How Much Does It Cost to Run AC (Window, Portable, Mini Split)

Air conditioning makes life more livable in hot weather – but what does it cost to run?

That’s a big question for many homeowners: “How much is air conditioning going to cost monthly?” What’s the cost of staying cool?

Once you purchase a window unit, portable air conditioner, or mini split AC, how much will your monthly utility bill go up? Read on for more information on the cost to run various types of air conditioning units.

Air Conditioner Electricity Cost Calculator

This estimator can quickly and easily calculate the estimated monthly cost to run your air conditioning unit, so you’ll know whether running it is expensive. Here is the AC Cost to Operate Calculator with explanation below if you want to be guided through its use.

Air Conditioner Running Cost Calculator

cents/kWh

Ex. 1: How much does it cost to run a 5000 BTU air conditioner in California?

The cost average is 12 cents per hour, or about $83 per month if you run it 24×7. You can find the answer by using the AC Operating Cost calculator and filling in the information – 5000 BTU in the first box and selecting California in the menu in the second box.

Your state’s average cost of electricity appears. And then the Running Cost per Hour and Month automatically shows.

Ex. 2: What is the cost to run a 10000 BTU air conditioner in Hawaii?

About 16 cents per hour or $117 per month if used full-time.

Tip: If you know the EER efficiency rating of the AC, you can input that in the EER box. Otherwise, using the default 10 EER will give you a pretty accurate answer for most ACs.

Here’s how those results are found with the calculator:

1). AC Size: Enter the size of the air conditioning unit you are using by finding the BTUs.

A small AC unit starts around 5,000 BTUs. Most portable ACs are 14,000 BTU. And mini split air conditioners can be as large as 36,000 BTUs – sometimes larger.

2). Your State: Right under the BTU section is where you chose the state that you want to find the cost for. The calculator uses the state information to give you the updated cost per kilowatt hour, or kWh. This will automatically also give you the running cost per hour and the monthly cost for your air conditioning unit.

3). EER if you Know it: EER is an acronym for “Energy Efficiency Ratio.” EER is calculated by dividing the BTU of the air conditioner by the power consumption in watts. A simple example would be that a 12,000 BTU AC that uses 1,200 watts has a EER rating of 10, since 12,000 divided by 1,200 is 10. The higher the EER rating, the more efficient the air conditioning unit is.

4). Electricity Rate: This is automatically filled in when you fill in your state. However, it is the statewide average. If you want to be absolutely precise, you can enter the cost of electricity found on your energy bill.

Results: The calculator will inform you of the price per hour to run your air conditioner and also give a total monthly cost.

I don’t run the AC 24/7!” Most of us don’t. So, in that case, track how many hours a day you do use – or think you will use – and multiply the hourly rate by the number of hours it runs times the number of days in the month it runs.

Ex. What’s the cost to run a 12000 BTU AC in Texas for 8 hours?

The answer is 14 cents an hour x 8 hours, or $1.12 if you run it all day or all night, for example. If you run it every day, or 30 days, the cost is $33.60 per month.

Cost to Run 5000 to 18000 BTU Air Conditioner

Here’s a quick look at electricity cost to run a room air conditioner – window or portable – or a mini split AC or heat pump.

How much does it cost to run a 5,000 – 18,000 BTU air conditioner

AC Capacity
(BTU)
Running Cost 
(Per Hour)
Running Cost 
(Per Day)
Running Cost
(Per Month)
5,000 BTU$0.07$1.68$50.40
6,000 BTU$0.08$1.92$59.83
8,000 BTU$0.11$2.62$79.78
10,000 BTU$0.14$3.36$99.72
12,000 BTU$0.17$4.08$119.66
14,000 BTU$0.19$4.56$139.61
15,000 BTU$0.21$5.04$149.58
18,000 BTU$0.25$6.00$179.50

* Based on 10 EER efficiency and the United States average electricity rate: $13.85 cents/kWh.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are related questions and answers containing more useful information.

Does it cost more to run fans or AC?

Running a ceiling fan, rather than air conditioning, is much cheaper. A two-ton central air conditioning unit costs about $.20 per hour to operate. An 18,000 BTU window air conditioning unit will run around $.18 per hour to cool your home. In contrast to those two cooling systems, a fan will only cost about $.01 to $.05 per hour, depending on how many fans are in operation.

Do window AC units use a lot of electricity?

A window air conditioning unit will use about one third of the electricity that a central air conditioning system will use. For example, a large 15,000 BTU window unit will use around 1,500 watts. An 18,000 BTU central air system will use around 2,250 watts.

Use our BTU to Watts Calculator to find out how much electricity your AC uses based on size.

How much does it cost to run central air conditioning?

The cost to run central air conditioning depends on a number of factors. First of all, how many hours a day are you running your air conditioner? Secondly, what climate zone do you live in? How big is your air conditioning unit? Finally, what is the price for electricity where you live?

On average, it costs between $75 and $175 per month to run a central air conditioning system. If you have a 3-ton central air conditioning unit, you can expect to pay up to $.55 per hour to operate it in order to keep your home cool and comfortable.

Examples of Cost

Here are some examples of how much you would expect to spend to cool an average 1,500 square foot home by using fans, a portable air conditioning unit, a window AC unit, central air conditioning, and a mini split system.

Fans – Using fans is the cheapest way to cool your home, but they are not very effective in hot climates. Ceiling and box fans only cost around $.01 to $.03 per hour to operate. Let’s say that you have four fans and are operating them for eight hours a day, you would pay around $20 to $30 per month for the electrical cost to run your fans.

Portable Air Conditioning Unit – Portable air conditioning units are a popular room AC type since they can be moved from room to room. However, they are not nearly as efficient as the other air conditioning choices. Portable air units can only cool around 500 square feet, so they are designed to cool only one room at a time. The price to operate a portable air conditioning unit is an average of $0.11 per hour or almost a dollar day for an 8,000 BTU unit, but this will only cool around 400 square feet.

Window Air Conditioning Unit – Like portable AC units, window air conditioners are designed to cool one room at a time. At most, they could possibly cool two adjoining rooms. The average cost to operate one window AC unit is about a third of what central air conditioning costs, so on average, expect to pay around $70 a month for the electricity to use a window air conditioner.

Central Air Conditioning – A 1,500 square foot home requires 24,000 BTUs to properly cool your home. If an air conditioning unit has an EER rating of 12 and 24,000 BTUs you would pay $0.28 an hour or almost $200 per month to operate your central air conditioning unit.

Mini Split System – A 24,000 (2-ton) BTU mini split air conditioning or heat pump system will raise your electric bill around $0.32 an hour or $230 a month to operate.

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 from Lone Star College and EPA & R-410A Certifications.

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