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Last updated: 23rd November, 2023

Guides

Boiler Short Cycling - Fixes

Boiler Short Cycling - Fixes

Key takeaways

  • Boiler short cycling can reduce efficiency and potentially damage your boiler system.
  • Identifying common causes such as system clogs, faulty thermostats, or improper installation is crucial for addressing short cycling issues.
  • Implementing practical solutions helps fix short cycling, optimise boiler efficiency, and save on heating costs.

Our Boiler Short Cycling Fixes blog offers expert solutions and practical advice to address and resolve common boiler short cycling issues, ensuring efficient and reliable home heating.

Boiler short cycling is a common issue that can drastically reduce the efficiency and lifespan of your boiler system. 

It occurs when a boiler repeatedly switches on and off before the building has sufficient time to heat up, causing possible long-term damage to the boiler. Understanding the causes of this problem is essential to finding effective solutions.

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Various factors can lead to short cycling, including system clogs, faulty thermostats, or improper installation of the boiler. 

Taking active measures to address these problems can not only help fix short cycling but also improve the overall performance of your boiler, optimising efficiency and helping to reduce heating bills.

Understanding Boiler Short Cycling

Boiler short cycling is a common issue that occurs when a boiler frequently turns on and off during its operation. This undesired phenomenon reduces the efficiency of the boiler, often causing it to fluctuate between high and low firing rates. As a result, the boiler goes through repeated cycles of starting up and shutting down, leading to unnecessary wear and tear on its components.

One of the primary reasons for short cycling in boilers is the thermostat. When placed in a poor location or malfunctioning, the thermostat may not accurately detect the temperature, causing the boiler to react inappropriately. Furthermore, when the boiler's pressure is too high, it may also result in short cycling. An ideal pressure level is essential for the optimal functioning of the boiler.

Other factors that contribute to short cycling are air vents and steam traps. Poorly functioning air vents can obstruct the release of air, while malfunctioning steam traps prevent efficient steam circulation throughout the system. Consequently, these issues disrupt the boiler's smooth operations.

Boiler short cycling can cause cyclic stress on its mechanical components. The pressure vessel, for instance, may undergo fatigue due to the rapid heating and cooling cycles. Apart from affecting the equipment's longevity, short cycling can also lead to an increase in energy consumption and operational costs.

The Consequences of Short Cycling

Boiler short cycling can lead to a multitude of issues, affecting both the efficiency and the longevity of the boiler. One prominent consequence of short cycling is the premature wear and tear on boiler components. Rapid heating and cooling cycles place substantial stress on pressure vessel components, a phenomenon known as cyclic stress. This can reduce the lifespan of the burner components and eventually lead to premature failure.

In addition to the physical degradation of the boiler parts, short cycling can also negatively impact the efficiency of the heating system. When a boiler constantly starts and stops, it operates at less than optimal performance, leading to heat losses that ultimately increase heating bills. Furthermore, short cycling can diminish the overall effectiveness of the boiler, meaning it may not deliver the desired amount of heat to the spaces it serves.

Another factor to consider is the increased energy consumption associated with short cycling. With the boiler frequently turning on and off, additional energy is consumed during each ignition cycle rather than being used to maintain a continuous heating process. This contributes to higher energy usage and consequently higher heating bills.

Common Causes of Short Cycling

Short cycling in boilers is a common issue that can affect the efficiency and longevity of the system. While there could be various reasons behind this problem, some common causes include an oversized boiler, overheating, faulty thermostats, poor water chemistry, and inadequate system design.

An oversized boiler is a typical cause of short cycling. When the boiler is too large for the heating demand, it heats the space quickly, leading to frequent on-and-off cycles. This constant cycling not only lowers efficiency but also puts additional strain on the boiler's components, potentially shortening its lifespan.

Overheating can also lead to short cycling. When a boiler becomes too hot, the high limit switch might shut off the system to prevent any damage. In such cases, the boiler then cools and restarts, only to overheat again, resulting in a continuous cycle. Proper circulation of the system water is crucial to avoid overheating and short cycling.

Faulty thermostats could be another reason behind short cycling issues. When a thermostat is not working correctly, it might send incorrect signals to the boiler regarding the room temperature. This could cause the boiler to cycle on and off more frequently than necessary.

The water chemistry within the system plays a vital role in its smooth operation. If the boiler does not receive adequate time for hot water and chemical additives to disperse throughout the system before the next heating cycle begins, it may lead to corrosion within the internal components. This corrosion can negatively impact the boiler's performance, causing short cycling issues.

An inadequate system design might be a contributing factor to short cycling as well. Poorly designed systems might not provide the required water flow to the boiler or may have incorrect pressure settings. Such design flaws can lead to frequent cycling and reduced efficiency.

