Why Does My Furnace Cycle On and Off Every Few Minutes?

The average homeowner is not a furnace repair expert, so when something goes wrong with our system we often rely on the pros to make it all make sense. However, it is difficult to just trust a stranger at their word especially if you have never used that company before. That is why it is smart to get at least a general idea of some of the potential causes of your problem. A popular problem that many homeowners face is called short cycling. If this is a problem in your home, you will notice that the furnace turns on and off every few minutes and the temperature set on the thermostat is never reached. This can be very frustrating and disruptive for the homeowner and there are several causes that could be contributing to this problem. Some of the more common causes of this problem include:

  • Filthy Filters: A dirty filter will stop the proper amount of air from getting into your furnace. This leads of overheating that will trip the furnace to turn off as a safety mechanism. Simply change the filter and you could be back in business.
  • Lack of Air Flow: Snow and other debris can block the ventilation system of a high efficiency furnace. If this is your problem, the harmful gases created by the furnace will back up into the unit and force a protective shut down which will look like short cycling. Clean away the obstruction and you may be able to restore proper operation.
  • Lack of Maintenance: Furnaces that haven’t been cleaned in ages tend to overheat easily. The unit will kick on, run for a couple minutes, overheat, and shut itself down only to repeat this cycle a few minutes later. A thorough cleaning performed by a professional will get things moving smoothly for the remainder of the season.
  • Over-sized Furnace: Some homeowners will purchase a furnace that is built to heat a larger space because they fall under the misconception that bigger is better. In this case, it isn’t. Too big furnaces will overheat constantly and never get the home to the desired temperature. You will deal with drastic temperature swings and the only way to solve this problem is to replace the unit with one that is sized properly for the home.
  • Cracked Heat Exchanger: When the heat exchanger on your furnace develops a crack, carbon monoxide along with the other gases created by combustion will leak into the home. Luckily, most heaters have safety mechanisms that will kick in when the heat exchanger overheats. This will shut the unit down over and over until the problem is addressed. The system will most likely need to be replaced.

Leave it to a Pro

These are just some of the reasons why your furnace could be short cycling. Take time to check filters and ventilation before you spend money on a service call, but if that isn’t enough, you need a pro. Don’t mess around with something as important as your family’s safety and comfort.

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