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How Long Should AC Stay Off Between Cycles?


The primary function of an air conditioner is to maintain a comfortable space by keeping your house cool, especially on hotter days. An air conditioner will run in cycles to get the room to the ideal temperature you set the thermostat.

After each cycle, an air conditioner will turn off for a short period before switching back on to resume its cooling operation. Therefore, how long should AC stay off between cycles?

We will help you understand how an AC unit works and its operating cycles. Keep reading to learn more in this article.

How Long Should AC Stay Off Between Cycles?

Cooling cycles should occur at least two or three times per hour and last 15 or 20 minutes per cycle for a properly operating air conditioner system. The outside temperature and the temperature settings determine the cooling cycle duration of a healthy air conditioner.

On extremely hot days, the thermostat will make an air conditioner run longer because long AC cycles enable an air conditioner to carry and release more heat outside.

On warm days, an air conditioner cycle need not be as long unless the thermostat setting is on an extremely low temperature. Setting the temperature too low harms air conditioners and can lead to high energy bills.

What Does an Air Conditioner Cycle Mean?

An AC cycle means how long an air conditioner runs to cool your home. It’s normal for an air conditioner to turn on and off, especially when it’s hot outside. A cooling system is on a cycle as long as it is running.

The thermostat significantly affects an AC cycle time. The thermostat temperatures and actual temperature inside are distinct. In that case, the cooling cycle will last longer to match the inside temperature to the set temperature.

Furthermore, a higher thermostat setting will result in a shorter cooling duration. An air conditioner unit will turn off between cycles.

What Do Short Cycles in an Air Conditioning System Mean?

A short AC cycle is also known as short cycling. It is a sign that something is wrong with your air conditioning system if the compressor of your air conditioner turns on and off in less than ten minutes after its previous cycle.

Given that a cycle should last between 15 and 20 minutes, it is safe to state that 10 minutes is below average. In addition, if the cycles are normal but the cooling period is less than seven minutes, this is also cause for concern.

A short cycle happens when blown cold or warm air fails to travel far and quickly returns. It occurs when there is an obstruction to airflow near the vents. Temperature is measured at the suction port of an air conditioner to determine if the set temperature has been reached. It immediately releases warm or cold air.

As a result of short cycling, the temperature sensor stops functioning completely. The compressor repeatedly leads to an air conditioner turning on and off. The system receives a small amount of cool air each time it does.

Reasons for Short AC Cycles

  • Insufficient refrigerant in your air conditioning system can cause short cycling. However, it can also cause other problems, such as ice deposits in an air conditioning unit.
  • Problems with the thermostat can also cause short cycling. If the thermostat is incorrectly set or installed, it will trick an air conditioner into believing it must begin operating after a short period.
  • Maintaining a particular temperature can cause an extra-large air conditioner to have a short cycle.

To avoid short cycles, have an AC technician put in a fresh air filter or clean the dirty filters for proper airflow and check the electrical systems for any problems.

What Do Long Cycles Mean for Air Conditioners?

While short cycling is one of many possible issues with your system, a long AC cycle implies that your air conditioner can take up to an hour to shut off. In addition, restarting should not take longer than 10 minutes. If your air conditioner is long cycling frequently, you must also have your unit inspected.

An air conditioner with long cycles operates for an extended period and rarely stops between cycles. It typically indicates multiple system issues, including dirty air filters, inadequate cooling system size, and a refrigerant leak leading to a low refrigerant level.

Additionally, an unbearably hot day could cause an AC to run for extended periods because more heat and humidity invade the home than the cooling units can handle. As a consequence, utility bills will increase.

Long AC cycles also have some drawbacks. The first disadvantage is energy waste. Long cycles may keep your home cool but also waste electricity. You will notice that your energy expenses are consistently high. Second, the system can be damaged. When the system is always running, it stresses all of the parts.

Reasons for Long Cycles

Here are some common reasons for long air conditioner cycles:

Incorrect Thermostat Settings

This can happen when the thermostat is set to a low temperature. Your air conditioner will always work extra hard at low temperatures to keep up with the cooling demands. The remedy is to adjust the thermostat by a few degrees.

Dirty Coils

Dirty coils can cause an AC to overwork. Regular servicing is recommended so that a specialist can clean the dirty coils.

