How to Stop Switching Between Heating and Cooling
We’ve all been there. In the early morning hours, it’s chilly, so you don a sweater or coat and head out, but by lunchtime, the heat has returned, so you either suffer and sweat in your warm clothes, or hopefully you thought ahead and have a short-sleeve shirt on beneath your layers. This is a common occurrence in the spring and fall, with temperatures continuing to drop and spike until Mother Nature makes up her mind.
Mother Nature may see the humor in temperature swings, but the rest of us don’t. So when you’re at home, you want the temperature to remain consistent and comfortable. However, those outdoor temperature swings often mean you’re inside switching back and forth between air conditioning and heating. What does this mean for your unit?
Along with this in-between hot and cold season, or “shoulder season,” there are a few problems that arise from switching back and forth from heating to cooling. These problems include:
- Moisture in your ductwork
- “Dirty Sock Syndrome”
- Compressor damage
Also, if you have a heat pump, your high-pressure safety sensor may go off.
An Ounce of Prevention…
Before considering potential problems, let’s address prevention. When outdoor temperatures fluctuate from hot to cold continuously, turn on your thermostat’s “Auto Changeover” feature (if it has one) and keep the temperature between 68-72 degrees. This will tell your system to switch between heating and cooling automatically while keeping the temperature in a range that prevents damage to your unit.
Moisture in Your Duct System
When the air conditioner was first came into existence, its purpose was to dehumidify the space it existed within. This is still your air conditioner’s primary purpose. It just so happens that dehumidifying your home will also cool your home.
While cooling/dehumidifying your home, your AC pulls about 12 to 18 gallons of water from the air daily. This water is collected from the evaporator coil. In the evening when the heat comes on, hot air is sent across your evaporator coil, which is likely still wet from cooling your home earlier that day. The hot air causes the water on the coil to evaporate, which makes your ductwork humid. If this continues long enough, the area around your unit becomes musty and moisture builds up in your duct system.
Dirty Sock Syndrome
It’s vital to change your air filter regularly to prevent dust and debris from collecting on your unit- particularly your evaporator coil. When dust and debris mix with moisture on your coils, bacteria and mildew begin to accumulate.
Then, when the heat comes on and blows hot air across the coils, water evaporates- but in so doing, the mildew bakes off and releases a dirty sock smell throughout your home. Prevent this by replacing your filters regularly and schedule preventative maintenance.
Causing Damage to Your Compressor
Most thermostats have an automatic five-minute delay built into the electronics. This means that before your AC unit will switch over to heat, the compressor takes a five-minute break. This time delay is important because it allows the unit’s refrigerant to return to its starting pressure. If the unit were to start too soon, the compressor could lock up, so the delay helps protect your unit. If your system does not have an automatic delay, protect your system by manually shutting your unit down from your thermostat for five minutes before switching between heating and cooling.
Don’t Set It Too Cold
During shoulder season, it can be tricky to find the right temperature to balance the hot days and cold nights. When you set your cooling point too low and the overnight temperatures drop, your evaporator coil may freeze over. This can stop your AC from working and damage the system. Avoid this by setting your temperature at or above 70 degrees.
Or Too Hot
If you have a heat pump and the heat is left on during the warmer part of the day, your high-pressure safety sensor may trip. Usually the sensor will auto-reset, but sometimes it doesn’t. If that happens, a professional must come reset it. This happens more commonly for people who like to keep their home between 75 and 80 degrees all the time. If your home is that warm and the outside temperature is close to that same range, it can trigger the high-pressure sensor. Prevent this by setting your thermostat below 75 degrees.
Set It Just Right
If you have an automatic setting on your thermostat to switch between heating and cooling, you have the ability to set a temperature range instead of a set temperature, which you should take advantage of by set a range preferably between 68-72 degrees.
What this means is if you set your air conditioning to 72, your unit will begin to cool your home if it gets above 72 degrees. If you set your heat for 68 degrees, any time your home gets below 68, the heat will kick on. If you set both for the same temperature, or for too close of a degree, your heating and A/C will constantly be fighting each other to maintain an exact temperature and this can wear your unit out. So make sure you set your heating and cooling points at least a few degrees apart.
Make it Through Shoulder Season
Regardless of whether you like colder or warmer weather, it’s still tricky to find the right balance in your home when outside temperatures fluctuate. The key is to set your thermostat between 68 and 72 degrees to protect your unit as it switches back and forth between heating and cooling while keeping you comfortable at home! Want to ensure your heating and air conditioning unit are prepared for any weather thrown your way? Schedule your maintenance today!
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