How Long Should AC Stay Off Between Cycles?

how long should ac stay off between cycles

How long should your AC stay off between cycles? Most AC units run in cycles to achieve the optimal temperatures based on thermostat settings. Unfortunately, in most cases, homeowners don’t keep track of the time between their AC cycles unless they suspect a problem.

Each cycle’s length depends on the thermostat settings. Once the AC completes a cycle of about 15 and 20 minutes, it should remain off for 7 to 10 minutes. This helps it cool off before starting another cycle. The stops happen 2 to three times per hour.

Understanding AC Cycles

The two common AC cycles are short and long. The short cycle happens when the AC runs for less than 10 minutes and turns off, which could indicate a malfunction. Although the cycles should last between 15 and 20 minutes, less than ten minutes is abnormal.

Long cycles mean your air conditioner can run for an hour without stopping. However, there could also be a problem causing the long cycles, so hire a professional to inspect your machine. Even with long cycles, the system should take 7-10 minutes to restart.

Causes of Short Cycles and How to Prevent Them

A short cycle mainly indicates a problem with your air conditioner. However, it could be due to dirty and clogged air filters. These reduce the effectiveness of your cooling system and could shorten the operating cycles.

Low levels of refrigerant are another reason for short cycles. But unfortunately, it can also reduce the system’s effectiveness in cooling down the air in the room, leading to hot air being blown into the house.

To know why you are experiencing short cycles during AC inspections, check if the thermostat has any issues. For example, if it is not correctly set or placed poorly, it will send the wrong message to the AC to start after short durations.

How to Prevent Short Cycles

If you want to know ‘how long should AC be off between cycles’ but are experiencing short cycles, you should first learn how to prevent them. It helps your system function correctly. Some ways to prevent short AC cycles are;

     1. Clean and Unclog the Air Filters

Since dirty air filters are a significant reason for short AC cycles, start by unclogging them. You can wash the filters with warm water. Alternatively, you can replace the old and dirty filters with new and clean ones to ensure airflow.

     2. Check Your Thermostat Settings

Your AC’s short cycles could be due to poor thermostat settings or wrong placement. Ensure the thermostat is not installed on a wall directly hit by the sun. It should also be far from heating appliances to avoid inaccurate room temperature readings.

     3. Check the Refrigerant Levels

Your thermostat’s low refrigerant level could be due to leakage. To ensure there are no leaking parts of the air conditioner, hire professionals to inspect your system twice yearly. They will block the leaking points and top up the refrigerant levels.

Causes of Long Cycles and How to Prevent Them

The AC runs for about 15 to 20 minutes before switching off to take a 7-10 minute break, then switch back on. However, sometimes, your AC will switch off after an hour and rest for about 10 minutes before switching on again.

When this happens, it means that your HVAC is long cycling and it needs inspection. Long cycling keeps the home cool for a long, leading to energy wastage. It causes a rise in energy bills, which homeowners try their best to reduce.

Long cycles also cause damage to your system. Poor thermostat settings cause them. The thermostat gets the wrong temperature readings and sends a message to the AC not to shut down at the required time to keep the room cool.

Another reason for long cycles is dirty coils and too hot temperatures. They make the system overwork by working continuously. Although you cannot control hot temperatures, you should clean the dirty coils regularly.

Other Factors Affecting the AC Cycles

Once you get the answer to ‘how long should my AC stay off between cycles,’ you can easily monitor your machine. Then, call an HVAC expert to advise if there are any changes in your system.

Remember that these cycle lengths can damage the system or cause an increase in energy bills. Therefore, you must keep them at their optimum to avoid high energy bills. Some factors that affect the duration of your HVAC cycles are;

     1. Outside Temperatures

When the temperatures are too high, the AC stays on to cool the room. It will take longer to reach the set thermostat temperatures, leading to the long cycling of the system. Since you don’t have control over the outside temperatures, you must wait for them to stabilize.

     2. Age of the Air Conditioner

New air conditioners are well maintained, with clean and well-functioning mechanical parts. However, as the unit ages, the parts wear out and become less effective. This could result in long cycles in your AC since it runs longer hours to achieve the same job.

If your machine is too old, consider replacing it. You should also schedule yearly maintenance to check the condition of its parts. Consider also cleaning the vents and ducts for the system’s proper functioning.

     3. The Temperature Setting On the Thermostat

The settings you leave your thermostat on determine how long your AC cycles will take. For example, setting a too low temperature requires the system to run for longer to cool the home. This means that you could experience long cycles.

If the thermostat temperatures are high, there will be little time between the cycles because your home does not require a lot of cooling. These homeowners experience short but healthy cycles.

     4. Size of the Conditioner and Home

Your home’s size and that of the system affect the cycle durations. For example, a large system in a small house will have short cycles because it takes little time to cool the rooms. On the other hand, a small system for a small home could run for a longer time.

Final Words

When researching ‘how long should AC stay off between cycles,’ you will realize that the standard time is 7-10 minutes. However, although the cycles last 15 to 20 minutes, some AC experience long cycles while others experience short cycles.