At certain times of the year, the weather can be a real mixed bag, and on some days, you won’t know whether to heat or cool your home. When the temperatures are fluctuating rapidly, you may want to change your HVAC system quickly to compensate. But, many people are concerned about using their HVAC system in this way and wonder if it’s safe. Let’s take a detailed look at this issue to help you make more informed decisions.
Will Switching Damage My HVAC System?
No, it’s fine to switch between your air conditioning and heater. But, there is a right and wrong way to make this change, and there are some things that you need to bear in mind. Although you want to keep your home comfortable, you don’t want to drive up your energy bill or place your HVAC system under strain. If you overwork your heating and cooling equipment, it can lead to an expensive repair bill or even an unexpected system replacement.
6 Steps to Switch from Cooling to Heating Safely
If you want to switch from using the air conditioner to heater and vice versa, follow these six simple steps:
- Always Set the Thermostat to the “Auto” Setting
When your thermostat is set to the “On” setting, it will run continuously. This will waste a lot of energy which drives up your utility bill, and it can really add up over an entire year. Another aspect of using a thermostat in this way is that it places extra strain on the fan, which can lead to a failure. It’s a better idea to set the thermostat to the “Auto” setting, which means that it will automatically shut-off when the desired temperature is reached. This is a more efficient way to use your HVAC system, and it reduces the energy use and wear and tear on your heating and cooling equipment.
- Set the Correct Temperature
We all want to maximize our indoor comfort, but we don’t want to pay high energy bills. These two positions may appear to be incompatible, but you can keep your home at a comfortable temperature without breaking the bank. According to the Department of Energy, there are two optimal temperature settings for summer and winter that you can tweak slightly to meet your needs.
Summer: A temperature of 78ºF should keep you cool during the waking hours, and you can raise this a little when you’re sleeping or out of your home.
Winter: Around 68ºF should be enough to keep you warm when you’re awake, and you can lower this by a few degrees when you’re sleeping or away from home.
- Allow the HVAC System to Complete the Cycle
If you need to make a change from cooling to heating or vice versa, don’t do it when the HVAC system is running the current cycle. It’s a better idea to wait a short while until the cycle has completed to avoid strain on the equipment. When the current cycle finishes, turn the thermostat to the “Off” position and wait for around 5 minutes. Then you can turn the HVAC system back on and choose the new heating or cooling cycle as required. This is a gentler and more efficient way to make a drastic change.
- Adjust the Temperature Gradually
When you turn on your HVAC system to change the temperature in your home, it will have to overcome the current temperature fluctuation. The larger the temperature difference that the system needs to overcome, the more energy it will consume. So, it’s a good idea to maintain your indoor temperature at a consistent level to balance your need for comfort with your energy use. But, this isn’t always easy when you want to switch between cooling and heating or vice versa. Many people make the mistake of cranking the temperature to get the home cooled or heated faster. The better method is to make minor adjustments by a few degrees at a time. This will cool down or warm up the home slowly, but it will place less strain on your HVAC system and save energy.
- Avoid Short Cycling
Short cycling is when you make rapid changes to the thermostat to make your home cooler or warmer quickly, as shown above. When rapid temperature changes are made at the thermostat, it could cause the HVAC system compressor unit to lock up. Avoiding short cycling is simple, keep the thermostat off for 5 minutes after the system finishes the cycle and shuts down, as we mentioned earlier. This five minute pause is important because it allows the pressure of the refrigerant to equalize. Once this period has passed, you can start the next cycle safely.
- What if the Compressor Locks Up?
If you do start the HVAC system under pressure, the compressor may lock up. At this time, the AC system will have drawn a higher than normal amp rate from your electrical system. This may cause a fuse to blow, or a breaker may have tripped. Some modern air conditioner units have a built-in timer that will prevent this type of short cycling issue. If you have a digital thermometer, it may also have a built-in delay as a safety feature. Another possible cause of a compressor lock up is a dirty air filter which should be inspected and cleaned at least once per month. Once you’ve replaced a fuse or reset the breaker, the compressor may unlock. If you’re having continuous problems with your compressor, it’s time to contact your local certified HVAC specialist.
As you can see, there are some potential issues that can be caused if you make quick changes between heating and cooling. The main risk is short cycling because it can place your heating and cooling equipment under considerable strain. This may lead to an expensive repair bill because the compressor unit is one of the most expensive components in the entire HVAC system. But, if you make gradual adjustments and follow the guidelines above, it is safe to switch between heating and cooling and vice versa.
If you’re experiencing problems with your HVAC system or you want to arrange some maintenance, contact your local certified heating and cooling specialist today.