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Polar Bear Air Conditioning & Heating Inc. Blog

Is Your Heater Short-Cycling?

heater-being-servicedWe’re moving into March in just a few short days. Leaving February behind often gets homeowners thinking about the coming spring season, and the heat of summer that follows. We know that winter has been a challenge for everyone in our area, but we must warn you not to get too far ahead of yourself. While warmer weather is definitely on its way, your heater still has plenty of work to do in the weeks that lie ahead.

That is why you really cannot afford to overlook any warning signs that something is wrong with your heating system, even if it is somewhat late in the season. You may be tempted to force it through the remainder of the heating season, and just to deal with repairs once it is out of regular use. Doing so can have a number of negative consequences for your budget, your comfort, and your heater itself, though. One sign of trouble with your heater in Washington, D.C. is short-cycling.

Short Cycling: What Is It?

Short cycling simply refers to a situation in which your heater—or your AC, for that matter—is not running in a full cycle. It will come on, run only briefly, and the cycle back down. It will repeat this process over and over, as it is not going to operate as effectively as it should in achieving and maintaining the desired temperature throughout your home. Short-cycling can cause a number of different problems.

  1. Short-cycling can leave your comfort in a compromised condition. It is very unlikely that a heater running in short bursts is going to be able to distribute heat throughout the entire house effectively.
  2. Short-cycling wastes a lot of energy, meaning that you’ll be paying more for less comfort. Any mechanical system will generally use more energy when starting up than when up and running.
  3. Short-cycling puts a lot of wear and tear on your HVAC system. This wear and tear can lead to further problems and damage to the system.

What Causes Short Cycling?

If you’ve read this blog before, you probably know that any HVAC problem can have a few potential causes. This is one of the primary reasons why hiring a trained professional to diagnose the problem to begin with is just as important as hiring a professional to actually fix that problem. While not all causes of short-cycling are terribly serious, others are. Prompt action should always be taken.

  • Dirty air filters are a pretty benign cause of short cycling. Restricted airflow can cause the system to overheat and to shut down. Stay diligent in changing your air filters as needed.
  • Faulty components, such as thermostats or thermocouples, could trigger the system to shut down before desired temperatures are achieved, or in a misguided effort to protect your safety.
  • Of course, real unsafe operating conditions can lead your thermocouple or flame sensor to shut the system down.
  • Problems with fuel ignition or delivery can also cause the system to shut down.
  • Finally, if your system has always short-cycled, it may be too big for your home. Bringing up temperatures too fast may not sound that bad, but it prevents the heater from running in full cycles. Replacement is the only solution in this case.

If you have any questions or require heating services of any kind, give the professionals here at Polar Bear Air Conditioning & Heating Inc. a call.

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