Identifying Issues with Your Boiler

When attempting to troubleshoot boiler short cycling, it is vital to consider various mechanical components that could be affecting the boiler's performance. One common issue is faulty gas valves, which can prevent the passage of gas into the combustion chamber and hinder proper ignition. To avoid irregularities, it is essential to inspect and replace faulty gas valves routinely.

Another essential component to check is the filter, as a clogged filter can impair airflow and restrict heat generation. Periodically cleaning the filter will help maintain optimum functioning. Moreover, examining your boiler's fan for any blockages, damages, or wear can be useful in ensuring proper airflow and avoiding short cycling.

The ignition system, which includes the internal thermostat and flame sensor, can also cause short cycling if any of its elements malfunction. Ensuring that the thermostat is calibrated correctly and the flame sensor is clean can help avoid these problems. Regularly inspect the internal thermostat for broken wires, while also monitoring the flame sensor for rust or soot build-up.

Additionally, it is crucial to check for leaks in the system since water or gas leakage can contribute to short cycling. Taking timely action to seal these leaks will prevent further damage to the boiler and improve its efficiency. Zone valves can also be inspected for proper functioning, as a faulty or stuck valve can obstruct the flow of hot water and result in short cycling.

Updating your out of date browser might be necessary if you are facing issues with your smart thermostat. An outdated browser can cause glitches in communicating with the smart thermostat, leading to irregularities in temperature readings and ultimately causing short cycling. Keeping the browser updated will ensure a smoother and more efficient operation.

When to Call a Gas Engineer

Boiler short cycling is a common issue that can lead to long-term damage if not addressed in a timely manner. However, before calling a gas engineer, it is essential to identify when their expertise is truly needed.

One clear sign that you should get in touch with a Gas Safe registered engineer is when you've tried simple troubleshooting steps and the problem persists. For instance, you may have checked the thermostat settings and attempted resetting your boiler, but the issue of short cycling continues to occur.

Additionally, it's essential to be vigilant for signs of potential component failure. Gas valves, in particular, are prone to wear and tear due to the constant start and stop operation of boilers. Should you notice irregularities or issues in the functioning of your boiler, contacting a professional right away can help you prevent further damage.

Your safety should also be a priority. If you ever smell gas or suspect a gas leak, it is absolutely crucial to turn off your boiler, open windows and doors, avoid using any electrical appliances, and immediately call a gas engineer to assess and fix the situation.

Ultimately, knowing when to call a gas engineer is essential for maintaining the efficiency and safety of your boiler. By keeping an eye out for persistent problems, signs of component failure, or potential gas leaks, you can ensure that your boiler remains in optimal working condition.

Practical Ways to Fix Short Cycling

Boiler short cycling is a common issue that affects the efficiency and longevity of your heating system. Implementing practical solutions can help you address this problem and maintain a well-functioning boiler. In this section, we will explore various fixes for short cycling, focusing on aspects such as modulation ratio, controls, modulation, and hydronic systems.

Firstly, it's essential to consider your boiler's modulation ratio, which represents the range between its maximum and minimum heat output. A higher modulation ratio equates to better efficiency, as the boiler can adjust its heat output to match the changing demands of your home. If your boiler has a low modulation ratio, consider upgrading to a model with a higher modulation range to reduce short cycling.

Next, evaluate and optimise your boiler's controls. Modern boilers often come with wireless controls, enabling you to control the temperature settings for each room individually. By incorporating thermostatic radiator valves (TRVs) on radiators, you can further fine-tune the heat output in each area. This allows your heating system to modulate down when necessary, preventing short cycling.

Moreover, underfloor heating presents a valuable alternative to radiators when controlling the water flow and heat output in your home. With a more consistent heat distribution, underfloor heating systems help maintain a stable water temperature, reducing frequent boiler shutdowns and restarts. By ensuring a balanced and well-regulated water flow, underfloor heating can alleviate short-cycling issues.

Hydronic systems, which use water to transfer heat throughout the house, could also benefit from regular maintenance to minimise short cycling. Ensure that your hydronic system has a consistent and smooth water flow by checking for any potential leaks, blockages, or trapped air. Promptly fixing these issues can improve the system's overall efficiency while mitigating the short-cycling problem.

Optimising Boiler Efficiency

When aiming to improve boiler efficiency, there are several factors to consider. Firstly, the efficiency of a heating system plays a crucial role. Adjusting settings that affect energy use is essential for optimum performance. For instance, lowering the flow temperature setting may increase a boiler's efficiency by 10% to 25%, contributing to decreased energy consumption and costs.

Maintaining a boiler regularly is imperative, as it helps prevent it from becoming less effective. Blocked air intake or exhaust vents can lead to incomplete combustion, reducing efficiency. Additionally, low water pressure forces the boiler to work harder, impacting its efficiency negatively.

