How Long Does an AC Take to Cool an Apartment?

We’ve all been there––sitting in our apartments patiently waiting for the air conditioner’s crisp, cool breeze to rush in and revitalize our bodies. For those considering purchasing a new AC unit for their apartment, it’s important to note many factors to ensure your apartment is adequately cooled in an efficient amount of time. 

When considering the home size and outdoor climate, an AC’s average time to cool a 4-bedroom home is 3 hours. Naturally, the time to cool an entire apartment is far less for apartments with fewer rooms and moderate outdoor temperatures. 

If you’re a prospective AC owner, consider finding an AC or HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) system that suits your apartment and lifestyle. Read on to learn more about choosing an AC system to cool your apartment and how to conserve energy and maintain a comfortable living space. 

How Long Does It Take AC to Cool an Apartment?

How long it takes AC to cool an apartment will depend on the type of AC system you have:

Window Units

Window air conditioning units are one of the most popular systems and are heavily used for single rooms.

Because of their compact design, wall AC units tend to be inexpensive compared to other AC systems starting at around $200 and closer to $800 for higher-end units. 

The downside of window AC units is their tendency to condensate after frequent use.

However, window units are quick to cool small and medium-sized rooms and studio apartments, usually taking up to 20 minutes. 

Portable Air Conditioner

Ideal for single-rooms and most common for apartments, portable air conditioners are perfect because of their portability and low cost.

Although they are free-standing, meaning they will take space in your room, this gives people the option to store the unit in cooler months and bring them back out during the warmer seasons.

If you live in a location with a moderate climate, portable air conditioners will save you some money since you likely won’t have to have them turned on throughout the year.

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The average price of a portable AC system is approximately $300 and uses less energy than central and window units, and can quickly chill the room’s temperature in less than 20 minutes.

Central Air Conditioner

A very popular option for both homes and industrial buildings, central air conditioners are an excellent choice for consistent and clean air throughout the year.

Central air conditioning units can take up to 3 hours to fully cool apartments with more than a few rooms.

Many people opt-in for central AC systems because of their ease of use and little maintenance.

However, ease and quality come with a price––reputable central air systems can cost anywhere from $3,000 to $7,000 depending on the brand, size, and add-ons. 

Keep in mind that some homes and apartment buildings are not set up for high-energy consumption, so additional installation costs may be required. 

Due to its cost, if you find your current AC unit is not cooling your apartment properly, your landlord will do everything they can to fix the issue before breaking down and purchasing an entirely new AC system. 

Geothermal Air Conditioner

Geothermal air conditioners are an eco-friendly option for cooling your apartment or home because of their minimal use of electricity and reduction in fossil fuel consumption.

By collecting heat through pipes beneath your home, the AC system uses it to distribute cool air throughout your home or building evenly. You can expect a geothermal air conditioner to cool the standard-sized home in three hours. 

As much as we love being green, geothermal air can be costly. Its prices vary, but range between $3,000 and high as $15,000. It’s not ideal for apartments, but good to keep in mind for future home hunting.

Best AC Systems to Cool an Apartment

Overall, portable and window air conditioning units are the best choice in cooling apartments in addition to the HVAC system that may already be installed.

Although central and geothermal air conditioning units are ideal, it’s improbable that renters can get them installed into their apartments because of strict tenant-landlord laws. 

Portable AC

Portable AC units take the gold when it comes to cooling apartments and small rooms because of their compact ability and cooling efficiency.

portable air conditioner

Although they take up floor space in the apartment, as mentioned above, they generally cool rooms in less than 20 minutes

As an added perk, not only can you move the AC unit from room to room, but some mobile air conditioning units also have built-in dehumidifiers if you feel your space is stuffier than usual.

Window AC

Window AC systems are also one of the best ways to cool an apartment because they can also cool an average room within 20 minutes.

HVAC window air conditioner

However, there may be restrictions in your apartment building or complex—on top of installation and maintenance—that prohibit modifications to your rental unit. Get permission from your landlord before purchasing a window AC unit. 

Factors to Consider Before Purchasing an AC

As mentioned before, the amount of time it takes to cool your apartment fully varies on many components. Keep these in mind when finding the most effective way to cool your apartment:

  • Square footage and room size – To properly cool your apartment, consider the room’s size that you’d like to cool. British thermal units (BCU) is the measurement used to calculate your needed AC usage efficiently. As a general guide, an air conditioner requires 20 BTU per square foot of living space. 
  • Average outdoor climate – The hotter it is outside, the more energy your AC will use to convert the warm and humid air to cold indoor air. At around 95 degrees Fahrenheit, most AC systems begin to work extra hard to stabilize the air. When temperatures exceed the average 95 degrees Fahrenheit threshold, your AC can overwork and become damaged. 
  • Insulation – Preventing air from escaping is beneficial to your air conditioner’s health because it requires less energy to cool the living space. Consider contacting your landlord to learn about the type of insulation your apartment has and whether it’s possible to have it updated if needed. 

When Should Tenants Request an AC Unit?

According to landlord-tenant laws, installing window air conditioning systems is considered damage to the property because it’s technically altering the building’s appearance and structure.

Tenant and landlord laws vary from state to state, so anyone looking to modify their apartment in any way should consult their landlord first to determine their eligibility. 

If you’ve received written consent from your landlord to install a window AC unit, then the next step is to choose a proper AC unit for your apartment and have it installed.

Keep in mind that your landlord will likely not pay for the unit, installation, or maintenance fees. When moving out of your apartment, you will also have to remove the air conditioning unit unless otherwise stated in the initial agreement or lease. 

Suppose you live in an apartment with an air conditioning unit already installed, but it takes an abnormal amount of time to cool your apartment.

In that case, this indicates that the AC unit might require maintenance or replacement.

Because landlords that fail to maintain livable living spaces can be fined, as a tenant, you should contact your landlord or leasing office as soon as possible to get it fixed or replaced. 

Tips to Help Your AC Quickly Cool Your Apartment

There are several ways to cool your apartment using an air conditioning system swiftly:

  • Once you have your AC on, the simplest way to keep your apartment at a comfortable temperature is by keeping the sunlight out by covering your windows with curtains, blinds, or solar screens to keep the sun’s heat rays out
  • When your AC unit is in direct sunlight, it can begin to damage and overwork your cooling system in the future, so if you opt for a window unit, make sure it is located in an area that does not have as much exposure to the sun
  • It’s also recommended to remove any heat-inducing appliances away from your thermostat, so your air conditioner can properly cool the targeted living space.
  • Use fans to circulate cool air throughout the apartment.
  • Close doors and windows to prevent the cool air from escaping.
  • Make sure all doors and windows are adequately sealed. If you notice that any weather stripping is wearing down, consider putting in a request for your apartment complex’s maintenance team to repair them. If the maintenance team does not offer this service, ask your landlord for their permission to purchase and install your own weather strips
  • Poor insulation may be a reason why your apartment may not cool very quickly. If you suspect this is the case, contact your landlord to see if it would be possible to have more insulation installed in your unit. 
  • Depending on the brand, model, and usage, all air conditioners will require maintenance over time. Extend your AC’s life and cooling effectiveness by regularly having maintenance done—such as changing the filter out. The more frequent the maintenance, the more consistent your AC will be in quickly cooling your apartment.

Final Thoughts

With the correct protocols and practices, your AC unit will cool your apartment appropriately and efficiently. Comfortable living comes at a cost but is definitely worth it. With a handful of systems to cool your apartment, the ideal AC unit would be one that saves you money and suits your lifestyle.