How Much Electricity Does a Central Air Conditioner Use?

This central air conditioner usage guide is designed to help you figure out two things:

  • How much electricity your central AC is using
  • How much it costs to run

We offer several charts that show the electricity use and running cost for central air conditioners ranging in size from 1-ton to 5-ton.

This page answers the questions:

“How much electricity (kWh) does my central AC use?”

“How much does it cost to run central AC?”

We include a calculator tool that will help you to calculate how much electricity your central air conditioner is using per hour, month, and year, and how much it costs to run. Below you can also find tips for how to calculate this information by yourself, as well as some answers to common FAQs.

Central AC Electricity Consumption and Running Cost Calculator

This calculator will provide you with the electricity usage and running cost of your central air conditioner per hour, month, and year.

How to Use the Calculator: Simply enter the size of your central AC (how many tons it is) and the state you live in. Each state has its own approximate cooling rate and cooling hours per year, so entering your state will help you get a more accurate result.

Central AC Electricity Consumption and Running Cost Calculator

If you know your unit’s SEER rating (efficiency), you can enter that number as well. And you should – it will significantly impact your result if you enter the wrong efficiency rating.

This calculator provides the electricity consumption amount in Kilowatts (kWh). If you would like to change the amount to Watts, just multiply the kWh amount by 1,000, since 1 Kilowatt = 1,000 Watts.

Central Air Conditioner Electricity Usage Table

The central AC table below provides the electricity usage per hour, month, and year of 1 – 5 ton air conditioners.

AC Capacity (Ton)Electricity Usage
(Per Hour)
Electricity Usage
(Per Month)
Electricity Usage
(Per Year)
1 Ton0.75 kWh540 kWh990 kWh
1.5 Ton1.13 kWh810 kWh1,485 kWh
2 Ton1.50 kWh1,080 kWh1,980 kWh
2.5 Ton1.88 kWh1,350 kWh2,475 kWh
3 Ton2.25 kWh1,620 kWh2,970 kWh
3.5 Ton2.63 kWh1,890 kWh3,465 kWh
4 Ton3.00 kWh2,160 kWh3,960 kWh
5 Ton3.75 kWh2,700 kWh4,950 kWh

* Based on 16 SEER AC and average yearly cooling hours in the U.S..

Example: How much electricity does a 2.5 ton central AC use?

The chart tells us that a 2.5 ton central AC uses 1.88 kWh of electricity each hour. This means that in one month, a 2.5 ton central AC uses 1350 kWh of electricity, and 2475 kWh per year.

Central Air Conditioner Running Cost Table

The table below provides the cost to run a central AC per hour, month, and year for a 1 – 5 ton air conditioner.

A handy rule of thumb if you need to do this calculation in your head is that each ton of central AC costs about $0.10 to run per hour if it is 16 SEER, a very common efficiency rating. If it is less efficient, it will cost more per hour. If more efficient, it will use less electricity and cost less to operate.

AC Capacity (Ton)Running Cost
(Per Hour)
Running Cost
(Per Month)
Running Cost
(Per Year)
1 Ton$0.10$75$137
1.5 Ton$0.16$112$206
2 Ton$0.21 $150$274
2.5 Ton$0.26 $187$343
3 Ton$0.31 $224$411
3.5 Ton$0.36 $262$480
4 Ton$0.42 $299$548
5 Ton$0.52 $374$686

* Based on 16 SEER, United States average electricity rate and yearly cooling hours.

Example: What is the monthly cost to run a 1.5 ton central AC in Florida?

The monthly cost to run a 1.5 ton central AC in Orlando, Florida is $91. If you’d like a more specific answer based on your area, you can select the area of the state where you live.

How to Save Electricity with Central AC

One thing that every homeowner is interested in is keeping the electric bill low. Everyone wants to have a less expensive monthly payment! The best way to save money on your electric bill is by being efficient with your electricity usage.

1. Turn Up the Thermostat – This may sound tough if you are someone who loves keeping the house chilly, but turning up your thermostat just a few degrees can make a big difference in your power consumption. Research has shown that keeping your thermostat 10 degrees warmer than you normally do for 8 hours per day can cut your yearly cooling costs by 10%!

2. Invest in Good Curtains – The summer sun streaming in through your windows may look lovely, but it heats up your house like a sauna! Getting some nice thick curtains to shade your home from the sun conserves energy and keeps your house cooler for longer.

3. Perform Regular Maintenance – Keeping your AC running smoothly is key to energy efficiency and low electric bills. Make sure you are regularly changing filters, cleaning out debris, and scheduling maintenance checkups with a professional.


1. Which uses more electricity, a window unit or central air?

A central air conditioner uses significantly more energy than a window AC unit because most are larger. It’s estimated that central air uses about 65% more electricity per hour than a window unit. But, of course, it provides cooling to a much larger area.

However, if you compared the energy usage of an 18,000 BTU window unit and a 1.5 ton/18,000 BTU central AC, energy consumption would be comparable and possibly less with the central AC, because it would likely be more efficient.

2. What is the best temperature to save electricity?

According to the Department of Energy, 78 degrees Fahrenheit (26 degrees Celsius) is the ideal temperature to set your thermostat at for maximum efficiency.


Written by

Rene has worked 10 years in the HVAC field and now is the Senior Comfort Specialist for PICKHVAC. He holds an HVAC associate degree and EPA & R-410A Certifications.

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