Enhancing the heat exchanger's performance is another way to optimise boiler efficiency. Ensuring there is no buildup of limescale or debris is vital, as this may impede the transfer of heat between the heated water and the system pushing hot water to radiators or taps.

Proper insulation in and around the boiler is key to improving efficiency. By insulating hot water pipes, heat loss is minimised, saving energy and ensuring heated water is delivered more rapidly. It also prevents any temperature drops within the steam pipes, enhancing overall performance.

Lastly, preventing short-cycling is an essential optimization strategy. A boiler undergoes a purge cycle for safety reasons when there's a call for heating. This purge removes any remaining gases in the boiler before ignition, and when the boiler cycles off, the fan remains on to purge unused gases. Preventing short-cycling contributes to greater energy efficiency and more consistent performance.

By addressing these factors, it is possible to increase the efficiency of a boiler substantially, ensuring a more energy-efficient and cost-effective heating system.

Considerations for Boiler Replacement

When thinking about boiler replacement, it's essential to consider your options meticulously. A smaller boiler or a combi boiler might be more suitable for your needs, depending on your home's size and heating requirements. These options could reduce short cycling issues while still providing the necessary heat for your property.

Choosing the right heating system is crucial, as it can directly influence boiler short cycling. Furnace and HVAC systems might offer alternative solutions that better match your needs. Consultation with a professional can help identify the most suitable choice for your particular situation.

Implementing correct system design is another fundamental aspect to consider when replacing a boiler. Poor system design can result in trapped air, hindering heat distribution and ultimately causing short cycling. Adequate pipework, proper insulation, and flow management contribute to the efficiency of your new boiler installation.

Chemical additives are also worth considering, as they can help maintain your boiler's performance. By introducing these additives into the system, you can alleviate issues like air trapped in the heating system and prevent short cycling. However, it is essential to use them with caution and follow manufacturer recommendations.

New boiler Costs

Boilers can be a daunting purchase for many people as they’re an appliance with a lot of responsibility, providing heat for you and your family is something you want to get right. Boilers aren’t exactly a quickly disposable item either, potentially lasting you a decade.

Boiler costs can be split into two segments: the first is the actual boiler itself (unit price), and the second is the cost of the boiler being installed (set up) in your property by an expert engineer. 

Here at iHeat, we want to remove all of this undue stress and make the decision making process of upgrading to a new central heating system, as easy as possible.

Boiler costs can vary depending on a number of factors including their brand, model, fuel, output, warranty, labour and installation type.

Typically a new boiler will cost between £1,845 and £3,500, below is a list of average boiler installations offered by iHeat (intended as a guide only).

Installation Type

Price (inc VAT)

Combi to combi swap

£1,845

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System to combi conversion

£2,499

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New boiler install

£2,899

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Back boiler to a combi

£3,299

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System to system

£1,945

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Some location factors that can influence the price of your new boiler

You will be given a specific quote from the boiler installation company based on:

  • The type of home you have (i.e. terraced, semi-detached, etc.)

  • How many bedrooms you have

  • How many bathrooms you have

  • Your postcode and specific location

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Frequently Asked Questions

What would cause a boiler to short cycle?

Short cycling occurs when a boiler frequently turns on and off in a short span of time. This is mainly caused by an imbalance between the heat generation and the heat dissipation processes. Other potential causes include an oversized boiler, a faulty thermostat, poor system design, or dirty heat exchangers.

How do I fix my short cycling on my boiler?

To fix short cycling, first identify the cause. If it is due to an oversized boiler, consider replacing it with a properly sized one. If the thermostat is faulty, replace it. Additionally, ensure that the boiler's pressure vessel components and burner components are in good condition. If the heat exchanger is dirty, clean it to improve heat transfer efficiency.

Why does my boiler keep turning on and off so quickly?

Boilers that turn on and off quickly could be experiencing short cycling. This is commonly caused by the heat produced not being transferred and dissipated quickly enough through the heating system. Other potential causes include an oversized boiler, a faulty thermostat, or other issues with the system design.

Why does my boiler turn off after a few minutes?

If your boiler turns off after a few minutes, it may be short cycling or experiencing a malfunction. A faulty thermostat or flame sensor, an improper water level, or a blockage in the system can all cause a boiler to turn off prematurely. It is essential to diagnose and address the issue to prevent significant damage and inefficiencies.

How do I fix my boiler that keeps turning off?

To fix a boiler that keeps turning off, you should first diagnose the root cause. Issues that can be addressed include replacing a faulty thermostat, cleaning a dirty heat exchanger, adjusting the pressure relief valve, or ensuring adequate water levels. Hiring a qualified heating engineer is recommended to ensure a proper diagnosis and effective repair.

Stephen Day profile photo
Article by
Stephen Day | Co-founder
Gas Safe registered and FGAS certified engineer with over 20 years experience in the heating and cooling industry.