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Why Is My A/C Running Continuously?

Does your air conditioner seem like it's running more frequently? This article will explore several factors determining how long your AC runs, why it may be running continuously, and how to get the most out of your AC unit this summer.

Why Is My A/C Running Continuously?

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Joshua Rodriguez


June 6th, 2023

Why is my AC running too long?!

We get this question a lot, and you’re probably here asking the same. Don’t worry; you’ve come to the right place. 

With the beginning of the summer season right around the corner, many homeowners are turning on their air conditioners for the first time this year. While our air conditioners provide us with a world of comfort, there are certain concerns around running your AC, like running continuously.  

In fact, 90% of homes and businesses in the United States have central air conditioning. On top of that, air conditioners make up about 6% of the total electricity produced and used in the states, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

That said, on some of our recent maintenance/ installation jobs, more customers are concerned about their residential AC and “feel like their air conditioner is running more than it should.” If this sounds like something you’ve been dealing with, this article is perfect for you.

In this article, we will uncover why your air conditioning unit may be continuously running this summer season, including:

  • How Long is a Typical Air Conditioning Cycle?
  • What Factors Determine How Long Your Air Conditioner Runs?
  • Common Reasons Why Your AC Is Overrunning
  • What Happens if My Air Conditioner is Continuously Running?
  • 5 Tips and Tricks for Properly Running Your AC This Summer

How Long Is a Typical Air Conditioning Cycle?

To be completely transparent, there is no “specific” run time for your AC, mainly because there are various brands, models, sizes, and whether or not it was installed correctly.

However, with a single-stage AC without all the bells and whistles, you're looking at about 20-30 minutes for a full cycle.

On the other hand, if you have a multi-stage or variable-speed air conditioner that is set to “on” during the summer, it’s usually always running. Keep in mind this is normal for a higher efficiency HVAC system, and contrary to popular belief, a variable speed air conditioner is more energy efficient even if it's “continuously on” at lower speeds.

Therefore you're not breaking the bank to keep your home cool and comfortable all summer. Nevertheless, If you are a homeowner concerned about how long your AC unit's runtime is, you can always ask your HVAC professional, like Fire and Ice.

Is There a Difference in Run Time for a Single Speed, Two Stage, or Variable Speed?

Yes, by default, multistage outdoor HVAC systems have longer run cycles at a lower capacity, increasing its energy efficiency and allowing greater energy-saving opportunities. Furthermore, this allows more time for the air in your home to adequately mix and dehumidify the conditioned air before distributing it back into your home's air cycle. 

 A good way to determine what kind of AC unit you have is by its runtime. On average, a single-speed A/C will have the lowest running cycle, whereas a variable speed will have the longest running cycle. Typically, you won't even know it's on with a variable-speed AC since it's designed to be a quieter system while continuously running.

What Factors Determine How Long Your Air Conditioner Runs?

Every home is different, including its size, shape, color, number of floors, bedrooms, bathrooms, etc. Since these factors are determined house-by-house, it's easier to pinpoint the cause of an overrunning air conditioner after performing a system diagnostic.

In order to heat and cool your home, your system needs to be able to change over. Air changes per hour (ACH or ACPH) is a calculation done by a licensed HVAC professional that determines how many times per hour the entire volume of air within a residential home is replaced/changed over with a supply or recirculated air.

Because of this, how long your air conditioner runs is dependent on several factors, such as

  • The outdoor temperature and humidity
  • Your set temperature
  • The size of your home
  • The size of your A/C unit
  • Your Ductwork 

What Do Windows Have To Do With Your AC?

Other factors that could cause your outdoor unit to run continuously are specific to your home, like the number, type, size, and direction of your windows. For example, if a homeowner has a home with western-facing windows, the sun can come through and shine directly on their thermostat.

If this happens, it can affect the thermostat by giving you false readings and signaling your AC to kick on when it doesn't need to. Thus, resulting in higher energy bills, a shorter life expectancy of your aircon unit, and an increased carbon footprint.

Your Homes Insulation

Another factor that could cause your air conditioning system to run continuously is the amount of insulation your home has. Think about it; insulation keeps the cold air inside your home; however, if you don't have enough insulation, you cannot retain your conditioned air, which can escape.

As a general rule of thumb, most HVAC contractors agree that you need at least three and a half to five inches of insulation within your walls to effectively keep your conditioned air inside your home.

There are several kinds of insulation a homeowner can choose to have put in their home; however, in the HVAC world, R13 (3 ½ inches) is the minimum insulation used. That said, several other insulation thicknesses to use, such as an R30, which is over 12 inches thick. Ultimately, it comes down to your comfort preferences.

Keep in mind that the more insulated your home is, the more conditioned air it will retain. Not to mention, depending on how much insulation you have, it could be a difference between five to 20-degree difference.

What Is the Most Common Reason for an Air Conditioner To Run Continuously?

If you're a homeowner who is concerned about your air conditioner running continuously, there are three main reasons that will cause an A/C to run continuously:

  1. An undersized Air Conditioning Unit
  2. An oversized Air Conditioning Unit
  3. Improper installation

An Undersized Air Conditioning Unit

An undersized air conditioning unit is the biggest reason we encounter when a homeowner asks why their A/C is running continuously. When choosing your trusted HVAC contractor to install your new comfort machine, ensure they complete a Manual J Load Calculation.

