How Much Does Air Conditioning Cost to Run?

As we approach the hot summer months, many of us are considering how to keep our homes cool and comfortable. Air conditioning units are a popular choice, but it’s crucial to understand the potential impact on your energy bills.

So, how much does air conditioning cost to run? Let’s dive in and explore the factors affecting the average cost.

Factors Affecting the Cost of Running an Air Conditioner

Several factors determine the cost of running an air conditioner. The unit’s size, measured in British Thermal Units (BTUs), plays a significant role as larger units consume more energy.

The efficiency of your air conditioner, represented by its Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) rating, also affects the cost.

How long you run your AC, the temperature settings you choose, the cost per kWh of electricity in your area, and the condition and maintenance of the unit all influence the overall cost.

Cost to Run Central Air Conditioning

Central air conditioning systems are popular for their ability to cool large spaces effectively. However, they can be costly to run, with the average cost per hour ranging from 15 to 20 cents.

This equates to a daily cost of approximately $3.60-$4.80 if run for 24 hours, which can lead to significant monthly costs.

Cost to Run Ductless Mini-Split and Window Air Conditioners

In contrast, ductless mini-split air conditioners and window units can be more cost-effective, especially for smaller spaces.

A window AC unit, for instance, typically costs between 7 and 12 cents per hour to run.

This translates to a lower daily cost, making window ACs a popular choice for those looking to manage their energy costs.

Energy Efficiency and Its Impact on Costs

An air conditioner’s energy efficiency has a direct impact on the cost to run it. Units with a high SEER rating are more energy-efficient, reducing electricity bills.

For example, an Energy Star certified unit can reduce energy costs by 15% compared to non-certified air conditioners.

How to Calculate the Cost to Run Your Air Conditioner

Calculating the cost to run your air conditioner involves a few steps. First, check your electricity bill for your cost per kilowatt-hour (kWh). Then, determine how many watts of power your AC uses and convert this to kilowatts (kW). Multiply the kW by the number of hours per day you run your AC to get the kWh per day. Multiply this number by your cost per kWh to get your daily costs.

Tips to Reduce the Cost of Running Air Conditioning

There are several ways to reduce the cost of running your AC. Regular maintenance, including cleaning and replacing air filters, can increase efficiency and reduce costs.

Utilizing energy-efficient settings and practices, like closing blinds during the day and using a ceiling fan, can also help. Upgrading to a more energy-efficient unit, especially if your current one is old or underperforming, can result in significant savings.

Types of Air Conditioning Units and Their Costs

There are several types of air conditioning units, each with different energy demands and associated costs. Central air conditioning systems, as mentioned, are the most powerful and can cool an entire house but can be expensive to run due to their high energy demand.

Window air conditioners are more affordable and excellent for cooling single rooms. A common type of window unit for a space of about 200 square feet might consume around 500-1500 watts of power, depending on its size and model.

Portable air conditioners, although not as efficient as window units, offer the advantage of being moveable from room to room. They typically consume similar amounts of energy as window units but cool smaller areas due to their design.

Ductless mini-split systems provide a balance between central and window units. They offer the advantage of cooling multiple rooms at varying temperatures, but their installation cost is higher. However, the running costs are comparable to window units, making them a cost-effective solution for larger homes.

Lastly, heat pumps, although primarily used for heating, can also cool homes by reversing their operation. They are among the most energy-efficient AC systems and can result in significant savings over time.

Understanding Your Electricity Costs

Your cost per kWh of electricity is a significant factor in determining the cost to run your air conditioner. This cost can vary greatly depending on your location and your energy provider. The average prices in the U.S range from 9.37 cents to 34.02 cents per kWh. Using an air conditioner cost calculator can help you get a more precise estimate of your AC costs based on your local electricity rates.

The Importance of Regular Maintenance

Regular maintenance can greatly improve the efficiency of your air conditioning unit and reduce running costs. Simple tasks like cleaning or replacing air filters can improve efficiency by up to 15%. Scheduled professional servicing can ensure your system is working optimally, preventing small issues from becoming costly problems.

Managing Your Energy Consumption

There are several ways to manage your energy consumption and reduce the cost of running your air conditioner. Using reflective window shades can prevent heat build-up in your home, reducing the need for cooling. Ceiling fans can also assist in circulating cool air, allowing you to raise your thermostat by around 4 degrees without any reduction in comfort.

Choosing the Right Unit

Choosing the right unit for your needs can significantly impact your energy costs. A unit that’s too small will struggle to cool your space, running continuously and driving up your energy bills. Conversely, a unit that’s too large will cool the room quickly but not run long enough to remove humidity, resulting in a clammy, uncomfortable environment.

When choosing a unit, consider the size of your space and the unit’s BTU rating – a measure of its cooling capacity. A professional HVAC technician can provide an accurate assessment and help you choose the most cost-effective and suitable unit for your needs.


Understanding the cost of running an air conditioner can help manage your electricity costs during extreme heat.

While the actual cost will vary based on many factors, being aware of these factors can help you make more informed decisions about your cooling needs.

Whether you’re using central air conditioning, a window unit, or a portable AC, every choice you make can affect your energy costs. With the right knowledge and strategies, you can enjoy a cool, comfortable summer without breaking the bank.

About Roy Cohen

Roy Cohen has a burning passion for heating, cooling, and ventilation. He aims to help you save money on expensive repairs and bring you the best HVAC products. He has years of experience behind him in HVAC repair and garage maintenance.

You can find Roy at his LinkedIn or his email: [email protected]

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