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2018 How Much Does Air Conditioning Cost to Run?

Last Updated Sep 14, 2018 · Written by Rob Schneider


Air conditioning can be one of the most expensive appliances to use. During the summer months, air conditioning costs can make electricity or gas bills soar, but there are ways to reduce the amount of energy you use. Reducing air conditioning costs can be a home improvement because you will have more money to spend on other things.

  1. Air conditioning compared to other appliances
  2. Why more Stars means less air conditioning costs
  3. Tips for saving money on air conditioning
  4. Why you want to save on the cost of air conditioning

Air conditioning compared to other appliances

To get an idea of how much air conditioning costs, it's a good idea to compare the cost to other appliances. These are some examples in a typical household:

  • Refrigerator: 6 cents per hour
  • Washing machine: 23 cents per hour
  • Dishwasher: 34 cents per hour
  • Air conditioner: 50 cents per hour

While it's true that a refrigerator runs 24 hours a day and may be more expensive than an air conditioner over the course of a year, in the summer months an air conditioner can run up to 8 hours a day or $4.00 a day. Multiply that by a month and an air conditioner costs up to $120.00 per month during the summer months. A refrigerator only costs $1.44 per day or $43.20 per 30 day month, so during the summer, an air conditioner can cost almost 3 times as much as a refrigerator.

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Washing machines are only used sporadically and may be used for 3 hours a week at most. Dishwashers are used every day, but only for an hour or so. Even over the course of a year, they may not cost as much as an air conditioner costs over the summer months and if you have a reverse cycle air conditioner, it will heat the home in winter and cool the home in summer and the cost will be far higher than any other appliance.

Why more stars means less air conditioning costs

Air conditioning comes with star ratings from 1 to 10. The following is based on a ducted reverse cycle air conditioner that heats a home 6 hours a day for 4 months and cools a home for 3 months a year for 6 hours:

  • A 5.0 Star reverse cycle air conditioner would cost around $2000 per year
  • A 5.5 Star reverse cycle air conditioner would cost around $2376 per year
  • A 6.0 Star reverse cycle air conditioner would cost around $1653 per year
  • A 7.0 Star reverse cycle air conditioner would cost around $1612 per year

These figures are based on one brand of air conditioner. Others may cost less or more than the prices above. To find out what different brands and models of air conditioners cost per year, visit the Energy Rating calculator and enter your postcode and the type of air conditioner you have or want.

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When you compare a 5.0 Star air conditioner to a 7.0 Star air conditioner, the savings is almost $400 per year. Multiply that by 10 years and the savings is around $4000. Lower Stars will be even less efficient and higher Stars more efficient.

Prices also vary depending on the size of the room an air conditioner has to cool. Some approximate values are:

  • 25 to 35 cents per hour for a small room
  • 36 to 70 cents per hour for a medium sized room
  • 70 to 95 cents per hour for a large room

Air conditioning can be expensive even in a small room when you multiply the hours used per day and per month. In a medium sized room, the cost can be double that of a small room and a large room can be almost triple the cost of a small room.

Evaporative coolers are much less expensive to run than standard air conditioners. They tend to humidify the air, though and the house should be opened to allow the moist air to escape. In a dry area, an evaporative cooler may be a perfect choice and a portable evaporative cooler only costs 4 cents an hour to run. A ducted evaporative cooler is more expensive at around 43 cents an hour. Read What is Ducted Evaporative Cooling: Ultimate Guide for more information.

Find a local Air Conditioning Specialist now

Tips for saving money on air conditioning

There are many ways you can save money on air conditioning:

  • Get the right size air conditioner for the space you need to cool
  • Raise the temperature and save !0 percent for every degree you raise the temperature
  • Purchase an inverter air conditioner and save up to 40 percent on costs
  • Use a fan when you don't need an air conditioner

Getting the right size of air conditioner for the space you have is very important because if you save a little money by buying a smaller air conditioner, it will work harder and use up more energy. Before long, the money you saved will be eaten up by energy costs.

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It's nice to walk into a frosty home after being in the hot sun, but it is a waste of energy. Turn up the air conditioner one or two degrees and save 10 to 20 percent on energy costs. Try turning the thermostat up one degree at a time and stop when the temperature seems too warm. If you're buying a new air conditioner, look for an inverter model and save up to 40 percent on energy costs.

Do you really need to use an air conditioner every day? A fan can cool a room and costs far less than an air conditioner. Fan cooling only uses electricity to run the fan, making it much less expensive than air conditioning. A ceiling fan will cost only 2 cents an hour to run, which is far lower than the cost of air conditioning.

Read Tips for Installing Ceiling Fans for the Summer to find out how to install an effective ceiling fan. A ceiling fan will have to be installed by an electrician, but ceiling fans are far cheaper than air conditioners and installation costs can be lower, too. For more information, read How Much Does it Cost to Install a Ceiling Fan?

Why you want to save on the cost of air conditioning

Nobody likes to waste money, but sometimes air conditioning seems like an indulgence worth the cost. If you get a 7.0 Star reverse cycle air conditioner, it might cost $1612 per year. Multiply that figure by 10 years and you have spent $16,120. By following the tips above, you can slash that figure and use the money for other things.

Turn up the temperature just two degrees and save 20 percent. Over 10 years that 20 percent adds up to $3224.00. Use a fan when you don't need air conditioning and save even more. If you're purchasing a new air conditioner, look for an inverter model and save up to 40 percent more and look at the Energy Star Label. It will show both the Stars and the amount of energy an air conditioner uses.

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The examples above show that a 5.0 Star label will cost around $20,000 in 10 years, but a 7.0 Star label will cost only $16,120 over ten years. That alone is an almost $4000 savings and when you combine a higher Star label with a higher temperature and using a ceiling fan when the weather isn't too hot, it can represent a significant savings. Add in an inverter air conditioner and you may pay only half what an average air conditioner costs.

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