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Troubleshooting Your Furnace: Why It Keeps Turning On and Off

By March 20, 2024June 5th, 2024General

Our team of dedicated professionals has proudly served as Wichita’s premier HVAC experts for over three decades, offering top-notch service and expertise since 1988. At Fenix, we’re more than just a heating and cooling company – we’re your trusted partners in ensuring your home stays comfortable year-round.

If you’ve ever found yourself perplexed by your furnace turning on only to shut off moments later, you’re not alone. This common dilemma can leave homeowners scratching their heads for solutions. But fear not! In this guide, we’ll delve into the potential reasons behind your furnace’s erratic behavior and provide you with expert tips and tricks to try before seeking professional assistance. From our family to yours, let Fenix Heating & Cooling be your guiding light in navigating your furnace woes and ensuring your home remains cozy and inviting throughout the seasons.

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A typical furnace will run three to eight heating cycles every hour; on average, these cycles will last 5 to 15 minutes. These cycles will vary depending on things like the temperature outside, the size of your home, the type of furnace, insulation, etc. If your furnace is turning on and turning back off after just a few minutes or starts more than eight times an hour, this is referred to as short cycling and is something you definitely don’t want to ignore. If left uncorrected, this will cause your furnace to struggle to heat your home, increase your energy bills, and put unnecessary stress on your system.

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Let’s dive into the 11 common reasons your furnace is turning on and back off shortly after.

