How Much Does It Cost to Run an Air Conditioner? Use Our Calculator to Find Out

Is your air conditioner running overtime and skyrocketing your electricity bills this summer? Wondering exactly how much it costs to run your AC unit? As temperatures rise, it’s common for air conditioner usage and expenses to increase as well.

Running your air conditioner can get expensive, especially if you use inefficient window units or a central air system that isn’t properly maintained. Older AC models can consume a lot more energy than newer, more advanced options. And failing to routinely replace air filters or service your cooling system can make it work harder than necessary to cool your home.

Luckily, with some simple calculations, you can get an accurate estimate of your air conditioner operating costs. Knowing how much you spend to run your AC can help you budget for summertime utility bills and determine whether upgrading your unit could lead to long-term savings.

This comprehensive air conditioner cost calculator and guide makes it easy to figure out your true energy expenses for cooling your property. Continue reading to learn more about:

How Much Does It Cost to Run an Air Conditioner per Hour?

The cost to run an air conditioner per hour depends on several factors:

  • Air conditioner size: The higher the BTU rating, the more energy it requires per hour. For example, a small 5,000 BTU room air conditioner may use around 500 watts per hour. A large central AC system with a 24,000 BTU capacity could use over 3,000 watts per hour when running.
  • Efficiency rating: Measured in EER (Energy Efficiency Ratio) for room units and SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) for central air systems. Higher ratings indicate more efficient AC operation which reduces hourly energy consumption and expenses.
  • Outdoor temperature: Your AC works harder to maintain cool indoor temperatures as outdoor temps rise, using more electricity per hour.
  • Home size: Larger spaces require more powerful AC systems which use more energy per hour.

By inputting this information along with your electric rate into our air conditioner running cost calculator below, you can determine your estimated hourly AC costs.

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Air Conditioner Electricity Usage Calculator

air conditioner electricity usage calculator
Air Conditioner Electricity Usage Calculator

Use this air conditioner operating cost calculator to estimate how much you spend to run any type of cooling system.

Start by entering details about your AC unit and how often you use it, then input your local electricity rate. The calculator will automatically provide hourly, monthly and yearly cost projections.

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Follow the steps below to determine the true cost of running your air conditioner:

  1. Select air conditioner type – Choose “room AC unit” or “central air system”
  2. Input unit details – Enter BTU size and efficiency rating (EER or SEER)
  3. Enter usage – Estimate hours used per day and cooling months per year
  4. Add electricity rate – Input the cost per kWh from your utility company
  5. View results – See calculated hourly electricity consumption, plus monthly and yearly cost estimates

Knowing exactly how much you spend on air conditioner energy use each cooling season can help guide your decisions about AC unit replacements or upgrades.

After calculating costs, compare high-efficiency replacement options using our air conditioner comparison tool. Determine potential long-term savings from upgrading your cooling system.

What Size Air Conditioner Do I Need? BTU Calculator

Properly sizing your air conditioning unit is key for optimal temperature regulation, comfort, energy efficiency and cost savings.

An oversized AC system will cool your home quickly but turn on and off more frequently, reducing efficiency and potentially failing to remove adequate moisture. Meanwhile an undersized unit will struggle to cool your rooms, run continuously and fast-track wear and tear.

Our air conditioner BTU calculator takes the guesswork out of selecting the right cooling capacity for your unique space.

Simply enter details about your home and rooms to receive AC size recommendations for both room air conditioners and whole-home systems.

Get started by providing the following information:

  • Home/room dimensions
  • Number and size of windows
  • Insulation type and levels
  • Sun exposure and shading
  • Typical occupancy

Our calculator will factor in these inputs to suggest appropriate cooling capacities in BTUs for central AC units and room air conditioners. Receiving proper AC size guidelines can improve temperature regulation and air circulation while optimizing efficiency.

Accurately sizing your cooling system is also vital for homeowners replacing older AC units. Refer to our air conditioner replacement guide to learn more about costs, timelines, contractor selection, permitting, maintenance and more.

Air Conditioner Replacement Costs

If your current air conditioner is over 10 years old or no longer keeping your home comfortable during the summer, replacement may be the best option.

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The cost to replace an AC unit depends on the system type and capacity, materials, special installation requirements and more.

Here are the average costs to replace air conditioners:

  • Window AC unit – $350 to $800 installed
  • Portable AC unit – $300 to $1,000
  • Through-the-wall AC unit – $800 to $1,500 installed
  • Split system AC unit – $1,200 to $5,000 installed
  • Packaged central AC unit – $3,000 to $7,000 installed
  • Full central AC system – $7,000 to $12,000 installed

Upgrading to an ENERGY STAR certified or high-efficiency model can minimize long term cooling expenses through optimized performance and energy savings.

Learn more about the costs, timelines and process to replace various types of air conditioning systems.

