How Long Should AC Stay Off Between Cycles

An AC’s ultimate goal is to keep your home’s indoor environment as comfortable as possible. And to do so, the AC works in cycles, trying to achieve the optimal temperature as set on the thermostat.

The length of these cycles primarily depends on the thermostat setting, with very low temperatures demanding longer cycles than higher temperature settings. After every cycle, the AC stops for a while before restarting again to continue with its cooling process.

Now, our main question today is, how long should AC stay off between cycles? What is the optimal time length between the cycles?

Generally, a full cycle takes between 15 and 20 minutes. After this, the AC cools off for 7 to 10 minutes. This should happen at least 2 to 3 times per hour.

If your AC is behaving differently, you might be dealing with short or long cycling that needs to be corrected.

Short AC Cycle

To better answer the question, ‘how long should AC be off between cycles,’ it is crucial that we understand both short and long cycles.

A short AC cycle is also known as short cycling. It is an indication that something is wrong with your AC because the compressor keeps turning on and off in under 10 minutes.

Since we know a cycle should last between 15 and 20 minutes, it’s safe to say that 10 minutes is on the lower side.

Also, if the cycles are normal but the cooling period is less than 7 minutes, this should also be cause for alarm.

Causes of Short Cycling

  • Lack of enough refrigerant in the AC can cause short cycling. Unfortunately, it can also cause other issues, such as ice buildup in the AC unit.
  • Thermostat issues can also cause short cycling. If the thermostat is not set well or it is placed poorly, it will trick the AC into thinking that it has to start after a short time.
  • An extra-large AC can cause a short cycle because of the need to maintain a particular temperature.

Tips on Preventing Short Cycling

Unclog your air filterUnclogging your filter can help you to prevent short cycling as your system gets ample airflow. Remember to clean or replace your air filters regularly.

Place your thermostat correctly – It is advisable to place your thermostat in a central location so that it can register the right temperatures and not confuse the air conditioner into making short cycles.

Monitor your refrigerant level – Always make sure that your refrigerant level does not go too low. You can do that by inviting a technician to inspect your air conditioning unit at least twice a year.

Replace a faulty compressor – A faulty compressor is one of the most common causes of short cycling. Always do regular servicing of your air conditioning unit so that any problems with your compressor can be addressed.

Long AC Cycle



A long AC cycle means that your air conditioning unit takes up to an hour to go off. Also, it shouldn’t take too long, more than 10 minutes, to restart.

If your AC is long cycling, you will also need to get your unit checked.

Downsides of a Long AC Cycle

Waste of energy – Long AC cycles might keep your home cool but are a waste of energy. You will realize that your energy bills are always high.

Damage to the system– An AC that is always running will also damage the system. If the system is always running, it puts stress on all the parts.

Causes of a Long AC Cycle

Wrong thermostat setting – This happens when the thermostat is set at low temperatures. At low temperatures, your AC will always be working overtime to keep up with the cooling needs. The solution is to raise the thermostat temperatures by a few degrees.

Dirty coils – Dirty coils lead to the overworking of the AC. It is advisable to do regular servicing so that a technician can clean the dirty coils.

Extremely hot temperatures – Sometimes, when the temperatures are hot, your air conditioning unit will work continuously. This is not something that you can control, so you have to wait for them to stabilize.

Aging AC – If your air conditioning unit is more than 10 years old, then you are likely to experience some issues. One of the issues is a long cycle as the unit tries to keep your home cool. If you have been using your AC for more than a decade, it is time to start preparing for a new one.

Factors that Affect AC Cycle

Now that you know how your AC operates, the trick is to make sure that the cycles are not too long or too short.

Keeping optimum cycles will help you avoid high energy bills and also the need to keep repairing your AC frequently. If you want to avoid long or short AC cycles, it is important to learn the factors that affect the AC cycle.

The Temperature of the Area

If you live in an area with very high temperatures, you are likely to experience long AC cycles. Your air conditioning unit will be working overtime to compensate for the high temperatures.

Condition of your Air Conditioning Unit

The condition of your air conditioning unit matters. If you have an old or damaged unit, then you are likely to experience short cycles. The best way to deal with it is to do regular servicing of your air conditioning unit. Always make sure that you invite an AC technician at least twice a year to avoid problems.

Quality of your Air Conditioning Unit 

It is always advisable to buy a good quality air conditioning unit. When buying an AC unit, buy one that has energy-saving features. Fortunately, most of the modern units work efficiently, so you will not have problems with long and short cycles.

So, how long should AC stay off between cycles? Between 7 and 10 minutes after every cycle is ideal. The trick is to avoid very long or short cycles.

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