How much does it cost to run an air conditioner?
  • Category:
    Energy Efficiency
  • Published:
    June 13, 2022
  • Updated:
    October 3, 2022

How Much Does It Cost to Run an Air Conditioner?

When answering the question of how expensive air conditioning is, you will want to consider the value of the benefits you get, the cost of the unit or system you buy, and lastly, the cost of electricity to run an air conditioner.

The benefits of an air conditioner go beyond comfortably cool air in your home. Air conditioners remove pollutants, irritants and dirt from the air and can also cut down on humidity. Your health might be better and your belongings will- likely hold up longer. Deciding if an air conditioner is worth it depends on how much these benefits mean to you.

The next factor is the cost of the system you buy. You can buy a small, inexpensive window unit or a state-of-the-art, multi-zone central cooling system. There’s something for every budget.

The money you spend on electricity to run your air conditioner is likely going to be the bigger cost over the long run. Answering the question of how much air conditioning costs to run involves several factors.

Average cost to run your air conditioner

How much does it cost to run an air conditioner? It depends on the unit you buy. It might seem like you could save buying a smaller, cheaper unit, but it may have to run longer and more often, which could translate into a higher energy bill that would eat up any purchase savings. You could possibly lower your cost to run your air conditioner if you make sure you right-size it for your space.

Air conditioners with a higher BTU will use more electricity but can be more efficient and don’t run as long as lower BTU units. BTU is short for British Thermal Unit, which measures heat energy. In the case of air conditioners, it measures how many units of heat a particular model can remove from the air. The higher the BTU, the faster it can cool your room and the bigger the room it can cool.

It helps to choose energy-efficient air conditioners with a high ENERGY STAR® rating. Be sure to maintain them, especially cleaning or replacing the air filter regularly, so that they are operating at peak efficiency. It’s a good idea to service your unit once a year.

Because air conditioners can use quite a bit of electricity, on average they represent over 12% of home energy expenditures depending on your average home power usage. It is best to estimate your expense based on understanding energy costs for your home. You’ll need to know your electricity cost per kWh and how much electricity your central air conditioner or portable unit uses — information that you can find on your system’s ENERGY STAR® label.

Calculate the cost to run your air conditioner

We have made it easy to figure out your cost to run central air or a portable window unit with this air conditioner electricity cost calculator. You will need a recent electric bill that shows the rate you are paying by kilowatt hour. Then check the ENERGY STAR® label of your unit to get information about how many watts of energy are used per hour of operation. You may need to calculate how many hours you run it at full blast, low, or even just with the fan.

A/C Cost Calculator

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Emissions and equivalencies are calculated using data published by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 2021 and 2022.

Reducing your home air conditioning expenses

Understanding the cost to run an air conditioner is an important first step to keeping your air conditioning costs down. You can review our energy-saving tips for summer and put some of these ideas to work:

  • Use tips for how to keep your house cool without A/C. Closing drapes to block the heat of the sun, adjusting your ceiling fan direction for summer and using attic fans can help. Make sure your insulation is in good condition and is adequate for your climate.
  • Shading your air conditioner can make it more efficient, whether a window unit or a central air system. If you have a choice of windows, install your air conditioner in a window that doesn’t get direct sunlight all day. Plantings that provide shade around your central air unit are a green (and great) way to increase efficiency. In both cases, however, ensure that you don’t block air circulation.
  • A smart thermostat can learn the patterns of your home to minimize energy used when you are away from home and can optimize air conditioning room by room.

For many people, the air conditioner is the most power-hungry appliance in your home. Calculating your costs, choosing efficient options and employing strategies that can trim air conditioning costs can have a major impact on your budget.

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