  1. The first common reason your furnace turns on and back off quickly is a lack of airflow that a dirty air filter can cause. When there is not adequate airflow through the system, the heat exchanger will frequently heat up and turn off when it has reached its maximum temperature, causing your furnace to turn off. If you haven’t recently changed your air filter, do a visual inspection and change if necessary. The air filter traps dirt, dust, and other debris and can block the airflow through your system if not routinely changed. Replacement every 90 days is the recommendation for a household free of allergies or pets and 60 days (or less) for households with pets or allergies.
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  2. The next thing to check to ensure that your furnace doesn’t turn off for lack of airflow is your vents. You might have closed some of the vents in the past and forgotten to re-open them. You will also want to visually inspect the vents to ensure there are no foreign objects or debris blocking the airflow through the vents. It’s always best to keep all vents open to prevent any damage to your system from overheating. If you think there may be damage to your system, don’t hesitate to contact the experts at Fenix – we’re always happy to help! Give us a call at (316)945-4842.
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  3. A dirty blower wheel is another likely culprit for your furnace turning on and back off too quickly due to airflow issues. The blower wheel has blades that are designed to push the air from your furnace to the vents. If these blades become dirty, it won’t work as efficiently or sometimes at all. Routinely changing your air filters will ensure that dirt doesn’t build up on these blades. One of our licensed technicians would happily help you with this repair –
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  4. If your furnace is still turning on and quickly back off, your thermostat is the next place to check. A furnace turning on and back off too quickly can be a sign of a malfunctioning or broken thermostat. Several things can cause your thermostat not to work properly. If your thermostat needs new batteries, it will often malfunction. It’s also a good idea to do an inspection of the wiring to your thermostat to make sure they are not old and needs replacement. Lastly, a thermostat that has been placed too close to a heat source (like direct sunlight or a heat register) can skew the temperature reading and cause the thermostat to turn on and off irregularly. If you are concerned about old wiring or would like to relocate your thermostat, call Fenix at (316)945-4842, and we’ll send out an HVAC technician to get you taken care of.
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  5. A dirty or broken flame sensor is the next likely culprit for your furnace’s short cycling. The flame sensor is in place to detect the flame and signal the gas valve to open. If there is no flame or if the sensor is malfunctioning, it is a safety feature that will turn off the gas valve to keep gas from leaking into the house. The system will shut down and restart when this gas valve turns off. You can access and try to clean off the flame sensor or call in the professionals at Fenix if you don’t feel comfortable or if you think the sensor needs to be replaced. Call us anytime at (316)945-4842. First, make sure you turn off the gas to the furnace and then remove the front panel, where you will find the ignitor or ignition sensor near the burners. If the sensor or ignitor is dirty, you can remove it carefully with a screwdriver and gently clean it – be careful not to break it. Once cleaned, replace it back how you found it, put the front panel back on, turn on the gas, and then turn your furnace on.
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  6. Another possible cause of your furnace turning on and off quickly is an issue with your furnace blower motor. The purpose of the furnace blower motor is to circulate the warm air throughout your house. It’s rare for the system to run still when the blower motor is off, but it can happen, and this would cause your furnace to short cycle. When the furnace is running, check to see if air is coming out of your vents. If there is no air or minimal air coming out of the vents, you likely have an issue with your furnace blower motor. Routine system maintenance can ensure that these parts of your furnace are properly maintained and will minimize issues such as this. We offer our HVAC Maintenance Protection Plan for affordable twice-yearly maintenance to keep your system running efficiently –
    Protection Plan Service Program
  7. Another thing to check if your furnace is short cycling is your flue pipe, otherwise known as your exhaust vent, which can be found on your roof. Debris, such as dirt, sticks, leaves, or a bird nest, could block the vent. If this becomes blocked, it will cause hot gases to build up in your furnace, causing it to overheat. Your furnace is equipped with another safety feature that will shut your furnace down if it is overheating. Checking to ensure there are no obstructions to your flue pipe routinely is a great way to avoid these potential issues.
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  8. A faulty pressure switch is another common cause of your furnace turning on and back off after a few minutes. The pressure switch is in place to close with the airflow from the draft inducer motor through the burner to indicate that combustion is safe. If your switch is defective, it will not let the system know that ignition is safe to continue. If this happens, the ignition will be paused after just a few minutes, and the furnace will then turn off. If you have a multimeter, it can help you determine if there is an issue with your pressure switch.
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  9. Like the pressure switch, the inducer motor is another part of your furnace that can become faulty and cause your furnace to turn off after just a few minutes. The draft inducer motor draws air into the burner and pushes it out the flue, as well as bringing in enough air to allow the pressure switch to close and activate the ignition process. If this part becomes defective, it won’t let the pressure switch close to ignite the furnace, and it will ultimately shut the furnace off after a few minutes.
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  10. Believe it or not, you can have too big of a unit for the size of your home, which can cause your furnace to short cycle. When the unit is too big for your house, it will heat your house too quickly and then turn off abruptly. When your home becomes cool again, the cycle will repeat. In this instance, the only resolution to this problem is to replace the unit with one that is appropriately sized for your home. If you need a new, properly sized system, call the experts at Fenix Heating & Cooling at (316)945-4842. We take the time to ask questions about your needs and are expertly trained to ensure we help you select the best unit for you. We offer a variety of financing options and can find a payment plan that works for your budget – 3 - Troubleshooting Your Furnace: Why It Keeps Turning On and Off
  11. There are a handful of other reasons that your furnace might be turning back off just minutes after it’s turned on that will require a call to the professionals at Fenix. Our HVAC technicians undergo continuous training to diagnose and quickly fix any issue that may arise with your furnace, so call us today to get you back up and running – (316)945-4842!
    • Control board failure
    • Overheating heat exchanger
    • Damaged fan limit switch
    • Rust or corrosion to the system due to water damage

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As we wrap up this blog post, we want to express our sincerest gratitude to you for joining us on this journey of furnace troubleshooting. At Fenix Heating & Cooling, our commitment to excellence has guided us for over three decades as Wichita’s trusted HVAC experts since 1988. We understand the importance of a warm and comfortable home, especially during the colder months.

Whether you’ve successfully resolved your furnace issues with our expert tips or find yourself still in need of assistance, know that our team is here for you every step of the way. Give us a call anytime at (316)945-4842. From our family to yours, thank you for allowing us the opportunity to serve you and ensure your home remains a haven of warmth and comfort. Until next time, stay cozy, Wichita!

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Trust the Fenix Comfort Heroes to rescue you from your HVAC problems. Don’t wait until the first day of winter to discover your furnace is not working! Turn it on today. If it’s not running properly, contact us and we’ll work to get your system fixed before the first frost.

Join the Fenix Protection Plan Service Program today! You’ll receive some nice benefits, like 20% off all parts and labor and having the peace of mind to know that your HVAC unit is being serviced by the best comfort specialists in Wichita!

Visit our showroom to see all our trusted products on display at 802 West 2nd St., just across from Wichita’s new library, or give us a call at 316-945-4842.

Be sure to check out our current promotions to get the best deal on meeting your comfort needs!