How Long Should Heat Pump Stay Off Between Cycles?

San Rafael

(415) 942-6565

Santa Rosa

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Heat Pump Cycle Basics:

Heat pumps are able to bring a comfortable temperature into your home by either moving through a heating or cooling cycle where they pull warm air from outside and send it throughout your house or pull warm air from the home to the exterior. Rather than run continuously, they go through cycles so that they can bring a comfortable, desired temperature and humidity level to your home. If they do run constantly, this will expel an enormous amount of energy and consequently raise your utility bills. Frequent cycling can also be an indication of internal problems with the heat pump.

Inverter technology is part of what helps heat pumps with their energy efficiency. Most other HVAC systems are forced-air systems, but heat pumps operate by detecting the temperature within your house and adjusting the output accordingly for both heating and cooling modes. How does inverter technology influence heat pumps? It will save you from using a large amount of energy to heat your home since the heat pump cycles only a necessary number of times according to the temperature requirements it analyzes. But how often should a heat pump cycle?

How Often Should a Heat Pump Cycle?

Your heat pump should only go through 2-3 cycles per hour. The specifics will vary based on the type of heat pump you have and the size of the interior space, but they typically should not have to run more than this if they are working properly and should have a period of about 10–20 minutes in between cycles where it shuts down. The heat pump should shut off when it reaches the temperature set on the thermostat.

In this article, we will look at the warning signs of short cycling in a heat pump, why your heat pump may be cycling more than is necessary, and how to troubleshoot to make it cycle less and save on rising energy bills.

Heat Pump Short Cycling: Warning Signs

If a heat pump has short cycles, it means the unit runs through cycles very quickly, shutting on and off at rapid intervals. It can be due to several factors, such as a refrigerant leak or the heat pump not being the correct size for the home, therefore putting stress on the heat pump components. Heat pump short cycling is especially alarming in pleasant weather since a heat pump could possibly run more frequently in extremely freezing weather. But day-to-day operation for a heat pump should be the regular 2-3 cycles within an hour.

Among the red flags to watch out for are unusual, loud noises that could indicate the inner gears are struggling to keep up with the demand of the heat pump cycle. Another sign is uneven cold and hot patches within your home. This suggests that the heat pump is unable to distribute temperature evenly to all areas of the house. And of course, your energy bills drastically rising could mean that the heat pump is exerting an uncommonly large amount of energy trying to run efficiently.

Why Your Heat Pump Cycles More Than it Should

When your heat pump cycles beyond the typical number of cycles per hour, that means it is not operating in the efficient way that it should, causing more energy to be used unnecessarily and at a greater cost to your energy bills. There are a few different possibilities for why your heat pump might be malfunctioning this way. Some problems can be easily remedied yourself, and others will require a professional to have a look at your system.

1) Blocked Air Filter

A clogged air filter will restrict airflow and therefore prevent the heat pump from being able to circulate the air properly. Air filters can become filled with debris that creates a blockage so that the system begins to malfunction, leading to things like short cycling. It is recommended that air filters be changed regularly.

2) Thermostat Error

If the thermostat is malfunctioning, it could be giving an incorrect reading to the heat pump, resulting in a short heat pump cycle length when it is unable to reach the desired temperature. The heating or cooling performance will suffer from a thermostat’s faulty wiring, or even if the thermostat is placed near a window or vent, which could affect the reading.

3) Refrigerant Leaks

If there is leaking refrigerant, this will make it extremely difficult for the heat transfer process during the cycle, whether transporting the heat into or out of your home. Refrigerant leaks can be identified if you see ice on any part of the outdoor unit.

4) Faulty Control Board

The control board is what can control which mode the heat pump is in: heating, cooling, or defrost. So if the board that powers the heat pump is damaged or malfunctioning, that can most definitely cause it to begin short cycling since it might not know which cycle to be on or which temperature to aim for.

