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Why Does My AC Take So Long to Cool the House?

A finger pressing the down button on a white thermostat affixed to a white wall.

Tucson, Arizona, has average summer temperatures of around 100 degrees Fahrenheit. If your air conditioner is the right size for your home, it should feel noticeably cooler within 15 to 20 minutes of turning it on.

Unfortunately, several problems can cause your AC to take way longer than it should to cool things down, including:

We’ll review these common issues to help you troubleshoot why your AC is taking too long to cool your house, including how to fix them.

Need cool air fast? Call Tucson’s most trusted name in AC repairs: Advantage Air Mechanical!

Our NATE-certified technicians know their way around all brands and models of AC systems. Rest assured we’ll get to the root of the problem fast and help you fix it with a cost-effective AC repair solution. Our techs aren’t paid on commission, so you can trust that our advice is honest and in your best interest only.

Clogged Air Filter

One of the most common culprits is a clogged air filter, which prevents air from circulating properly. If you have leaky air ducts, it's easy for dirt, dust, and debris to get stuck in the filter, reducing energy efficiency and forcing your AC unit to work overtime to cool your home. High temperatures also force the blower motor to push more air through your HVAC system, introducing more dirt and debris than usual.

Since Tucson also has longer-than-average growing seasons, there may be an increased amount of plant and tree pollen in your home. Both types of pollen can make AC filter clogs even worse, straining your HVAC system and increasing your utility bills.

At Advantage Air Mechanical, we have more than 30 years of experience performing AC maintenance, so one of our highly trained technicians can replace your clogged filter and let you know if you need to address any other air conditioning problems.

Dirty Condenser Coil

The condenser coil is one of the most important parts of your air conditioner, as it removes moisture and heat from the air. This is what cools the air in your home, helping you feel more comfortable. If it’s dirty, it will cause a host of unwanted problems, including an AC that takes longer to cool your home.

Other issues include:

  • Reduced comfort level: When the condenser coil is dirty, it can't remove as much heat and humidity from the air. Once you turn on the air conditioner, it may take 30 minutes or more for it to cool down your home, leaving you feeling uncomfortable.
  • Lower energy efficiency: As dirt and debris build up on the condenser coil, they insulate it, making it more difficult for your air conditioner to remove heat and humidity from the air. This forces the unit to work harder, increasing energy usage.
  • Higher energy bills: Since a dirty condenser coil increases your energy usage, it also has the potential to increase your energy bills.
  • Premature wear: The harder your air conditioner works, the more heat it produces. Extra heat can damage other system components, reducing its useful life.
  • Expensive repairs: If you don't address the dirty condenser coil right away, it could cause your AC unit to break down, resulting in costly repairs. You may even have to replace the entire system, resulting in a significant increase in your expenses.

To prevent dirty coils, it’s recommended to have your AC maintained at least once a year, preferably before major heat waves occur. You’ll also save money on energy bills.

Possible Refrigerant Leak

Refrigerant absorbs heat, cooling the air in your home. If you notice that your AC is taking longer than usual to cool things down, you might have a refrigerant leak.

Now, refrigerant works as a closed loop system which means it shouldn’t technically be leaking. But if it is, it can cause additional symptoms like:

  • Increased cooling time: Once refrigerant starts leaking out of the system, there isn't enough left to cool your home efficiently. As a result, it may take longer for your home to feel cool once you turn on the air conditioner.
  • Hissing noises: One of the major signs of a refrigerant leak is a hissing sound, which indicates that refrigerant is escaping from the system. As the leak worsens, you may hear a bubbling sound.
  • Increased energy costs: Since refrigerant leaks reduce efficiency, they can also increase your cooling costs.
  • High humidity levels: Your air conditioner is supposed to remove heat and moisture from the air. If you have a refrigerant leak, the system doesn't remove as much moisture as it should, causing it to feel muggier than usual inside your home.
  • Unpleasant smells: In some cases, refrigerant leaks cause your home to smell like exhaust. If this occurs, turn off the system and schedule a service appointment. It's not safe to breathe in these fumes.
  • Frozen coils: Refrigerant leaks prevent your system from absorbing hot air, which produces excess condensation. In some cases, this condensation freezes, preventing the coils from working properly.

If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, we recommend scheduling an AC repair or tune-up. Refrigerant issues shouldn’t be ignored, as it could lead to more serious problems.

Your AC Is Undersized

When it comes to your air conditioner, size is an important consideration. If your unit is too small, it won't provide adequate cooling. Furthermore, it won't be able to remove as much moisture from the air as it should, leaving your house feeling humid and uncomfortable.

Conversely, an oversized AC is also a problem that causes short-cycling and other issues. But if your AC can’t seem to keep up with your cooling needs, it’s likely undersized for your household.

In this case, you may be better off with a replacement. An experienced and trustworthy HVAC company should provide you with a Manual J. Load calculation that takes into account the square footage of your home, including layout, power requirements, and other key factors. This will guide your decision and help you select the appropriately sized system.

Your AC Is Too Old

With proper maintenance, an air conditioner should last for at least 10-15 years. However, once it reaches that 10-year milestone, it may start struggling to cool the air in your home. You may need to replace your existing AC unit with a new, energy-efficient model.

To get a free in-home AC installation estimate, contact Advantage Air Mechanical. We’ll provide a comprehensive assessment of your current system and comfort preferences, and then provide honest recommendations suited to your budget. We can even help you source HVAC rebates and tax credits!

Tired of a struggling AC system?

Call Advantage Air Mechanical. We offer honest AC tune-ups designed to improve the efficiency and performance of your cooling system. And if it’s time for a replacement, we’ll provide you with a comprehensive estimate, including upfront pricing on the right system for your needs and budget.