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Wall Heating & Air Conditioning Blog

What a Short-Cycling Heat Pump Means


Whether it’s heating your home or cooling it down, your heat pump will always run in cycles. When the thermostat signals that heating or cooling is needed, the compressor will kick on and the heat pump will run until your home reaches the correct temperature. Then it will turn off, which gives it a resting period before the next time the thermostat signals it to start up again.

Short cycling is what it’s called when the heat pump’s cycles happen too frequently. They should occur only a few times per hour, and if they happen every few minutes, something is definitely wrong. What could be causing your heat pump to short cycle? Is it a serious concern? If so, why, and what should you do about it? We’ve got the answers for you.

Causes of Heat Pump Short Cycling

This is not a symptom that has one definite cause. There are several different things that can lead to short cycling.

  • The Air Filter: If the heat pump’s air filter is clogged, there won’t be enough airflow through the system. It will shut down much sooner than usual to prevent overheating.
  • The Refrigerant: A damaged and leaking refrigerant coil means insufficient refrigerant in the system. This makes the heat pump’s job harder to do, which can also lead to overheating and frequent shutdowns.
  • The Evaporator Coil: Sometimes, ice builds up on the evaporator segment of the refrigerator coils. This insulates the coil, preventing it from working properly.
  • The Thermostat: A miscalibrated or malfunctioning thermostat can send signals that don’t make a lot of sense! This can lead to the heat pump turning on and off when it shouldn’t.
  • The Wiring: Electrical problems can also result in inconsistent or incorrect signals being sent from the thermostat to the heat pump.
  • The Size of the Unit: If this has been happening the whole time you’ve had your heat pump, it could simply be that it is incorrectly sized for your home and the job it’s trying to perform.

Problems Caused by Short Cycling

This is not just a symptom of an existing problem. It’s also a cause of more problems! That’s why it’s so important to get prompt repair for heat pumps in Suwanee, GA that experience short cycling. 

The two most serious issues short cycling creates are high utility bills and strain to the compressor. Both are the result of the startup being the most energy-intensive, high-strain part of the cycle. Going through that process every five minutes instead of every twenty minutes uses a lot of electricity and adds a lot of wear and tear to the compressor, which is the most precious and expensive component of the heat pump.

What to Do When Your Heat Pump Short Cycles

Your first port of call should be the air filter. You can check yourself whether this needs to be cleaned (if reusable) or replaced (if disposable). You might be able to solve the problem right away with no need for repairs! Then, if there’s any ice on the evaporator coils, shut down the system and let it melt. Using a hair dryer to speed the melting is okay, but don’t scrape at the ice, because you could puncture the coils.

If these solutions don’t result in a heat pump with longer cycles, or if you find the ice on your coils builds right back up again, you need repair from a qualified technician. Whatever the cause of the short cycling, we’re ready to diagnose and repair it!

Reach out to Wall Heating & Air Conditioning, Inc. to make an appointment.

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