How Much Does It Cost to Run a Central Air Conditioner?

I love my air conditioner, but I was always scared of turning it on.

The cool air tends to come with a bit of anxiety about just how much the energy bill is going up every minute! I’ve since done a ton of research into working out just how much it costs to run a central air conditioner. Everything I found is in this guide.

I also put together a calculator to work out how much your central air conditioner costs to run. Read on to check it out.

Typically, the monthly energy cost to run a central air conditioner ranges between $76 to $168, depending on the state you live in. Roughly half of the cost goes into heating and cooling. This is why people are concerned about the cost to run their central air conditioner.

According to a rough estimate, it can cost you anywhere between $900 to $1200 per year. This depends on the number of daily running hours and the wattage.

To help you understand the cost of running a central air conditioner, I’ve created a calculator that factors in some values and outputs the cost per year.

To use this, you need to know the power rating of your AC, and also how many hours you’ll run it daily.

Running Cost Calculator – Central Air Conditioner

Change the values below for your air conditioner:

Click here to know the electricity cost of your state or refer to your latest energy bill.

How to Get More Out of Your Air Conditioner

Everyone wants to keep their home cool, but also want to save money on their energy bills. Here are some methods you can try to get the most out of your air conditioner.

Choose a Suitable Temperature

To keep your home cool, your thermostat doesn’t have to be set at the lowest temperature. You can look for a temperature setting that isn’t too high or too low.

The lower the temperature, the harder the central air conditioner has to work to keep your room cool. But, this will consume more energy. Therefore, try setting it at the highest temperature possible without feeling hot.

Keep It Under the Shade

Your central air conditioner will have an outdoor unit, and if it gets exposed to sunlight, its efficiency will be reduced. Therefore, you should build a shade just above the unit. This way it won’t get heated and hamper the performance of your cooling system.

central air conditioner
Keep the outdoor unit in the shade to avoid sending your efficiency off a cliff

Keep the Filters Clean

Make it a point to keep the filters inside your central air conditioner clean. Clogged filters can cause it to get overworked and consume more electricity. Also, make sure to replace the filters at least once a year.

Clean The Outdoor Coils

When the condenser coils of the outdoor unit become dirty, it lowers the ability to transfer heat, and the compressor has to run at higher pressures which gobbles up power. You can simple hose down your air conditioner’s coils with a hose (lightly! – don’t damage them). You can also buy condenser coil cleaner in most big box hardware stores and follow the directions on the product.

Keep the AC on Low Power

If you’re stepping out for an hour or so, it wouldn’t be wise to turn off the AC. This is because it takes more power to start the air conditioner than it takes to keep it running. Plus, it’ll have to work harder to bring your home temperature down again.

It’s better to keep your AC running at a high temperature.

Use a Fan

If your home is large and the cooling doesn’t reach every corner, then there’s no harm in setting up a fan to circulate the air properly. You can focus it towards the space that doesn’t get cold enough.

Electric fan
Using a fan is a great way to help cool large areas.

Get Your AC Serviced on Time

If your AC isn’t performing as well as it used to, then it’s time to think about getting it serviced by a professional HVAC technician. It’s a good idea to do this at least once a year.

This way it’ll keep your home cool, while also helping prolong the life of your central air conditioner.

Do Air Conditioners Use a Lot of Electricity?

The energy consumption of an air conditioner depends on its power ratings and BTUs. A rough estimate would put the electricity usage at around 3000 and 3500 watts per hour on average. This is typically the case during summer months.

The central ACs with a lower power rating consume around 2500 to 3000 watts per hour. Whereas the larger units consume more than 4000 watts per hour.

So yes, air conditioners do consume a lot of electricity, and they contribute to your high energy bills. This is why running them for even 10 to 12 hours per day can really rack up high energy costs.

Is It Cheaper to Run an Air Conditioner All Day?

According to air conditioning experts, turning your AC on and off all day is a waste of energy. This costs more in the long run. Therefore, it’s not a bad idea to leave your air conditioner on when you’re stepping out for work or any other purpose.

However, it’s also not a good idea to keep your central air conditioner running at full blast throughout the day. It will consume a lot of energy and amp up your electricity bill.

If you keep it running at a moderate temperature and fan speed, not only will it keep your home cool, but it’ll also cost you much less.

An AC has to work the hardest when the room’s temperature is high. So if you keep your central AC running all day, it won’t have to work as hard to keep the room cool. This way it’ll consume less energy than if you turn it on and off according to your routine.

However, the amount of energy you can save also depends on:

Programmable Thermostats

The best way to save money is to use an a programmable thermostat. Setting it at a set temperature when the house or zone is unoccupied. For example, during the AC season, you desire 74 when you are home, you could set the unit to 78 when you are away.  Most of these thermostats have adaptable recovery where they learn how long it takes to reach a temperature after being setback.

Check with your power company, some offer rebates to have a programmable or a wifi enabled thermostat installed in your home.

How Much Does an Air Conditioner Cost?

If your home doesn’t have an air conditioner or your central air conditioner has breathed its last, you’ll need a new one. When calculating the cost, you also have to factor in the installation costs. In some cases this cost exceeds the actual price of the AC itself.

A central air conditioner can cost anywhere between $1000 to $4000. This depends on its power rating and the area you need to cover.

When coupled with installation, this figure can soar up to a range between $3,200 and $12,000. The installation cost starts from $4000 for a 1.5 ton AC up to around $8,000 for a 5-ton air conditioner.


A central air conditioning is an essential appliance in your house. It keeps your home cool so you can endure the hot summer months. Since summers are getting hotter every year, the dependence on air conditioners is also rising.

This brings us to the end of this article.

I hope it helps you understand the different costs associated with buying, installing and running a central air conditioner, as well as the measures you can take to keep the energy consumption low.

If you like reading information like this, make sure to check out our other articles.

Thank you for reading, and have a wonderful day!


I've been helping homeowners with appliance repair since 2016. Starting out as an enthusiastic amateur, I've since worked with many Appliance, HVAC, and DIY experts over the last 7+ years. My mission is to help fix your appliances and prevent future issues - saving you stress, time, and money. Visit my author page to learn more! Read more