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How Often Should a Furnace Cycle in the Winter

A furnace does not turn on and off a specific number of times in an hour or day. If you find yourself wondering “How often should a furnace cycle in the winter?”, you have to consider a number of factors. Thermostat setting, external temperature, home insulation, and the presence of air leaks all influence how often a furnace runs. Normally, you might not pay attention to a furnace’s cycling activity. It just runs in the background as you go about your day. However, if your home starts to feel cold or your utility bill jumps, the furnace could be malfunctioning.

If your furnace has not been tuned up for over a year, then it needs maintenance. Furnaces are built to last up to two decades as long as they receive annual maintenance. They are precise machines that have to run reliably for several months in a row. A maintenance plan from Oliver ensures that your furnace is tuned up prior to the heating season. Preventative maintenance saves money by promoting efficient operation and protecting equipment from premature failure.

Before calling a technician, you can investigate whether your furnace is cycling too often or not enough. Excessive, very short cycles, or failing to cycle indicate a problem. It could be a minor thing that you can clear up right away. Otherwise, you’ll need help from a professional to complete repairs. If you live in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, or Delaware contact the experts at Oliver today. We’re more than happy to answer all of your questions.

ToolsHow Often Should a Furnace Cycle in the Winter

  • Watch
  • Thermometer
  • Pen and paper
  • Flashlight
  • Screwdrivers
  • Hex driver or wrench
  • Steel wool
  • Paper towel

Calculating How Often Should a Furnace Cycle in the Winter

  1. To get an idea of how often your furnace turns on and off, start a log.
  2. Record the date, time, and external temperature.
  3. Over the course of an hour or longer, track how many times the furnace comes on.
  4. Note the duration of the cycle.
  5. Record your home’s internal temperature.
    • An instant read thermometer from the kitchen will easily detect your internal temperature.
  6. A problem, like cycles lasting under one minute, may become immediately apparent.
  7. If the cycling does not seem overly short, collect data for a few more days.
  8. Normally, as the external temperature decreases, a furnace will have to cycle more because it is battling the cold.
  9. When you evaluate your data, compare cycling activity to the external temperature. A day with more cycles that is colder than a warmer day with fewer cycles would be normal.
  10. Next, look at what you recorded for internal temperature. Was the furnace reaching the temperature that you set on the thermostat? If not, then something is wrong.
  11. Get a flashlight to inspect the furnace. You may need a screwdriver or hex driver to open panels.
  12. First check your furnace filter. You should change the filter during the heating season every one to three months.
  13. If the filter looks really dirty, it could explain why the cycling has been strange and inefficient and you should immediately replace the filter. This could improve furnace operation.
  14. While inspecting the filter, open the main access panel on the furnace.
  15. Use the flashlight to find the label with the furnace’s mechanical specifications. You want to find its BTU figure. It would be something like 60,000 or 100,000 BTUs because furnaces come in different sizes.
  16. Note the BTU output of the furnace and then find out the square footage of your home.
  17. A furnace that is too big or too small for your home will have an abnormal cycling function. Your home probably never feels comfortable due to inefficient operation.
  18. Many online resources describe how to match a home’s square footage to an appropriate number of furnace BTUs. You can also call Oliver at 1-888-810-2681 with the information and ask for a professional furnace installer’s opinion.
  19. If the furnace size is a mismatch for your home, then you should consider furnace replacement. A furnace of the wrong size will never make your home comfortable. It will drive up utility bills and be prone to breakdowns.
  20. If the BTUs are a good fit for your home, you may want to check the flame sensor. This sensor shuts down the furnace if no flame ignites during the release of gas. A furnace that shuts down within seconds of activating could have a dirty flame sensor. Over time, dirt and dust buildup can prevent it from sensing flame.
  21. Shut off the electricity to the furnace at its dedicated circuit.
  22. Remove the main access panel.
  23. In the absence of an electronically controlled gas valve, turn the valve to shut off the gas supply.
  24. The flame sensor is a thin metal rod by the flame assembly.
  25. Remove the screw holding the sensor.
  26. The sensor will slide out.
  27. Gently rub off the black dirt or soot on the metal rod with steel wool or fine grit sandpaper.
  28. Wipe off dust with a paper towel.
  29. Reinstall the flame sensor.
  30. Restore power to the furnace and turn it on. If dirt had been interfering with the flame sensor, then cleaning it should fix the short cycling.

Get a Quote for Your Furnace Repair or Replacement Services

Many other issues could be causing your furnace to malfunction. A bad thermostat could be the culprit, but old age is also often an issue. Furnaces don’t last forever. They can ultimately become unsafe due to leakage of carbon monoxide or other fumes. You can depend on the team at Oliver Heating & Cooling for safe and effective furnace repair and replacement services. We work throughout the Delaware Valley and at the Jersey Shore. Contact us today with your furnace concerns.

Need help with this project?

If you do not have the time, tools, or experience necessary to complete the project, please contact the professionals at Oliver for help.

Contact us today at 1-888-810-2681 Get a Free Estimate