How Often Should Furnace Cycle in Winter


Furnaces work by turning on and off.  When the furnace turns on, it sends hot air through your ductwork and out into your home to warm up your house, and then when the thermostat senses that the temperature is at its set point, the furnace shuts off until the temperature drops again.   This process repeats over and over throughout the day.  This period of blowing heated air into your ducts is known as a cycle, followed by a blow period. In this article, I will discuss how often should furnace cycle in winter.

How Often Should Furnace Cycle in Winter

Why Be There May Too Many or Not Enough Cycles Occurring by Our Furnaces?

While many of us are enjoying the winter months, there is a group that dreads it. It’s the furnaces! Furnace cycles happen more frequently in winter because they have to work harder to keep up with the extreme heat loss. Too little heating or cooling can also cause more frequent furnace cycling. This brings about 3 things which are cold spots, freezing pipes, and higher energy bills.

4 Reasons Why Furnace Cycles Happen More Often:

1. House Temperature Is Unstable –

To give you a change between hot and cool air, your furnace must quickly turn on and off when necessary. For every cycle, this causes wear and tear on your system because while there’s cold air coming out of the vents, the furnace is heating up simultaneously. It’s a constant struggle to keep your home comfortable, which can be slightly more noticeable in winter because it gets so cold outside!

Why Furnace Cycles Happen More Often

2. Dirty Blower Filter –

A dirty blower filter prevents air from flowing through the vents and creates resistance, making your house feel too cold or hot when you try to control it. The dirtier it is, though, the stronger this effect becomes and will cause longer cycles and more frequent cycling.

This not only makes you uncomfortable but increases wear on your system. Your filters should always be clean (or changed completely) every 3 months for regular maintenance!

3. Frequent Use of Appliances –

When you turn on any appliance that utilizes hot air for heat (like the dryer or furnace), you’ll find that your house will only feel comfortable again after more cycles occur. Hotter air is escaping through the vents, which means your system must work harder to continue cooling it down to a comfortable level.

4. Energy Star Compliant Appliances –

When you have new appliances installed in your home and are energy star compliant, it requires additional features of your HVAC system to keep up with the demand and maintain comfort in your home. This can result in longer heating and cooling cycles as well as frequent cycling.

A Few Things That Cause Too Little Cycling Include:

1. Living Closer To Work/School –

Noticing just how much closer you live to work/school than some of your friends? They probably cycle a LOT more in the winter. Google Maps has some interesting information on this, which I’ve used to find out that I live about 3 miles closer to work/school than the national average, and it will reduce my cycling by ~30%.

2. Going To Work or School At Different Hours –

If you go to school at 08:00 and leave at 17:00 each day, chances are you’re not going through the warmest part of the day. The same thing goes for going to work between 8 and 5 (assuming Eastern Time). This doesn’t just apply when commuting home from work.

When I started working from home this year as Senior Technical Support Engineer at Buffer,  I noticed that I didn’t go through a single furnace cycle in January. Even though I was at home, my workplace was so much warmer than the apartment above it that there wasn’t any incentive for my heat to turn on.

3. Using (or Not Using) Your Window Air Conditioner –

If you’re using your window air conditioning unit to cool your house down, chances are you aren’t making your furnace work as hard. You’ll also get fewer cycles than someone with central air because each room being cooled off contributes to keeping another room warm instead of giving all the heat generated from one room to another.

On the other hand, if you don’t have central air and are relying solely on fans or open windows, then you’ll be throwing a lot of heat right out.

How Often Should Furnace Cycle in Winter?

How Often Should Furnace Cycle in Winter

Furnaces are designed for cycling on and off throughout the year, but in cold weather especially, it is vital that the furnace cycles only when needed.

When a central heating system is installed by a professional, follow-up from a quality service company can make all the difference in winter comfort for you. However, if your heat pump or furnace has been subjected to a lack of regular maintenance over the years, this can lead to excessive cycling, which results in insufficient heat being distributed throughout your home as well as higher monthly energy bills.

In addition, in most cases, an older furnace is constantly running because it is improperly sized. This causes discomfort for every person who lives in the home or office and will result in expensive utility bills due to the inefficient operation of furnaces that are not sized correctly.

If you notice that your furnace is cycling more than usual, the first step in solving the problem would be to ensure it is sized correctly. If this does not alleviate the situation, contact a professional for an inspection and tune-up.

Your service professional will be able to determine if your heat pump or furnace has been improperly maintained and take corrective action as necessary. Always make sure your equipment is properly serviced every year before winter begins to prevent future problems.

If your heat pump or furnace is not sized properly, it will operate more often than necessary. This results in a higher level of discomfort and an increase in energy bills. When the temperatures outside drop below freezing, your home’s temperature will rise as much as 20ºF above that set by your thermostat.

If your heating system fails to turn on when needed in this instance, then you may feel freezing until the furnace cycles on again. A properly sized unit will maintain even temperatures throughout your home so you can be warm no matter what the temperature outside is.

The best way to prevent over-cycling of your heating unit is to have it inspected and serviced by a professional who knows how to match your heating unit with the size of your home.

Precautions While Cycling a Furnace in Winter

Precautions While Cycling a Furnace in Winter

Before cycling a furnace in Winter, you should pay attention to the precautions listed below: Below is some of the steps that need to be followed while cycling a furnace during winter. First, before starting any work on your furnace, make sure that no electricity supply flows inside the switchboard.

If it still has power present, then cut off the switchboard using an “A” frame or a wire(which may damage your wall). After checking if the current supply has been cut off from the power board and that no one will turn it back on by mistake (for example, when cleaning the house), unplug all electric appliances.

The next step will be opening up your air ducts. This is done to avoid any chances of an explosion in case of hot air suddenly flowing throughout the ducts. Therefore take precautionary measures to open up your ventilators on time so that an explosion does not occur.

Next, try to check if there is a leakage in any part using a lighted candle or match stick, after which you can fix it with the use of some heavy-duty patches and cement.


I hope this article has been beneficial for learning how often should furnace cycle in winter. Thank you and have a nice day!

We will be happy to hear your thoughts

Leave a reply

DIY Quickly