How Long Can an Air Conditioner Run Continuously?

If there’s one thing Texans can always expect during the summer months (and even beyond), it’s sweltering heat. Temperatures well into the triple digits aren’t unusual at the height of summer and beyond, and that means reliable air conditioning is a must-have.

Because the scorching heat doesn’t always let up even after the sun goes down in the Lone Star State, many residents rarely, if ever, turn off the AC unit. But how long can an air conditioner run continuously before developing problems? 

On the Double Heating and Cooling, home of Lubbock’s professional AC maintenance technicians, hears this query from customers fairly often, and the answer might surprise you. If your air conditioner isn’t working the way it should, call us at (806) 203-7483 for help.

The Typical Air Conditioner Cycle

Understanding the answer to, “How long can an air conditioner run continuously?” starts with knowing there’s a difference between keeping the air conditioning on for 24 hours and running the compressor for 24 hours.

In general, it’s best to keep the air conditioner on in auto mode 24/7 during the summer months. This habit allows the AC unit to turn on and off automatically to maintain the desired temperature. Manually turning the air conditioning off and back on when you want to cool down the home forces the equipment to work harder, exposes it to more wear and tear, and increases your electricity bill.

So, while it’s fine to keep the system on all day and night, you should watch for the compressor running too often. The typical central air conditioner produces cold air for about 15 to 20 minutes, usually going through two or three cycles each hour, depending on the temperature. This process means that a compressor may run for about eight to 20 hours each day. 

The air conditioner might run continuously for several hours on the most brutally hot days or during the warmest part of the day. However, hearing the compressor running even when it’s cooler outside and the indoor temperature is comfortable is a sign of trouble with the system.

Common Problems With Air Conditioner Compressors

Often, when a compressor malfunctions, you’ll also notice hot air from the vents despite the unit running nonstop. A compressor can fail for several reasons.

Incorrect Size 

When the compressor is too small for the area it’s cooling, it has to work harder and run longer to achieve the desired temperature. The only solution? Upgrade the undersized compressor to a larger unit or augment it with a window air conditioner or mini-split.

Frozen Evaporator Coil 

Usually caused by a buildup of dirt on the coils from deferred maintenance, when the evaporator coils or the compressor itself can’t absorb heat from the air, they will freeze over. Frozen coils stop the air conditioner from producing cold air, yet the compressor continues running. Eventually, this can burn out the motor, so if they freeze, it’s important to turn off the system and allow them to thaw before starting it up again. 

The best way to prevent a frozen compressor or evaporator coils is with regular maintenance to keep the internal components clean. 

Thermostat Issues

Air conditioning compressors kick on when the thermostat reaches the temperature you set. The thermostat needs to work accurately so it sends the right signals to the compressor. 

A thermostat malfunction can trigger the air conditioner to run more frequently and for longer than necessary; usually, your home will feel colder than normal when this happens. However, installing the thermostat in an especially warm location, like near a sunny window, can also cause it to send incorrect signals to the air conditioning that force it to run continuously. Repairing or moving the device will solve the problem.

Let On the Double Heating and Cooling Keep Your Lubbock Home Comfortable

Air conditioning is essential to indoor comfort when you live in Texas, and On the Double Heating and Cooling is here to keep your Lubbock home as cool and energy-efficient as possible all summer long. If you have questions about how long can an air conditioner run continuously or suspect there could be an issue with your system, don’t wait to call us at (806) 203-7483 to have one of our experienced technicians take a look. 

On the Double Heating and Cooling can handle all your heating and cooling needs in the Lubbock, TX, area. Whether you need new AC installation, air conditioning replacement, annual maintenance, or top-notch repairs, make us your first call.