annually.

Restricted airflow is usually the cause of overheating. A system in this state can trap hot air in the area next to the heat exchanger, probably as a result of a dirty air filter, a blocked exhaust vent on the roof, or blocked interior vents. The only sure way to troubleshoot this issue is to have the system examined by a qualified service tech.

3) Faulty Thermostat.

Your system’s thermostat controls when the furnace turns on and off (based on temperature in your home). If the thermostat is out of whack, just about anything is a possibility. The thermostat can cause the furnace to start short cycling, to run continuously, or choose not to start whatsoever. Our technicians can troubleshoot, diagnose and install a thermostat while they’re checking out the rest of the system.

Even when your thermostat is installed and functioning, it can still cause short cycling if it’s installed near a significant heat source, such as an oven or a large sun-facing window. The thermostat can be tricked into thinking the home is hot, which can trigger a short cycle sequence. Our expert HVAC service technicians can advise you on the proper placement of your thermostat.

The Bottom Line: Call for Professional Furnace Service.

Short cycling could be a serious energy efficiency and safety problem that also increases the physical wear and tear on your home’s HVAC system. If this is occurring with your system, call Pickerington Heating & Cooling at (614) 837-4026 and schedule our 25-point furnace tune-up and safety check.

Interested in saving a little cash? We have an online deal to save on a furnace tune-up and safety check.