Extremely High Temperatures

Occasionally, your air conditioner will run nonstop at a higher temperature. You have no control over this. Therefore, you must wait for them to stabilize.

Aging AC

If your air conditioner is over ten years old, you will likely experience some problems. A long cycle while the unit tries to keep your home cool is one of the difficulties. If you’ve had your air conditioners for over a decade, it’s time to consider replacing them.

Have a qualified HVAC technician look for signs of leaking refrigerant and low refrigerant levels. Request that they recalibrate the thermostat and replace or clean the air filter. Describe the issues you have been experiencing with long or short cycles.

What Factors Influence the Cycle Times of an AC System?

Let’s look at the common causes of an air conditioner turning on and off frequently:

Size of the Room and AC Unit

If the outdoor unit is situated in a small space or an area with weak airflow, the heat created by the unit is sucked in again and heat exchange does not work, resulting in a short cycle.

When this occurs, the compressor restarts and the exterior fan stops working simultaneously. It limits heat exchange between the indoor and outdoor units, causing the room temperature to rise.

Placement and Setting of a Thermostat

Many people are unaware that the placement of their thermostats influences long and short cycling times. An HVAC specialist would prefer to place the equipment at the home’s central location. Otherwise, the thermostat may receive false readings, causing it to turn on.

Leaking Refrigerant

The refrigerant levels in your AC unit have an impact on its performance. Overheating occurs as a result of low refrigerant, resulting in short cycling. A lack of refrigerant also inhibits the system from cooling the house adequately.

Outside Temperature

If the temperature outside is too high for the thermostat to match the programmed temperature, an AC unit must run longer. If the outside temperature is low, an AC unit will only work quickly to reach any set temperature.

How Many Hours Can AC Run Continuously?

The answer to this question can vary depending on several factors, such as outside temperature, the size of your home, and your individual preferences.

Nevertheless, as a general rule, you can expect your air conditioner to operate for approximately 8 hours daily during the summer. Depending on the specific circumstances, this estimate may be higher or lower, but it should serve as a decent starting point.

How Long Should It Take for AC to Turn Off?

A properly functioning air conditioner should turn off for at least 15 to 20 minutes in one cycle before turning back on and cooling the space.

Should I Turn My AC Off Periodically?

There’s no clear answer to this question because it depends on many things, like the type of air conditioner, the temperature it’s used in, and how well it’s taken care of. But as a general rule, most air conditioners should be turned off for at least eight hours daily. This break gives the unit a chance to start over and keeps it from working too hard, which can cause it to break down.

However, most energy-efficient air conditioning systems use less energy to sustain cool air and your desired temperature when turned on all day. If you want to save money and avoid high energy bills, choose the method that doesn’t require more energy.

Should I Turn AC Off if Leaving for a Few Days?

The answer to this question depends on the energy required to remove heat from the home. Multiple factors come into play, including the quality of your home’s insulation, the local climate, and the type of air conditioner you have. The more effectively your residence is insulated, the less heat will enter during the day. It can reduce an AC’s workload. Additionally, humidity and system type have an effect.

The most energy-efficient air conditioning systems do not always result in the most significant energy savings. In addition, various factors can affect your particular situation. However, the typical answer is yes.

Turning off an air conditioner for eight hours will save energy regardless of the system type. Four hours of inactivity has produced varied results. Depending on the humidity and the system, it could result in minimal energy savings or require slightly more energy than if it were to run continuously.

Final Thoughts

When you look up how long should an air conditioner stay off between cycles, you will see that the standard period of a healthy air conditioner runs from 7 to 10 minutes. Although the cycles span 15 to 20 minutes, some AC systems have long cycles while others experience short cycles.

Should your air conditioner stay off for an extended period, it’s better to consult an HVAC technician. Having a professional inspect and service your AC system once a year is an intelligent idea.

JP Reyes

JP has been in the aircon industry for almost as long as he has been alive. As a child JP would help his tatay fix aircon units at their junk shop in Cavite. After graduating UP in the early 2000's, JP then started his own Aircon servicing business and within 5 years had 10 shops in 8 different cities. Fast forward to today and JP brings all his experience and expertise online to give readers trustworthy advice and reviews about Air-conditioning buying, servicing, cleaning and repair in the Philippines.

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