Maintaining and Servicing Your AC Unit

Proper maintenance is crucial for efficient, cost-effective air conditioner operation plus extended equipment lifespan. Here are air conditioner maintenance tips to lower energy bills and reduce repair costs:

Clean Filters – Clogged air filters block airflow, making your system work harder to cool your home, wasting energy and money. Clean or change filters each month during AC season.

Clear Debris – Remove sticks, leaves and other debris that collect around the outdoor AC condenser coil reducing performance. Straighten bent coil fins too.

Check Refrigerant – Leaky, low refrigerant levels make AC systems inefficient. Have an HVAC technician annually check and top off refrigerant levels.

Inspect Ductwork – Ensure ductwork is tightly sealed and insulated properly so cooled air can flow freely through your home’s circulation system.

Service Annually – Hire an HVAC pro to perform preseason maintenance checks on your central air conditioner or room AC unit, identifying potential problems early and optimizing efficiency.

Upgrade Old Units – Replace aging, inefficient air conditioners (over 10 years old) with new ENERGY STAR models to maximize savings on summer cooling bills.

Regular AC unit maintenance provides optimal efficiency, reducing your air conditioner operating expenses.

Additional Cost Saving Tips for Running Your AC

additional cost saving tips for running your ac
Additional Cost Saving Tips for Running Your AC

Beyond proper sizing and routine maintenance, further strategies exist to cut costs for cooling your property during hot weather:

Use a Programmable Thermostat – Adjust temperatures higher when away from home and lower when occupying rooms to conserve energy. Smart WiFi-enabled thermostats allow remote access plus added features.

Set the Fan to Auto – Only run the fan when the AC compressor cycles on for cooling. Manual fan operation uses excess electricity.

Raise Your Thermostat – Keep the house slightly warmer when possible. Each degree higher saves up to 10% on energy use.

Ensure Adequate Shade – Position outdoor AC units away from sun exposure and use landscaping, window shades or awnings to prevent direct sunlight heating your home’s interior requiring extra cooling.

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Minimize Internal Heat Sources – Turn off lights, appliances, electronics and avoid using the oven when possible to reduce excess heat buildup indoors.

Consider a Whole House Fan – Use to push hot internal air outside and pull in cool night temperatures through open windows, allowing you to minimize AC usage.

Upgrade Windows/Insulation – Better-insulated homes stay cooler naturally, lowering air conditioner run times and electricity consumption.

Following these recommendations will maximize savings when running your cooling system during sweltering temperatures.

Frequently Asked Questions

Below find answers to some of the most common questions homeowners have about calculating costs for their air conditioning system.

How much does it cost to run a 5000 BTU air conditioner per hour?

A 5,000 BTU room air conditioner running at full speed uses around 500 watts per hour. So if your electricity rate is 10 cents per kWh, it would cost about 5 cents per hour to run a typical 5000 BTU window AC unit.

How many kWh does a central air conditioner use per day?

A central air conditioner with 3-ton (36,000 BTU) capacity, running for 8 hours per day uses around 18-30 kWh daily depending on the unit’s age and SEER rating.

How can I estimate my monthly AC costs?

To calculate monthly AC costs:

  1. Estimate hours used per day
  2. Multiply by the AC unit’s wattage to get kWh usage
  3. Multiply kWh per day by 30 for monthly kWh estimate
  4. Multiply monthly kWh by your electric rate

For example, if your 3-ton central air conditioner uses 1,500 Watts per hour, is run 6 hours per day, and your electricity rate is $0.15 per kWh:

  1. Daily use = 6 hours
  2. 1,500 watts x 6 hours = 9 kWh
  3. 9 kWh x 30 days = 270 kWh per month
  4. 270 kWh x $0.15 per kWh = $40.50 per month

Getting monthly cost estimates can help you budget for seasonal cooling expenses.

Should I get quotes from multiple AC installation contractors?

Yes, we strongly recommend soliciting air conditioner replacement or installation quotes from at least 3 licensed, insured HVAC contractors. Comparing multiple bids allows you to save money while also evaluating each company’s quality of equipment offered, expertise, warranties, and customer service.

Carefully review and compare estimates when choosing the best value and fit for your cooling needs and budget.

Does the SEER rating really impact AC costs that much?

Yes, upgrading to a higher efficiency system marked by SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) and EER (Energy Efficiency Ratio) ratings can lead to significant long-term savings.

For example, replacing an older 8 SEER air conditioner with a new 16 SEER central air system can reduce cooling costs by up to 50% annually in some cases.

Consult our air conditioner replacement guide to learn more about efficiency ratings and potential savings.

The Bottom Line

We hope this air conditioner cost calculator and guide provided useful tips on estimating your electricity expenses for running any type of cooling system.

Properly maintaining your AC unit, minimizing usage when feasible, and comparing replacement options can optimize savings plus comfort during warm weather.

For additional details on purchasing new air conditioners, installing or servicing current equipment, contact a qualified, licensed HVAC contractor today. Stay cool and save this season!

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