For What Length of Time Does an Air Conditioner Cycle?


Heating and air conditioning equipment can be complicated to keep running well. You may not even know there’s a problem if you’ve just moved or have had a new system installed. However, A/C cycles can be a good indicator of whether your system is up to par.

An air conditioning cycle refers to the time the unit is running in order to cool your home. Unless your thermostat is set to “fan on” (which you DON’T want to do in the summer), there will be times when your A/C unit isn’t running – and that’s normal. You can consider any time your equipment is running to be part of a cycle.

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Consider the following A/C cycling issues:

Short Cycles

These can point to big problems, especially when a cycle starts just a few minutes after the previous cycle has stopped. If your air conditioning system is only running for 10 minutes or less, multiple times per hour, this can cause permanent and irreparable damage to the compressor, which is the heart of the system.

While this could also be a sign your air conditioner is sized incorrectly for your home (in this case the air conditioner is too large), chances are that isn’t the problem.

Instead, call a qualified technician to check out your system. Common air conditioning problems such as dirty coils, electrical issues, drain blockages and thermostat errors can cause run times that are too short.

Long Cycles

Long cycles can be problematic too. They can be a sign your heating and cooling system is too small for your home, or the ductwork is improperly sized or sealed. Long run cycles will also make your utility bills go through the roof!

Long cycles can also point to a number of issues such as dirty filters, low refrigerant (freon or puron) levels in the system.

However, extremely high outdoor temperatures (95 °F or higher) and high humidity/heat index will cause longer run times in many homes as there is more heat coming into the home than the air conditioner can remove.

Cycles That Are Just Right

Ideally, a properly operating air conditioner should cycle for roughly 15 to 20 minutes, two to three times per hour.

If the temperature inside your home is very high, is much higher than the temperature that your thermostat is set at, or the outside temperature is very high, the run time will increase.

Also, while it may seem counter intuitive, more energy efficient heating and cooling systems will actually run longer than a standard system as they are designed to better regulate the temperature in the home and remove more humidity for increased comfort.

It doesn’t matter what time of day it is, or even what day it is. When your AC unit needs repairs right now, then our emergency HVAC technicians are ready 24/7 to help. If you have an AC emergency that just can’t wait, then call us to get the best emergency service in South Carolina.


5636 Bush River Rd.
Columbia, SC 29212
SC License – #M104545
NC License – #32356

Phone: (803) 794-5526