Can switching between heat and cool ruin your air conditioner?

In Southeast Louisiana, the first few months of the new year can be difficult on your home comfort level. Daytime highs may hit near 70 degrees, humidity can rise, and the sun may shine directly on your home on a clear day, meaning you may need to turn on your air conditioner to keep your home cool and dry. At night, cool fronts can often come in unexpectedly or temperatures may drop by as much as 20 degrees, sometimes making your home too cool for comfortable sleep at night. As a result, many homeowners may begin switching back and forth, sometimes within the same day, between heating and cooling cycles on their central air conditioning system.

A question we often hear from concerned hoemowners is: will this switching back and forth damage my central air and heat system?

Though this might seem like a real possibility, we can confidently tell you to relax. In general, switching back and fourth between heating and cooling modes won’t cause any issues with your central air and heat. To be fair, it may put extra strain on your electricity and/or natural gas bill because you’ll be running your system more often, but it won’t really harm the system itself.

It is worth noting, though, that sometimes switching your system on and off too quickly can cause your system to shut off. This is called “short-cycling”, and it can cause the fuse or circuit breaker in your system to trip for the outdoor condensing unit.

This is a mistake many people make, actually. If you switch off your system and then immediately switch it back on, whatever the reason, the compressor can, sometimes, lock up due to a high pressure start up condition. When this happens, your system will draw a very high amp rate, which, of course, can cause a breaker or fuse to blow.

Now, this “short-cycling” issue is becoming more and more rare as many systems today have built-in “Anti Short-Cycle” timers, and some digital and “smart” thermostats, like the popular Nest thermostat, have built-in time delays to prevent this from happening. As a good practice, though, smart thermostat or not, you should always get in the habit of letting your thermostat sit without running for a least 5 minutes after it shuts off before you start another cycle. This will ensure you don’t accidentally trip a breaker or blow a fuse.

If your system does shut off, though, first try checking the fuses or breakers at the main electrical panel in your house. You should also check the outdoor disconnect (usually a small electrical-panel-looking box near or on your outside unit); some systems have a separate breaker outside that may need to be checked. If, after you have checked the breakers and/or fuses and determined that isn’t the issue, you should probably give us a call, as the problem may be more complex and might require expert assistance.

The good news is, no matter what, our technicians are skilled professionals you can trust. Not only have we been in business for forty years, but our techs are also given continuing education to guarantee they have the knowledge and training to provide our customers the best service available.

If your system is making you less than 100% comfortable and happy, give us a call – our goal is to make sure you are!