5) Wrong Size Unit

If you have an oversized or undersized unit, this can cause the heat pump to not be able to distribute the appropriate amount of cold or warm air. In this case, it would make more sense to replace the system. If you do not have an HVAC technician conduct the proper calculations in order to install the correct-sized unit, you risk having an improper system installed that could possibly need to be replaced shortly after if short-cycle problems start to happen.

How To Make Sure Heat Pumps Cycle Less

Heat pumps are highly efficient systems that, when installed in the correct manner, will lower utility bills and keep your home comfortable at its maximum level. Sometimes people put these units in homes that may not be the best equipped for the high-efficiency units. It is important to take a look at your building as a whole before installing one of these units.

Heat pumps move heat from one place to another, in contrast to burning a fuel, like propane or gas, to heat your home. Because of this, output temperatures are higher on fossil fuels than heat pumps in the home. If your home is inefficient, the system will struggle to reach temperature, causing heat pump short cycles. Here are some of the causes of short cycling in your heat pump system.

Change The Air Filter:

A dirty air filter can be extremely problematic for your heat pump.In order to maintain sufficient airflow, be sure to regularly change out the air filter in the unit so that it does not become overly clogged with debris and restrict the flow of air that will make your heat pump run.

Check Thermostat Position:

Some thermostats have a temperature sensor in the unit. Be sure that your thermostat is not near any window or vent that might disturb its readings and help your heat pump stay at the proper heat or cool level without short cycling.

Test Refrigerant Levels:

This is definitely an item to call a professional to check for you. To make sure you do not have a leak, see how your coolant levels are doing. If they are low, it is possible you have a leak somewhere, since you should not have to replace the coolant. Too much or too little refrigerant causes the unit to run improperly.

Insulate Walls, Attic, Slab And Crawlspace:

If you have an adequate amount of insulation to help keep air from escaping your house, it can save the heat pump from trying to keep up with the rapidly disappearing air by running more often and using a greater amount of energy. This insulation can be located in both the walls, attics, or even around slab foundations.

Insulation is one of the cheapest ways to improve energy efficiency in the home. If you buy fancy equipment and put it in an inefficient home, you will still see high utility bills. Take the proper steps to insulate and improve building efficiency before upgrading to a heat pump.

Seal Ductwork:

There is a large amount of energy from heat pumps that could be lost due to holes in the ducts, letting hot and cold air escape and therefore forcing your heat pump to exert more energy in an attempt to keep your home warm or cool. Most homes see leakages in the range of 20–30%. Double check your ductwork and make sure to seal any holes right away so that you can have your heat pump run without losing air. There are also internal duct repair options like Aeroseal to bring your duct leakage down to about 2%.

Keep Up On Maintenance And Upgrades:

All of the above can fall into this category.A wide variety of HVAC maintenance can be performed yourself, but always be sure to have regular checkups from an HVAC professional as well. An experienced technician will be able to look at all aspects of your HVAC system and will make sure your heat pump operation continues smoothly without the danger of leaks or malfunctions.

John Owens Services are HVAC professionals who can provide maintenance or repair for heat pumps that will get your unit working at optimal performance and prevent things like short cycling. To help make sure you don’t increase energy consumption with your heat pump when heating or cooling your house, you can call on our specialists, who can inspect your system and make sure everything from the indoor fan to the evaporator coil will function properly and that your heat pump turns on at the correct number of cycles per hour to improve your indoor temperature.

Heat pumps are designed for energy efficiency, going through a heating or cooling cycle depending on cold or hot weather and using inverter technology to provide an adequate amount of heat or cool air without over exertin-. But to operate efficiently and avoid things like short cycling, heat pumps will require regular care and maintenance, as well as double-checking that things like leaky ductwork or clogged air filters are not hindering their performance. There are many ways to perform quick checkups yourself, but it is always recommended to have a qualified professional take a look at your system regularly as well to ensure that your home’s heating or cooling mode is always running smoothly.

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(415) 942-6565
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(707) 452-3464



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San Rafael
(415) 942-6565
Santa Rosa
(707) 452-3464