How Long Should AC Stay Off Between Cycles?

Nobody enjoys a heatwave. When the summer heat arrives, people depend on their air conditioners for a comfortable indoor environment.

Once you turn on their AC unit, your home cools down in a matter of moments. The amount of time it takes to cool down your home depends on the type of air conditioner you have and your home’s size.

Knowing your air conditioner’s cycle is important because it gives you a good idea of how it’s running. An AC in poor condition likely won’t cool down your house very well and cause your electricity bill to rise.

If your AC is running efficiently, how long should it stay off between cycles? On hot days, most AC units will stay off for 7-10 minutes between cycles.

How Air Conditioners Work

We love our air conditioner units in the summertime because they can remove the hot and humid air from our homes. It kicks that stuffy air outside and replaces it with cooler air. Most air conditioners can do this with a chemical called refrigerant and 3 important components:

  • Compressor
  • Condenser Coil
  • Evaporation Coil

To get cool air, these 3 components work together to change the refrigerant from gas to liquid and then back to gas. There is also a fan inside to help blow the cool air out, allow cool air to circulate the indoor area.

What is the Ideal Cycle Time for an Air Conditioner?

If you have the right size of air conditioner unit for your home, then the ideal cycle time will be between 15-20 minutes. It should run 2 or 3 cycles every hour when turned on. However, the current weather and the temperature you have the AC set to play a part in how often it will cycle and how long it will last. 

It’s normal for AC cycles to last longer than their average cycle during heatwaves. Another thing to know is that the type of air conditioner you have may affect how long it cycles. This is because the energy-efficient AC units have a longer runtime. They are more efficient at removing the humidity and regulating the indoor temperature.

Should My AC Compressor Cycle On and Off?

Yes, your air conditioner compressor should cycle on and off on its own. If everything is in good condition, your AC should cycle approximately 2 or 3 times an hour. If the AC compressor cycles on more than 4 times in an hour, it could be due to short cycling or another internal problem.

Once you turn your air conditioner on and set the desired temperature, it will do the rest to keep your home cool. To prevent itself from burning out, the AC operates in cycles.

How Long Should an Air Conditioner Run?

This all depends on how hot it is. Your AC was designed to keep your indoor space sufficiently cool during the summer months. When those heat waves strike, and the temperature is unbearably hot, you may need to run the air conditioner all day long to stay comfortable. 

It is okay to run an air conditioner unit all day, as long as it only runs on 15 to 20-minute cycles. For those days that are so hot that it feels like you could fry an egg on the pavement, the cycles may be a little longer for the AC to keep up with the extreme heat.

It’s not abnormal for the AC to have long cycles on a really hot day, make sure this isn’t happening on the mild days. When the days aren’t as humid, it should run on shorter cycles if the AC is in good condition. 

How Do Heat and Thermostat Affect Air Conditioning?

Many people don’t think about it, but if your AC unit is part of your HVAC system, your thermostat affects the air conditioning. If you have a portable AC or a window air conditioning unit, then your HVAC’s thermostat won’t affect how it’s operating. 

A faulty thermostat could lead to uneven cooling for the ACs that are part of the HVAC system. If the thermostat has been miscalibrated or has a poor connection to the air conditioning, it will likely not work efficiently. Most people notice that their AC will run in shorter cycles and won’t cool down the spots furthest from the unit.

What to Do to Prevent your AC from Short Cycling

Short cycling is never a good sign because it could cause your AC to wear out and completely malfunction. If your AC is kicking on for cycles that last 10 minutes or less, then it’s a sign that the unit is short cycling. There are several reasons why short cycling could occur, including not enough refrigerant or poor thermostat placement.

Luckily, short cycling is preventable. Here are some ways that you can prevent your AC unit from short cycling:

Change the Filter

A dirty or clogged filter can cause a lot of different problems for air conditioners. Preventing short cycling is just one of the many reasons you should make sure you’re using a clean filter.

Change the Thermostat’s Placement

It’s important to make sure the thermostat is placed inside the home, preferably in a central location. It should never be placed near a return air vent because the cool air surrounding that vent will likely result in incorrect readings.

Check the AC Refrigerant Levels

It’s a good idea to trust a professional HVAC technician to check the refrigerant level and take a look for any leaks. They will also be able to fill up the refrigerant in case the unit was running low.

Call the Professionals

If you have tried all the above suggestions and the air conditioner is still short cycling, you may need to call the HVAC specialists. The short cycling could be a result of a problem with the compressor or control switch. Both of these problems require a replacement as the solution. 

When it comes to replacements, they are always best left to the professionals. Your local HVAC technician should be able to fix the problem and provide the necessary advice to keep your air conditioner running smoothly every summer.

Final Thoughts: How Long Should your AC Stay Off Between Cycles?

How long should your AC stay off between cycles? On a hot summer day, you can expect your air conditioner to run more frequent cycles. This means that your AC will likely stay off for 7 to 10 minutes at a time. If it’s not very hot, the air conditioner could stay off for a longer period of time. 

If you notice that it’s kicking on more frequently but not running the cycle for a very long time, then it’s likely that the unit is short cycling. When your AC stays off for less than 7 minutes each cycle, it may need to be looked at by an HVAC specialist if the article’s suggestions don’t work.