Freon generally settles in an air conditioner within minutes. Times may vary depending on the circumstance and what type of air conditioner you have. However, the oil in the AC can take much longer to settle.
Below I will provide answers to cover how long it takes for refrigerant to settle, and some other things to keep in mind when dealing with air conditioners and their internal compressors.
Car Air Conditioners
Car air conditioners use a refrigerant that usually needs to be recharged every few years. If the system has a leak in it somewhere it will need to be recharged more often.
The systems in vehicles are easy to charge, and unlike air conditioners in your home, there are no wait times to be able to use the air conditioner in your car.
Portable Air Conditioners
Portable air conditioners, or window units, require a few minutes for the refrigerant to settle evenly throughout the system. Refrigerant has to settle each time the unit kicks off, and it usually only takes 2 to 3 minutes for this to occur.
Luckily you don’t have to watch the clock because air conditioner units come with a delay timer that is usually set to five minutes. The timer prevents the system from being started before the refrigerant has settled to protect against possible damage. If your system is many years old it may not come with a delay timer which means you should be mindful of the downtime in between runs.
It is important to make sure that you don’t tilt the unit on its back or side, because this can cause the oil inside the machine to accumulate on the system’s compressor, meaning a longer wait time before you can start it up.
Oil Inside the Air Conditioner
While the refrigerant settles in a few minutes the oil in the system takes much longer to settle. If the system remains upright there’s little need to worry, but when it’s turned on its side or back you need to wait a full 24 hours before restarting the unit.
The last thing you want to do is turn the unit on its side or back. When an air conditioner is turned in such a way it disrupts the settled oil which can build up on the system’s compressor. If the system is turned on before it has time to settle the compressor will try to compress it in the same way it does freon, which can cause serious damage to the air conditioner.
Oil cannot be compressed in the same way that a gas, such as freon can. If the system is started before the oil has time to settle, it could get a busted solenoid valve or connecting rod.
Freon settles within an air conditioner in a few minutes, and its settling is ensured by the delay timer in the system. This means that you don’t need to worry about the time in between system runs.
The long-term waiting only happens if the system is turned on its side or back, disrupting the settled oil in the air conditioner. If this happens you should wait a minimum of 24 hours before restarting the system.
It’s always a good idea to reference the make and model-specific owner’s manual that should have come with your air conditioner unit. If it did not come with one you should be able to find one online.