At Fire and Ice, we use the Manual J Load Calculation specifications developed and authorized by the Air Conditioning Contractors of America, which is also recommended by the Department of Energy (DOE).

A Manual J Load Calculation takes several factors listed in the previous section and others to determine what size of air conditioner you need. Unfortunately, most HVAC companies don’t perform a Manual J Load, whether it’s because they don't think it’s necessary since it requires extra time and training or they “think” they know what size you need just by looking at your home.

As stated earlier, every house is different; therefore, every Manual J Load Calculation should be done to the specifics of your home, including the inside and outside unit specifications.

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An Oversized Air Conditioning Unit

In contrast, if you have an oversized AC system, you will experience short cycling. Short cycling is when your air conditioner turns on, runs for a short time, and then turns off. However, during this process, the air will settle, and the thermostat will realize your home isn't at the right temperature and turn it back on.

Signs and Symptoms Your A/C Is Short Cycling:

  • Your home is not reaching your desired temperature
  • Your A/C is frequently shutting on/off
  • A sudden spike in your energy bills
  • Air Leak
  • Weak airflow
  • Leaking water 

Like an undersized air conditioning unit, you want to ensure your chosen HVAC professional takes the necessary time and industry precautions and performs a Manual J Load Calculation.

Improper Installation

As previously stated,  if your chosen HVAC contractor skips the completion of a Manual J Load Calculation, it could result in a wrong-sized AC system, thus leading to an improper installation that will cause your system to waste energy and have premature system breakdowns and negative performance.

To ensure your chosen HVAC company completes a Manual J Load and other necessary precautions, we have a downloadable, ten-question PDF checklist to ask your HVAC professional before you get into business with them. HVAC Contractor ChecklistRemember that this checklist can help make or break your next AC installation. Trust us; you don’t want to do business with an HVAC contractor without going through this checklist. If they cut corners while performing ANY of these steps, it isn't good for you, your home, and your wallet.

Also Read: Cutting Corners: A Look at the Best and Worst HVAC Company Practices in Columbus, OH

What Happens to My A/C if It’s Continuously Running?

Now that we've gone over what can cause your residential air conditioner to run continuously, it’s important to cover what damages it can cause. There are several issues a continuously running air conditioner can cause; however, the most common are:

  • Increased monthly utility bills
  • Increased wear and tear
  • Shorter lifespan
  • Increased preventative maintenance

To help you understand this better, compare your residential air conditioner to your car. For instance, have you ever been to a car mechanic because one of your mechanical components stopped working and found out you had to replace several?

This is because most mechanical and electric components tend to fail around the same time. If you've had to replace your aircon unit parts or components recently, chances are likely that additional pieces may fail.

What Happens If My A/C Isn’t Running Enough?

On the other hand, if you find your air conditioner isn’t running enough to keep your home at your optimal comfort level, technically, there aren’t any prominent negative effects other than being comfortable in your own home. 

Suppose your central air conditioner can’t keep up with the summer heat and your set thermostat settings. In that case, it may be time to invest in a new air conditioning unit. Nevertheless, it’s up to the homeowner to determine their optimal comfort level.  

5 Tips and Tricks for Properly Running Your Central AC This Summer

When owning a home, homeowners must know how to run their residential air conditioner effectively. Below are a few tips and tricks from our heating and cooling experts:

  1. Only Run Your A/C When You Need To: Running your A/C when you could use a fan or open the windows puts more wear and tear on your home comfort machine and decreases its overall lifespan.
  2. Keep Up With Routine Maintenance: This includes scheduling annual tune-ups and changing your dirty air filter. Nevertheless, if you have a standard one-inch air filter, our HVAC service experts suggest swapping it out every 30-60 days.
  3. Switch to a “Smart” or “Programmable” Thermostat: When considering purchasing a smart/programmable thermostat,  The Ecobee Smart Thermostat is a great place to start your research. Investing in a smart or programmable thermostat could save you money on your monthly utility bills, especially if you have a faulty thermostat.
  4. Consider Getting an Air Duct Cleaning Service: An air duct cleaning has several benefits, including but not limited to a cleaner home, better indoor air quality, reduced allergy irritants, improved air flow, eliminating smells/odors, and a longer lifespan of your equipment.
  5. Invest in a Whole-Home Dehumidifier: While an air conditioning system continuously dehumidifies the air as it cools, you can use a dehumidifier to remove the humidity inside your home.
    While a dehumidifier isn’t designed to decrease the temperature within your home, it can make your home distribute more cool air throughout your home, thus making your home more comfortable.

Next Steps

After reading this article and you cant troubleshoot the problem yourself, it’s better to trust the experts.

However, if you've never worked with an HVAC contractor, it can be hard to differentiate between a “good” HVAC company and a “bad” one. At Fire and Ice, your trust is our business.

That said, to ensure your home comfort system gets the attention it deserves, all our technicians and installers are N.A.T.E certified, have over 200 hours of training, are EPA certified, and are expected to complete additional training to ensure our HVAC professionals are up to date on all safety precautions and industry advancements.

Are you ready to contact Fire and Ice regarding an air conditioning service?

If so, we provide a comprehensive list of HVAC services. So, whether you need an air conditioning repair, ac maintenance, installation, or even a replacement of your outside ac unit, Fire and Ice has you covered!

Click below to start your comfort journey, and remember; we look forward to making your day even better!

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