How to Add Hours in Excel: A Step-by-Step Guide

Adding hours in Excel might seem like a daunting task, but it’s quite straightforward. Excel is designed to handle time calculations effortlessly. All you need to do is ensure your cells are formatted correctly and use simple addition. In just a few steps, you’ll be summing hours like a pro!

Step by Step Tutorial: Adding Hours in Excel

Before diving into the steps, it’s important to understand that Excel can display time in several ways. This tutorial will help you format your cells for time and then add hours together.

Step 1: Format your cells for time

Click on the cell or cells where you want to enter hours, then right-click and select ‘Format Cells’. Choose ‘Time’ from the category list and select the appropriate format for your data.

Proper cell formatting is crucial when working with time in Excel. If the cells aren’t formatted correctly, Excel might not recognize your entries as time values, which could lead to incorrect calculations.

Step 2: Enter your hours

Type the hours into the formatted cells using the format hh:mm. For example, for three and a half hours, you would type ‘3:30’.

Entering your hours correctly is key. Remember that Excel treats time as a part of a 24-hour day, so if you enter a value greater than 24:00, it will start counting from zero again.

Step 3: Use the SUM function to add hours

Click on the cell where you want the total hours to appear. Type ‘=SUM(‘ and then select the cells containing the hours you want to add. Close the parentheses and press Enter.

The SUM function is Excel’s primary tool for addition. By using it to add hours, you’re telling Excel to treat your selected cells as values to be summed up.

After completing these steps, Excel will display the total of all the hours you’ve entered. This total will be in the same time format as your individual entries, giving you a comprehensive view of the time you’re working with.

Tips for Adding Hours in Excel

  • Always double-check your cell formatting to ensure it’s set to the time format.
  • Be mindful of midnight when adding hours. Excel resets to zero at the 24-hour mark.
  • Use the 24-hour format for a more seamless experience when adding hours that go past midnight.
  • If you need to add days and hours, include the days in your hour count (e.g., 24 hours for one day, 48 hours for two days, etc.)
  • Take advantage of Excel’s auto-fill feature to quickly copy formulas down a column or across a row.

Frequently Asked Questions

What if my total hours exceed 24 hours?

If the total exceeds 24 hours, ensure your cell format allows for more than 24 hours, or Excel will reset the count.

How do I subtract hours in Excel?

To subtract hours, use the ‘-‘ operator instead of the SUM function and ensure your cells are correctly formatted for time.

Can I add minutes and seconds as well?

Yes, you can add minutes and seconds by formatting your cells to include them and entering your data accordingly.

How does Excel handle time calculations?

Excel treats time as a decimal, where one hour equals 1/24, and it uses this format for calculations.

Can I sum hours across different sheets?

Yes, use the SUM function and specify the sheet name and cell range you want to add.


  1. Format your cells for time.
  2. Enter your hours using the hh:mm format.
  3. Use the SUM function to add the hours.


Mastering how to add hours in Excel can significantly enhance your productivity, especially if you’re dealing with schedules or time tracking. It’s a skill that appears complex but is easy once you understand how Excel interprets time. Remember to format your cells correctly, enter your data in a consistent manner, and use the powerful SUM function to tally up your hours. With these tips and a bit of practice, you’ll find that adding hours in Excel is a breeze. Whether you’re an office worker, a student, or anyone who relies on time management, this is a valuable addition to your Excel toolkit. Keep exploring and practicing, and you’ll unlock even more of Excel’s potential!

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