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Serving Maryland, Virginia,
and Washington, D.C.

Serving Maryland and Washington, D.C.

Serving Fairfax and Loudoun
Counties and the surrounding area

24 Hour Emergency Services, 7 Days a Week


B&B Air Conditioning & Heating Service Blog

A Short-Cycling Heater: What Causes It, Why You Don’t Want It


You may never have heard the term short-cycling before, but you might have experienced it with your home’s heating system. If your heater only runs for a short time when it comes on—less than 10 minutes or so—then shuts down, only to turn back on again a brief time later and repeat the process, it’s short-cycling. For some reason, the heater has gotten caught up in its start-up cycle and is not running long enough to complete a full heating cycle. This is a malfunction and if it isn’t addressed it can create major problems for the heating system as well as your comfort and your bills.

Let’s go a bit further into short-cycling and what might cause it to happen, as well as what the consequence of this problem can be.

The Causes of Short-Cycling

There are many reasons for short-cycling to begin in a furnace, boiler, or heat pump. These are the most common:

  • Clogged air filter: For forced air-systems (furnace, heat pump), a clogged air filter can trigger short-cycling. We recommend checking the filter first and changing it for a clean one to see if this stops the problem. 
  • Miscalibrated thermostat: The thermostat regulates when the heating system turns on and off, and if the thermostat is not reading temperatures in the home correctly, it can lead to it telling the heating system to shut down before it should. 
  • Refrigerant leaks: This occurs in heat pumps when the copper lines develop corrosion. If you see the coils of the heat pump freeze over, then loss of refrigerant is the likely cause of the short cycling. This puts the system in danger and needs repairs ASAP.
  • Improperly sized heater: If this is a new heating system, then whoever installed it may have put in a system that’s too powerful for the space. This will cause the heater to raise the temperature so fast that it will shut down prematurely. The only way to fix this is to have the heater replaced—and to make sure a professional puts in an accurately sized system. 

The Consequences of Short-Cycling

No matter what is causing the short-cycling, it can create a series of problems:

  • Extra wear and tear: Constant starting and stopping for any type of machine places excess wear on it. For a heating system, this means more repairs and a shortened system life.
  • High bills: A heating system draws on the most energy at start-up. If start-up now takes up half of its running time, it will make a large and unwanted impact on your bills.
  • Poor comfort: When a heater isn’t staying on long enough to complete a heating cycle, it means not all the rooms will receive the level of comfort they should.

We can provide the heating repair in Rockville, MD necessary to get your heater back in the groove and finish those heating cycles. We offer efficiency, honesty, and integrity—all at a fair price.

Rely on B&B Air Conditioning & Heating Service for your heating needs in Rockville, MD, VA, and Washington, DC. We are always there when you need us.

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