Does this sound familiar? Your furnace turns on, runs for a few minutes and then shuts off. Soon after, it turns back on and the process repeats.
What’s the problem?
Typically, a furnace keeps turning off and on (or “short cycling”) like this because of one of these problems:
Want to skip the hassle of troubleshooting and have a trained tech inspect your furnace? We can help!
QUICK DIY FIXES:
Clean air filter (left) and dirty air filter (right)
An open air supply vent
If these DIY fixes didn’t solve the problem, you most likely need to call a professional HVAC tech for help.
Now, if you want to learn more about these issues and why they cause the furnace to short cycle, read on.
A common reason a furnace short cycles is because the heat exchanger, the part that heats your air, is getting too hot due to a lack of airflow.
Once the heat exchanger overheats, it trips the high limit switch, which shuts the furnace down to protect it.
If the heat exchanger (highlighted above) gets too hot, the furnace shuts down. If the high limit switch goes bad, the furnace won’t shut down and the heat exchanger will crack.
With this in mind, you can see why our initial DIY fixes include changing the air filter and opening the supply vents.
If the furnace tries to turn on multiple times before stopping for awhile, the problem is probably a soot-covered flame sensor rod.
So what is the flame sensor rod? And why does it being covered in soot cause short cycling?
Well, the flame sensor rod is a safety device designed to detect a flame in your furnace burners. If it does not detect a flame, it shuts the gas valve.
Now, normally, this is a good thing for you because if it didn’t shut the gas valve, your furnace could fill your home with gas. And one well-lit match could cause an explosion.
But if the flame rod gets covered in soot, it can’t accurately tell if there’s a flame or not, so it shuts the gas valve, even if there is a flame. And no gas means no flame, which means no heat for you.
Solution: Clean the flame sensor rod. Since this isn’t an easy DIY job, we suggest calling a professional.
Note: If you have an older furnace with a pilot light, the problem is similar, except the flame sensor is over the pilot light, not the furnace burners.
Has this short cycling problem been ailing you for years? Or did you just get a new furnace? If you said “Yes” to either of the above, the problem may be that the furnace isn’t sized properly for your home.
You see, furnaces are like shoes: They have to be sized just right or you’ll have problems. For example, an oversized furnace will heat the home too quickly, causing it to turn off and on too often.
If this is your problem, you have a few options depending on how old your furnace is: