How Long Should an Air Conditioner Run?

Presidential Heating & Air Conditioning

Gaithersburg HVAC Contractors


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woman seeing how long her air conditioner should runIt’s not uncommon for many homeowners to wonder about their air conditioner from time to time, usually when their unit seems to be running differently or if they cannot achieve the temperature they want. Maybe your air conditioner does not seem to shut off completely or it seems to turn on and off too much. Whatever the reason, you are probably wondering if it’s working up to par, and when you should consider a replacement. In this brief article, we’ll review the factors that could indicate how long your AC unit will likely run and learn about when you should consider purchasing a new one for your home.


There are a few factors that will impact how long an air conditioner runs. Some of the most common include:

  • The insulation in your home
  • If there are other mechanical issues impacting its performance
  • The outside temperature
  • The size of the AC in relation to the size of your home

While each of these factors will have an impact on how your air conditioner runs overall, the best indicator is how your unit performs in hot (vs. cool) conditions. Learn how to assess your AC unit in these weather conditions below.

How an HVAC should work in hot weather

Your air conditioner will not work the same in hot weather as it does on cooler days, nor should it. Knowing this and being able to spot the differences in the operation of your unit can help you spot issues sooner and subsequently get it repaired if needed.

fixing an air conditioner to have a better run timeIn very general terms, your air conditioner should run in 15-minute intervals on days that are cooler and it should run almost continuously when it is particularly hot outside. That said, your HVAC unit works the hardest when it is the hottest outside. So, in the hottest month of the summer, your AC unit should be running almost all of the time without shutting off. This allows the temperate inside your home to be as close as possible to the temperature you have set on your thermostat. The AC unit works harder to reach the temperature you have set since it is so warm outdoors, making your unit run for longer periods of time.

If it seems like your air conditioner cannot keep your home at the temperature you have set on the thermostat, or close to it, that indicates an issue. Likewise, if it never shuts off during those hot days, even for a short break, that can also indicate an issue. The most common issues problems include airflow, mechanical issues somewhere in the unit, or a leak in the refrigerant. Sometimes the unit is simply not the right size for your home. If it cannot keep your house cool, it may just be too small or not powerful enough.

How an HVAC should work in mild weather

When the weather is cooler, your AC unit should not be running nearly as much as it does during hot summer days. On these days it might be easier to tell if your unit is running properly, as it should really only be running in cycles of about 15 minutes at a time, usually two or three times every hour. If your AC unit is running for a shorter period of time than that, it is probably too big a unit for the size of your home.

How to tell if your air conditioner is too small for your home

Having an AC that is too big for your home may not seem like a major concern, but it is. It can cause a slew of other unintended issues. If your AC unit turns off and on more times during the day it will be under more stress and wear out faster. You may have to replace it much sooner than you probably anticipated. Secondly, an air conditioner that is performing this inefficiently will not adequately remove the humidity from the air. While you might feel cooler overall, you are still going to feel the moisture in the air, which may be far more suppressive than the actual heat for someone with breathing problems.

Spotting an Issue

person letting their air conditioner runIf your air conditioner does not run properly, you should have it checked out before the issue gets worse. You also want to make sure you resolve any problems before the weather gets particularly warm and you cannot stand to be without your AC. If your air conditioner is having a hard time keeping your house cool or is having to run continuously to do so, you want to get it checked. On the flip side, if it is only running for ten minutes or less, you also want to get it checked.

Whatever the issue, we recommend Presidential Heat and Air. When you contact us, you can get a free air conditioning repair assessment. We can also help you if you have other questions related to how long should an air conditioner run. Perhaps you need very specific questions answered or have other issues that might be impacting the performance of your AC unit. Presidential Heat and Air can take a look and assess if you need a replacement or not.

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