How Long Should My AC Stay Off Between Cycles?

How long should my AC stay off between cycles? Air conditioning units go through cycles as they cool your home. Most homeowners just forget about their AC cycles until they experience a problem. 

Ensuring your AC stays off for the optimal amount of time will increase energy efficiency and protect your AC from unnecessary wear and tear. With that in mind, the team at Maximum Comfort Heating & Cooling is here with this guide on AC cycles. 

Send us a message online today to discuss air conditioning repair in east San Diego!

How Long Should Your AC Stay Off Between Cycles?

As a general rule of thumb, your AC should turn off for about seven to ten minutes after each cycle. The typical AC cycle lasts between 15 and 20 minutes, depending on your thermostat settings. If your AC stays off for less than five minutes, it could indicate an electrical problem. 

What Is an AC Cycle?

Each AC has a cycle, which is the amount of time it takes to cool your home. Your AC will run until indoor temperatures are at the desired level, then shut off. Once your thermostat registers a temperature difference, it will turn back on. 

ACs shut off when they finish cooling to conserve power. Assuming typical AC usage, your AC should cycle about two to three times an hour. Running in these cycles is more efficient than continuously and puts less stress on your system.

What Causes Short Cycling?

If your AC cycles more frequently than three times per hour, that is called short cycling and could indicate a problem with your HVAC system. Short cycling is a result of the AC compressor causing the AC to turn off before it completes the cooling cycle. Other issues that are known to cause short cycling are:

  • Low refrigerant fluid
  • AC filters are dirty
  • Coils are frozen
  • Pressure control switch is malfunctioning
  • Compressor is broken
  • Thermostat is faulty

What Is Long Cycling?

Long cycling, as the name implies, is your AC running for much longer than usual. A long cycle occurs when your AC is continuously active for more than 40 minutes. Just like short cycling indicates a problem, long cycling may also be the result of AC issues. Common reasons for AC long cycling include:

  • Low refrigerant
  • Dirty AC filters
  • Electrical malfunctioning
  • AC is drawing too much current
  • Bad compressor

What Happens If Your AC Doesn’t Cycle Properly?

The main problem with improper cycling is it can put a large amount of strain on your system. With short cycling, the constant turning on and off of the system works the compressor harder, increasing the chance it will suffer a breakdown. Short cycling can also significantly increase your energy bills because it uses more energy to turn the system on than to keep it running for 20 to 30 minutes. 

The story is similar with long cycling. Long cycling puts strain on your HVAC system, raising your energy bills and increasing the chances of mechanical failure. Additionally, long cycling carries the risk of overheating your AC, which can cause electrical fires in certain circumstances. 

How to Stop Improper Cycling

Improper AC cycling can cause significant problems down the road. You can fix improper cycling through one of the below methods. 

Recalibrate Your Thermostat

Your AC unit takes cues from the thermostat to turn on and off, depending on the ambient temperature. If your thermostat calibration is incorrect, it could be telling your AC to shut off because it’s registering the wrong temperature. 

Your thermostat may be registering the wrong temperature due to its placement. Your thermostat should be on a flat section of the wall at least five feet from any windows or doors. If changing thermostat placement doesn’t work, you may need to replace the machinery.

Change Air Filters

Short cycling is often a result of insufficient airflow. Because airflow is so low, the AC can’t vent excess heat and ends up overheating and shutting down prematurely. Replacing the air filters restores proper airflow, allowing the unit to vent heat exhaust. 

Clean Your Coils

Dirty coils are another major cause of improper AC cycling. As dust builds up on coils, they are less effective at heat transfer. The result is they cannot cool the air, and the system might overheat. Cleaning your coils keeps them free of dirt and grime so they can properly do their job. We recommend hiring a professional to clean your AC coils at least once every six months to a year. 

Repair/Replace the Compressor

The compressor is the main component that tells the AC when to turn on and off and is what starts the main cooling cycle. If the compressor is broken, it can tell the AC to cycle at inappropriate times, and your AC may not be able to blow enough cool air. A broken compressor might also produce grinding and scraping noises when the AC kicks on, so you can diagnose it from the sound. 

Replace Your AC

If all else fails, the problem might be your AC unit. As AC units age, they are less able to handle the electrical and mechanical loads they used to. General wear and tear make your system less efficient and more likely to shut off in the middle of a cycle. 

If your AC is over 20 years old, you should consider getting a new one. Aside from fixing your cycling problems, a modern Energy Star-rated appliance will improve interior comfort and significantly lower your annual cooling costs

Heating & Cooling Services in San Diego

Now that you know the answer to “How long should my AC stay off between cycles?” contact an expert. Maximum Comfort Heating & Air Conditioning has over a decade of experience serving San Diego homeowners.  We can make sure your AC is running properly and keep your comfort level high!

Contact the professionals at Maximum Comfort Heating & Air Conditioning online or dial (619) 949-2483 to schedule an appointment for AC installation!