This might be news to a lot of people, but if you’re here wondering about the time to leave an air conditioner after moving it, I guess you’re not one of them.

If you didn’t know about this and have moved an air conditioner recently without letting it settle, don’t be too quick to panic. This advice often refers to older generation air conditioners.

female holding an air conditioner remote
Air conditioners need time to settle after a move (just like us!)

In some cases, you may need to let a recently moved air conditioner settle because the oil in the compressor may have been displaced. Letting it sit for the prescribed time will allow the oil time to settle, since starting the compressor without the proper amount of oil could damage it. 

As a side note, your air conditioner contains refrigerant as well. While it doesn’t need nearly as long to settle as oil does, it should still be given time to settle. Typically just a few minutes will do.

Read on, and I’ll cover the appropriate time to leave it depending on the type of air conditioner.

How Long Does Your Air Conditioner Need to Settle After Moving?

I hate it when I have to say this, but sometimes it’s the right answer.

It depends.

Seriously, there are a lot of factors that need to be considered.

  • What type of air conditioner is it? Central, portable, or window?
  • How old is it?
  • What are the manufacturer’s guidelines?

Depending on the factors above, your air conditioner may not need to settle at all, or it may need to settle anywhere between 30 minutes and 24 hours. If you’re not sure, the best rule of thumb is to let it sit for the maximum amount of time.

Better safe than sorry, right?

But what exactly do they mean by moving it?

Moving Your Air Conditioner – What Do They Mean?

Before we dig into the different time frames to wait after moving your air conditioner, what exactly do they mean by moving it? If you move your portable air conditioner from room to room, do you need to wait some specified amount of time before you can turn it on again?

Fortunately, the answer to that is no.

Typically, manufacturers are talking about transporting your air conditioner. Or maybe even taking it out of storage if you store your window unit over winter.

Let’s say you buy a smaller size air conditioner. And by smaller, I mean one you can transport yourself in the backseat or trunk/cargo area of your car or SUV.

How much jostling around was involved? Was it upended or on its side at any time as you tried to squeeze it into your vehicle? Or if it’s a bigger unit that was shipped to you, can you be sure that it sat upright at all times?

It’s scenarios like those that include “moving” an air conditioner. Any kind of movement that could and probably did displace the oil and coolant inside.

How Long to Let a Portable Air Conditioner Settle?

It’s called portable, so the expectation is that you’ll be moving it around, right?

Right!

portable air conditioner
Check your portable air conditioner’s manual.

First of all, either check the manual that came with your air conditioner or check online for a copy.

The times I’ll give throughout this article aren’t specific to every manufacturer. In most cases, I’ll be dealing in generalities. But just in case you have a model that needs to be handled differently, you’ll need to access that info yourself.

When researching this I found instructions that required anywhere from 8 hours to 24 hours of settling before use.

Note this is for newly transported or unpacked units.

If you had to transport the unit on its side or even set it on its side while unpacking it, you should let it sit the required time. However, if you simply tilted it for a moment when you were pulling the unit out of its packaging, I would say use your common sense.

Oil takes a while to move. You’ll know that if you’re a mechanic or if you’ve ever cooked or baked anything using oil. It will coat the sides of whatever it’s in and take a while to clear.

So in my opinion, in this case at least, you should be okay waiting for about an hour, not 10 or 20 hours. Just note that if your manual gives clear guidelines and you don’t follow them, you put yourself in jeopardy of voiding any warranties you may have.

Proceed with caution. Or err on the side of caution.

Portable Air Conditioner Settling Guidelines
Check your manual!
If you have just pushed your air conditioner across the floor to another room, there is no need to let it settle before starting it up again.
If you have carried it up or down the stairs and it has remained upright the entire time, you don’t need to let it settle.
If you have just transported or unpacked your air conditioner and it hasn’t been completely upright the whole time, let it settle.
If your air conditioner hasn’t been stored in a fully upright position, let it settle for the complete time.

How Long to Let a Window Air Conditioner Settle?

To some extent, this is just going to be a rehash of the above guidelines for a portable air conditioner.

window type air conditioner
Settle your window air conditioner for at least 24 hours.

Just like your portable unit—and your outdoor, central air unit—your window air conditioner has a compressor. Your compressor has oil in it. Without the oil assisting the moving parts of your system, it could have a catastrophic failure.

If you’ve lived through one of the heat waves of 2021, you may have purchased a window unit in desperation.

Unfortunately, you’ll need to take some extra steps before you can benefit from all that lovely cool air.

For example, let’s look at what GE’s instructions are for their room air conditioners.

“Do not place the unit on its side or upside down. This placement could cause damage to the mounting of the compressor. If on its side or back for more than a day, leave in an upright position and unplugged for 24 hours.”

I know you’re saying to yourself that it didn’t take an hour for you to get it home, forget about a day. But think about how fast air conditioners were running out of stock. They came into the store and were gone. So you don’t know about their situation before you purchased it. It could very well have been on its back or side for more than a day.

GE wants you to let it settle for 24 hours. Other manufacturers state different times.

Window Air Conditioner Settling Guidelines  
Check your manual!
If your air conditioner has been tilted, it should rest anywhere from an hour to 24 hours
If it has remained upright during transport, storage, and installation, settling is not necessary

What About Your Central Air Conditioner?

Chances are your central air is being installed by a pro, and they will know the rules to follow.

If you are just moving your compressor to another location beside the house, the above rules apply. As long as it remains upright it should be okay. If you somehow tilted it for a while during the relocation, let it settle for a length of time the reflects the amount of time it was tilted.

Conclusion

If you read right through, you likely noticed that the same rules apply no matter what type of air conditioner you have. Because they all have a compressor, and the compressor needs oil to function properly.

While you do need to be slightly concerned about the refrigerant, the real issue is the oil.

Let’s recap.

  • Moving it without tilting it means little or no settling is necessary.
  • If you laid it on its side at any time, you will need to let it settle for a corresponding amount of time. Anywhere from an hour to a day.

Thanks for reading. Hopefully, we’ve answered your question. Why not check out our related posts below? Perhaps we can help with something else.