What's the Cost of Running an Air Conditioner & Its Energy Usage?

Air conditioners and HVAC systems are the most electricity-demanding appliances in your home. That means they're also probably the most expensive item on your energy bill every month. But they don't have to be! Chances are, you could be paying less to cool your home.

The first step to saving is understanding your air conditioner's energy consumption and cost. Our AC cost calculator below can help you get an estimate of how much it will cost to run your AC unit per hour. Once you know how much it costs to run your AC, check out some of our tips and tricks to help you reduce your usage and save on your monthly costs.

Air conditioner energy cost calculator

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Terminology explained

Energy language can be confusing. Below, we break down what you need to know to use our calculator.

What are watts?

Watts measures the rate at which electricity moves through an appliance. More Watts means more electricity, which in AC terms means more cooling power. There are a few ways to calculate the Watts of your AC. To get the most accurate number, check the back of your AC unit. Most newer units will have the Watts written right on the back. The price of electricity is measured in kilowatts, so you'll have to divide that number by 1000 to get kilowatts.

If you can't find the Watts, look for measurements like BTU, SEER rating, amps, and volts. Depending on what numbers you find, you can calculate Watts via the following equations:

Kilowatts = (Amps x Volts) / 1000

Kilowatts = (BTU / SEER rating) / 1000

What is the average cost of electricity in the U.S.?

According to US Energy Information Administration, the average cost of electricity in the U.S. is 13 cents/kWh. However, this number can vary depending on your electricity supplier. Today, people in some states have the power to shop for their electricity and find cheaper rates.

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What is the average cost and energy use of different types of AC units?

Central air conditioner
Size
BTUs
Watts
Cost Per Hour
Average Monthly Cost
Small10,000 BTU3,000 W$0.39/hr$58.5
Medium14,000 BTU4,000 W$0.52/hr$78
Large18,000 BTU5,000 W$0.65/hr$97.5
*assuming that the electricity rate is 13¢ per KWH and the AC is on for 5 hours per day
Window unit air conditioner (5000 BTU / 7,000 BTU / 10,000 BTU)
Size
BTUs
Watts
Cost Per Hour
Average Monthly Cost
Small5,000 BTU550 W$0.07/hr$10.5
Medium7,000 BTU650 W$0.084/hr$12.675
Large10,000 BTU900 W$0.12/hr$17.55
*assuming that the electricity rate is 13¢ per KWH and the AC is on for 5 hours per day
Mini split air conditioner
Size
BTUs
Watts
Cost Per Hour
Average Monthly Cost
1 Ton12,000 BTU1,500 W$0.16/hr$24
2 Ton24,000 BTU6,000 W$0.32/hr$48
3 Ton36,000 BTU900 W$0.48/hr$72
*assuming that the electricity rate is 13¢ per KWH and the AC is on for 5 hours per day

How to save on my air conditioner costs?

  • 1.

    Invest in a smart thermostat

    Smart thermostats use a combination of scheduling, motion-sensing, and geofencing to optimize heating and cooling in your home. A smart thermostat will automatically turn on and off your central heating and cooling systems according to your daily activity, minimizing electricity usage when you're not around. While investing in a smart thermostat requires an upfront cost, most smart thermostats report helping homeowners reduce their heating and cooling costs by 10-15%.
  • 2.

    Buy ENERGY STAR rated AC units

    The ENERGY STAR program was created by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Energy (DoE) to promote energy efficiency. The program intends to provide consumers with the information they need to purchase more efficient appliances for their homes. ENERGY STAR AC units are regarded as the most efficient products on the market, enabling consumers to lower their electric bills and carbon footprints. In 2019, ENERGY STAR products reportedly saved Americans $39 billion in energy costs.
  • In 2019, ENERGY STAR products reportedly saved Americans $39 billion in energy costs.
  • 3.

    Ensure your home is well insulated

    The EPA estimates that homeowners can save 15% on their heating and cooling costs with proper insulation in attics, windows, and basements.
  • 4.

    Invest in a good fan

    The average AC unit uses 5-10x as much electricity as the average fan. Use a fan when you can to cut the cost of running your AC.
  • 5.

    Keep your windows closed

    Don't let your AC unit work in vain. Close those windows to maximize the effectiveness of your AC.
  • 6.

    Keep your windows closed

    Clean AC filters will help reduce how hard your AC must work to cool your home. The Department of Energy reports that regularly cleaning your filters can save you up to 15% on your monthly electricity spend on running your AC.
  • 7.

    Choose Perch Energy

    At Perch, we're on a mission to make cleaner energy more accessible, more affordable, and more equitable for all. Whether you rent an apartment, own a home, or run a business, Perch offers multiple ways to save money on your electricity bills, or even help the planet, too.
    • For guaranteed savings on your annual electricity cost, join a community solar project in your area. Perch will help match you to a local solar farm—you'll support the operations of that farm so that it can generate and contribute as much clean, solar energy to the overall grid. You don't directly receive electricity from the solar power you're supporting, but thanks to government incentives, you'll get credits toward your own utility bill. Essentially, you're being rewarded with discounts on your own electricity because you're enabling solar generation and development in your state.
    • With Perch, you can take your fossil-fuel-fighting, money-saving ways even further when you also switch your home or business' electricity plan to cleaner energy. If you're on your utility's default basic service rate, it's a "mixed" energy plan (generated partly by fossil fuels, partly by renewable resources). But Perch can switch you to a low-cost cleaner energy plan—outside of what your utility is offering—that's backed 100% by clean, renewable resources like solar and wind. We'll find you a price that's lower than the market rate for similar options in your area. You don't have to do anything differently, but you'll feel great knowing that your personal electricity usage is now contributing to a healthier planet, and you've reduced your everyday carbon footprint.
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