There are so many choices when it comes to air conditioners. Depending on where you live or the type of home you have, you likely have several options. Maybe your choice is hinging on the question of how much does it cost to run a ductless air conditioner.
If so, you’re in the right place. I’ve done some research and I’m here to share.
How much it costs to run a ductless air condition depends on the size (BTU) and your local electricity cost per kWh. For example, a 12,000 BTU ductless air conditioner running for 8 hours a day at .13¢ per kWh will cost approximately $3.66 per day to run.
Did that make your brain hurt? The good news is we have a calculator to help you determine your costs. Read on, and I’ll give you a quick walkthrough of how it works.
Oh, one more thing. Ductless air conditioners are also known as mini-splits so keep that in mind if you’re doing any research.
How to Use the Calculator
There’s a good chance you don’t need this but in case you do, here’s how the calculator works.
- Power Draw. If you have an air conditioner already, it should have a label with the BTU rating. Or just Google the model number for the BTUs. The calculator will convert that to watts
- Outside Temperature Field. What is the average summer temp in your area? Try to use that instead of the temperature of a specific day. For example, if temperatures range from 70 to 80 degrees throughout the summer, base your average on that.
- Hours and Days You’ll Run the Unit. How many hours and days you plan to run the AC.
- Your Electricity Cost. This is asking for your local kWh cost. You can either use the table below for an estimate or refer to your most recent bill.
Your Estimated Costs
It’s important to note that the amounts the calculator provides are simply estimates. Given the number of unknowns and variables, there is no way for it to provide exact amounts.
For those of you who already have an air conditioner running, the best way to determine how much it costs is to refer to your electric bill. Some power companies even provide online accounts where you can log in and see time of day usage.
Here’s a bit of a primer on how the calculator arrives at some of its estimates.
Your air conditioner doesn’t run all the time at full power. Once a room has reached your desired set temperature, the compressor—your air conditioner may use something other than a compressor, but the principle is the same—shuts off. However, a fan continues to run.
The air conditioner remains in this state until the thermostat calls for cool air again because the temps in the room have begun to rise.
All of this happens based on outdoor temperatures. The hotter it is outside, the more the longer your air conditioner has to work at full power to keep your room cool.
What the calculator does is factor in the outside temperatures that you provided. Depending on that, it will base an estimate on the compressor running 30, 60, or 90% of the hours you run it in a day.
What is Ductless Air Conditioning?
The simple answer is it doesn’t need ductwork to operate. If you have central air, you need a whole system of ducts throughout the house to push air through.
The ductless system is comprised of two units. One outdoor, and one indoor, with the two connected by wiring and a tube to carry the refrigerant. In most cases, the indoor units are wall-mounted. They can also be paired with a heat pump to heat the home.
Ductless systems can be configured into both single and multi-zone units. In the case of a single zone, one outdoor compressor is matched to a single indoor unit. Multi-zone units connect one outdoor compressor to up to five indoor units.
Ductless vs Central Air Conditioning
As I mentioned at the outset you may have a choice in what kind of AC you can use. So let’s do a comparison of ductless to central air conditioning.
Ultimately, this will depend on if your home has ductwork or not. As the name indicates, these units will function with ducts.
If you don’t have ductwork, the cost to install that plus the price of a central AC unit will be far more than installing a ductless system. A ductless system will cost between $1 to $2,000 for a single zone. For a multizone unit, each extra inside unit costs between $5 to $700 per unit.
If you do have ductwork and it’s in good shape, go for central air.
In terms of the cost to operation costs, ductless systems are generally cheaper to run.
One more factor to consider is maintenance. A ductless system doesn’t require the amount of maintenance—and the associated costs—the central air does.
In some circumstances, a ductless system may be more efficient.
One of the biggest impacts on the efficiency of central air is the state of the ductwork. If it has leaky joints and it’s losing air, that adversely impacts efficiency.
Ductless systems don’t have the power that a central air conditioner will have, so they’d have to work harder to cool a larger area. Because of that, larger homes would do better with a central system.
In either case, the compressor is outside. And that’s the noisy part of your AC.
Having said that, if you have central air but have the above-mentioned bad ductwork, things can get noisy. And depending on the fan speed, noise can be impacted as well. But central AC can run almost silently if everything works as it should.
And the noise of a ductless system could vary, so you would be wise to check decibel levels on anything you might be researching.
Frankly, if my home didn’t already have ductwork, I wouldn’t even consider getting central air installed. Especially if I had a finished basement. You’re basically looking at a renovation to install ductwork.
On the flip side, installing a ductless system is easy. The compressor is installed outside and the indoor units are just clipped to the wall. The biggest part of the job is drilling through the house for the indoor and outdoor units to connect.
Zoning for a central unit is costly. In terms of the unit itself and the labor.
Controlling the temperature in multiple rooms with a multi-zone ductless unit simply means installing your indoor units in those rooms.
You’re now armed with all the information you need. Your able to calculate how much it will cost to run a ductless air conditioner. You know how a ductless air conditioner works. And you know some of the pros and cons are between central and ductless systems.
Hopefully, all of this info helps you make an informed decision if you’re still in the research stage.