An infographic showing how much Energy Air Conditioner (AC) units use

How Much Energy Does an Air Conditioner (AC) Use? (Infographic)

Cooling off in the summer and early fall is a constant thought. No matter what your plans are for the day, you must figure out a way to stay cool to avoid heat strokes, sunburns, and other nasty problems that can occur. We want our neighbors to stay comfortable year-round. One of the primary concerns in terms of cooling a home is the cost. Heating and air conditioning accounted for 47.7% of the average U.S. household’s energy bill in 2009. In more recent years, electronic devices are taking over as the majority, but the cost of heating and cooling is continuing to rise as oil prices rise.

Air Conditioning Unit Energy Consumption

Air conditioning (AC) units are constantly running through the hot seasons to keep your home and offices cool. So just how much energy does it take to keep your home cool? Well, let’s take a look at the big picture first. The average U.S. household consumes about 700kW of energy each year, according to the EIA. Keep in mind this energy is spread across the hot seasons, not the cold seasons.

Now let’s jump into the specifics for AC consumption. In reality, there is no guaranteed number. You’ll just have to look at the specifications for your unit, specifically. The energy usage per unit truly varies a lot; however, we can give average estimates and examples of popular units that are installed. Here are some specifics:

  • Central Air Conditioner – 3500 Watts
  • Large Window Units – 1440 Watts
  • Medium Window Units – 900 Watts
  • Small Window Units – 500 Watts

As the sizes of central ACs vary, the wattage will vary. The more tons you have, the more usage you’ll use. The 3500W average estimate is based on averages from 2.5 ton units. If you’re interested in installing a 2.5 ton unit, or already have one installed, then you’ll use anywhere between 3200W-3800W.

What Does “Large” or “Medium” Mean, Specifically?

The real difference between small, medium, and large window units is the BTU. If you notice, when purchasing an AC they give you the square footage covered, which is based directly off of the BTU. Here are some estimates on large, medium, and small units in terms of their BTU for your reference:

  • Large Window Units – 20000 BTU
  • Medium Window Units – 12000 BTU
  • Small Window Units – 6000 BTU

These numbers are all variants, as there are smaller units that go down to 3000 BTU and sometimes even lower. In fact, there are some window units that use up to 25000 BTU. These units use about 2600 Watts of energy to run.

Factors Affecting Energy Usage

Central AC units can use a whole lot more than 3500 Watts of energy, but they can also use a whole lot less. It all depends on how efficiently you manage the system. Some of the factors affecting the energy usage of all air conditioners, which prevent specific estimations, include:

  • How often you run it – If you don’t run your AC when you’re not home, you can save a lot of energy. Setting the temperatures a degree or 2 higher at night after you’ve fallen asleep can also make a huge difference.
  • Energy efficient models – As you may expect, energy efficient models use less energy than traditional models. Technology has been developed and improved upon for decades, especially in the HVAC industry. There are units that can cut your energy bills in half, all while keeping you comfortable.
  • Installation methods – An experienced AC installer can tell you exactly what size AC unit you need for specific rooms or for your whole house. An air conditioner that starts and stops uses significantly more energy than one that runs consistently. Make sure your central AC unit isn’t too big or too small.
  • Smart thermostats – Setting the AC to turn on and off at particular times, and even to adjust the temperatures at certain times of the day can save you hundreds.

What’s it going to Cost Me?

Cooling your home can be costly if you don’t pay think it through. The cost to run an AC unit depends on the size of the unit, as well as the factors listed above. However, the average costs for each size unit can be found below:

  • Central Air Conditioner (3500 W) – $245 per month. Between April and September: $1450.
  • Large Window Units (1440 W) – $100 per month. Between April and September: $600.
  • Medium Window Units (900 W) – $62 per month. Between April and September: $372.
  • Small Window Units (500 W) – $35 per month. Between April and September: $210.

The above estimates are based off of an energy rate of $0.14/kWh, and the unit is run for 16 hours/day.

To lower your energy bill during the summer, take a look at some of our tips and contact us if you’re in need of AC maintenance, repairs, or installation!

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