How Long Should Your AC Run During the Day?

How long should your AC run on a daily basis during the hot summer months in Arizona? This is a common question that HVAC technicians often hear from their customers. The answer is more important than you might think. If your AC isn’t running properly, the motors will break faster and the entire unit will die prematurely. That means you’ll have to deal with getting the central air conditioner replaced sooner than you otherwise would have. Keep reading to find out exactly how long you should keep your AC running throughout the day.

How long should your AC run?

During the peak temperatures in the summer, a central air conditioner should run all day long. Many people assume that it’s better if the AC turns itself off and on frequently throughout the day. It’s often thought that this will reduce energy usage and utility bills. However, this is actually not a good thing. Frequently shutting off the AC and turning it back on again is called “short cycling.”

What exactly is short cycling?

In order to understand short cycling, it can be helpful to have a basic understanding of how your cooling system works. A central AC unit uses a refrigerant to cool the air. The compressor is one of the main components of the AC. It’s responsible for circulating the refrigerant. This enables the refrigerant to travel through the condenser.

A cooling cycle refers to the period when the compressor is turned on and is actively circulating refrigerant. Short cycling occurs when the cooling cycle gets much shorter than usual. In other words, the compressor turns off and turns back on again rapidly. The answer to “How long should your AC run?” is “all day long.” If the unit keeps shutting off and turning back on again, you’re going to have some serious problems with premature wear and tear of the compressor.

Why is my AC short cycling?

There are a few possible causes of short cycling. One of the major culprits is having a central AC unit that is improperly sized for the home. One of the most common misconceptions about air conditioning is that the bigger the unit, the better—regardless of the size of the house. In fact, an oversized unit will result in short cycling.

Are there any other possible reasons for short cycling?

Yes, there are a few other possible reasons for short cycling. When you schedule an HVAC service visit with a certified technician, he or she will evaluate all the possible causes in order to recommend the most effective solution. One of the simplest causes is a dirty air filter. When the AC’s air filter gets clogged, it has to work harder to push air through. In addition to the short cycling, a dirty air filter can also cause the home to not feel as cool and comfortable as it should. Dirty air filters can lead to premature wear and tear of the fan, indoor coil, and electrical system.

Another possible reason for short cycling is a refrigerant leak. If your system is low on refrigerant, it can overheat. This can trigger the unit to shut down and then restart again. Note that an AC will not naturally lose refrigerant over time. If you have low refrigerant levels, then you have a leak somewhere that the technician will need to locate and fix.

Lastly, it’s possible to have a short cycling air conditioner due to a frozen or dirty evaporator coil. This is typically a problem for people who do not schedule a routine maintenance visit every year. If the evaporator coils are frozen or dirty, they will be unable to effectively remove heat from the home. This will cause your AC to malfunction and shut itself off.

Why is short cycling problematic?

Short cycling is problematic because it wears out the system prematurely. The repeated shutting off and turning back on will lead to motor malfunctions. You’ll likely need to pay for major repairs to your system or replace it altogether. Short cycling will also decrease the efficiency of your AC, which will increase your energy bills. Plus, your home simply won’t be as comfortable as it should be.

What should I do now?

You should call a certified HVAC technician as soon as you notice short cycling, or if you still have doubts about how long your AC should run. The technician can check your system for frozen evaporator coils or other possible causes of short cycling. He or she can also do a heat load calculation to determine if the AC is improperly sized for your home. Lastly, the technician can do an air balancing test. This will reveal whether your ductwork could have leaks. Once the technician figures out exactly what’s going on, you’ll receive personalized recommendations to fix the problem.

If you still aren’t sure how long your AC should run or if your unit is short cycling, call our HVAC technicians to request a service visit. Intelligent Design in Tucson, AZ is known for superior customer service and personalized guidance. You can reach our friendly office staff at (520) 462-1187