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Why Might a Heater Short Cycle?

Technician working inside a furnace with glovesGeorgia is certainly — and rightfully — recognized more for its hot, sticky summers than it is for its winter weather. Just because winters around here don’t really pack the same severe punch as the heat of summer, though, does not mean that you can afford to overlook just how vital your heating system really is to your overall comfort. When temperatures do drop below the level of comfort, you’ll be glad that you had a professional tune-up your system and that you acted quickly to have any problems with that heater resolved.

As is the case with any HVAC system, your heater may run into any number of operational issues. Some are a lot easier to spot than others, and a short cycling heater is definitely hard to overlook. Unfortunately, because the system is still up and running, some homeowners still manage to convince themselves that short cycling is not that serious of a problem. And it may not be — yet. Depending upon the cause of short cycling, however, you may require professional heating repair in Atlanta, GA.

What Does Short Cycling Actually Mean?

Your heater is not running all of the time, even when it is cold out. If it does run without pause, that probably means that you’ve either set an unrealistic temperature at the thermostat or that your heater is actually too small to get the job done in your home. Your heater should instead run in cycles: starting up, warming your home as desired, and then cycling back down. Short cycling is a term used to describe the situation in which the heater is cycling on and off, but far too rapidly.

What Causes Short Cycling?

Now that you have a basic idea of what short cycling is, let’s look at some potential causes of short cycling. If you use a forced-air heater, such as a furnace or a heat pump, then you could simply have a very dirty air filter in need of a change. This is a fix that you can handle on your own. When the filter is too dirty, it can create so much airflow resistance that the system will shut down in an attempt to preserve itself.

You could also have a faulty thermocouple in a combustion-based heating system. If this is the case, the thermostat may be inaccurately sensing temperatures in the combustion chamber. It will cycle the system down to prevent an unsafe buildup of fuel.

Do you use a heat pump? These are common systems around here since our winters are pretty mild. If you do, and your system is short cycling, then you could have a refrigerant leak. That is a serious problem, and if you suspect a refrigerant leak, or if you don’t know what the cause of the problem, you need to have the situation assessed by a professional right away.

Short cycling wastes energy, as starting a system up requires more energy than running it regularly. Short cycling also puts a lot of unnecessary wear and tear on the system, which can lead to breakdowns. Don’t let short cycling put your comfort, your system, and your budget in jeopardy.