Is Air Conditioning Expensive to Run?

Air conditioning changed the world almost as much as the wheel, the internal combustion engine and the airplane. No air conditioning, no glass skyscrapers, because it would just get too hot inside. No air conditioning, no computers, because computers need a dry cool environment to operate effectively. No air conditioning, no sterile environments to operate in or perform experiments in or develop lifesaving drugs in. No air conditioning, and places like Phoenix, Las Vegas and Dubai would just be dusty outposts in the desert. And we could go on. The point is, air conditioning is nothing short of transformative technology, but it has one potential drawback: the cost. Below, we’re going to take a look at how much it actually costs to air condition your home or office or home office.

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The Cost of Running Your Air Conditioner

A common reaction to a high electricity bill during the warmer months is to cut back on the amount of time you run the air conditioner. And this makes sense since the AC can account for a significant portion of your electric bill. Exactly how much is impossible to calculate here since that depends on a slew of factors including the size and location of your house, it’s age, how well insulated it is, whether you have double pane windows, how many hours you run it, the outside temperature and of course what you personally feel is a comfortable temperature. So for this discussion of air conditioning costs we’re not going to be pinned down to exact dollar amounts. Instead we’re going to toss out a few ball park figures, compare the cost of running the AC with the cost of other common appliances and provide a few tips on running your AC more efficiently.

Take Me Out to the Ballpark

Let’s jump right into it. On average, given current energy prices it should cost approximately 50¢ per hour to cool a decent size room of about 350 sf. Not bad. But that’s just one room, one air conditioner. If you have separate portable AC units in different rooms then you’re talking about multiplying that ballpark figure by the number of rooms. If you are thinking of installing central air, or moving into a home with central air, you can expect to spend somewhere in the neighborhood of $2.50 per hour to cool your home. So how do those costs compare with other appliances? By comparison an oven will typically cost about $1 an hour to run, a gas stove may cost you about 45¢ per hour while an average sized refrigerator is a steal at about 1¢ per hour. Continuing with our tour an iron is fairly costly at about 85¢ per hour while a clothes dryer can really clean out your bank account to the tune of more than $3 per hour. Lighting your home may cost as much as $2 per hour (depending on the size of your home of course) while running a pool filter can set you back nearly 60¢ per hour. These are ballpark figures but you can see cooling a single room with an air conditioner will typically cost you less per hour than running the dryer, the oven, the clothes iron and your lights. In that sense then it’s not really the money pit some would make it out to be. Still, there are things that can be done to reduce the cost of air conditioning your home even more.

Cutting your Air Conditioning Costs

We can see that air conditioning falls into the middle of the pack when it comes to cost per hour to run and that’s great. However, there are still some common sense steps you can take that will reduce operational costs even further. They include:

● Putting curtains and doors to work – If you’re running your air conditioner with the curtains open you’re wasting energy. Direct sunlight streaming in the window can double the cost of cooling a room in the daytime. Likewise running the air conditioner with the door to the room open is another enormous waste of money.
● Making sure your home is properly insulated – Poor insulation can keep your home cold in the winter and hot in the summer. It can also result in lots of wasted energy as your air conditioner tries to keep up with the leaky environment. Now is as good a time as any to double check the insulation in your home and if it’s less than optimal have it upgraded.
● Not changing the temperature settings all the time – Set your air conditioner to one temperature and keep it there. Typically anything cooler than 24C is a waste of money and anything warmer than 27C is isn’t going to be very comfortable. Pick one temp somewhere in that range and stick to it.
● Making sure you maintain your air conditioner – Air conditioners work hard. As such they need to be properly maintained or they’ll become inefficient and even break down. Always make sure the filter is clean and clear and replace it when it’s dirty. And make certain any vents are free of dirt and obstructions as well.
● Exploring alternatives – If you live in a damp, humid area dehumidifiers might work wonders at making your interior spaces more livable. When used in concert with an air conditioner, neither has to be run very hard and the combination of the 2 can result in an extremely dry and comfy environment for not a lot of money. In addition you may not need air conditioning in every room. In some rooms on the cool side of the house ceiling fans might do the trick.

Air conditioning does an amazing job of keeping our homes livable during the red hot summer months. As a result we’re able to live healthier more comfortable lives for relatively short money. Applying a little common sense to how you use your air conditioners can allow you to save even more. So take the above tips to heart and keep a bit more of your hard-earned in your pocket.

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