When Has Your Home Had Enough (Or Too Much) Hot Air or Cool Breezes?

Is setting HVAC cycles the solution to poor performance by an air conditioner or furnace?  Excessively short or long operating cycles are often a reliable warning sign that something’s wrong in an HVAC system. Cycling refers to the length of time an A/C or furnace runs after turning on before it automatically shuts off again. In general, a residential HVAC system should cycle on for about 10 to 20 minutes before turning off.

Too Short vs. Too Long

The rapid on/off function of a furnace or air conditioner that is short-cycling is often noticeable to occupants of a house. In addition, short cycles cause abrupt indoor temperature swings. The system runs inefficiently and costs rise. Excess wear and tear also impacts reliability and repair costs.

Long cycles, conversely, waste lots of energy, as the A/C compressor or the furnace burner runs too many minutes per hour. This then exacerbates component wear that may trigger malfunctions and costly repairs.

What Cycle Issues Mean

Short and long cycles can point to specific problems with your HVAC system, among them:

  • Dirty air filter. This restricts system airflow, which may cause components like the A/C compressor or the furnace to overheat, then shut off very rapidly.
  • Thermostat problems. A defective thermostat may not correctly sense indoor temperatures, signaling the A/C or furnace to shut off too quickly or run excessively extended cycles.
  • A/C refrigerant leaks. Low refrigerant levels can cause ice to form on coils, obstructing airflow and automatically shutting the system down before temperature settings have been achieved.
  • Oversize unit. An oversize furnace or A/C with excessive BTU capacity for the size of the house generates too much heating or cooling very rapidly. Indoor temperatures may spike or cool quickly, causing the unit to turn off again rapidly.
  • Undersize unit. A furnace or A/C that lacks sufficient BTU capacity for the house will run very extended cycles, straining to reach thermostat settings. In extreme cases, the unit will run nonstop.

For more answers to issues relating to setting HVAC cycles, talk to the experts at Paitson Bros., the Wabash Valley’s source for cooling and heating.

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