How much electricity does my air conditioner use?

How much electricity does your air conditioner use? Plus, how much will it really cost to run your air conditioner?

A recent Canstar Blue survey found that many Australian households (19%) have cut down on using their air conditioning to save money on their electricity bills. Our research revealed that almost a third of survey respondents (32%) suspect air conditioning to be the largest contributor to power bills.

With this in mind, we’ve crunched the numbers on how much air conditioning will cost your household to run. For these calculations, we have assumed an average electricity usage charge per kilowatt hour (kWh) based on each specific location.

How much does it cost to run an air conditioner for cooling?

The average reverse cycle air conditioner costs anywhere from about $23 to $300 a year to run, depending on the size of the room and location. A medium-sized room of 20-40m2 would cost roughly between $46 and $215 a year, while in larger areas (40-60m2), it will add about $64 to $300 in annual electricity costs.

A ducted whole-house reverse cycle air conditioning system is again the biggest money pit, at $196 – $817 a year to run. Keep in mind these annual costs will vary depending on which climate zone you’re in, what electricity usage rate you’re being charged, air conditioner unit’s capacity and the size of the room being cooled.

Cooling Costs (reverse cycle, split-system air conditioner)

The table below shows how much you might pay for cold air con over a year. The prices below are based on usage assumptions for air con use, which consider the energy efficiency of a device according to the climate zone you live in (hot, average, cold). For example, you’ll see that a Brisbane household will use much more than a home in Melbourne, since the system must work harder to balance out the hot external temperature.

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Room Size & A/C Capacity Brisbane (Hot^) Sydney
(Average^)
Adelaide
(Average^)
Perth
(Average^)
Melbourne
(Cold^)
Hobart
(Cold^)
Canberra
(Cold^)
Small (up to 20m2)

2-3kW system

$103.94
(479kWh)
$41.14
(170kWh)
$53.38
(170kWh)
$49.81
(170kWh)
$23.22
(109kWh)
$24.09
(109kWh)
$25.83
(109kWh)
Medium (20-40m2)
3-5kW system
$215.05
(991kWh)
$82.52
(341kWh)
$107.07
(341kWh)
$99.91
(341kWh)
$46.22
(217kWh)
$47.96
(217kWh)
$51.43
(217kWh)
Large (40-60 m2)
5-7kW system
$299.89
(1,382kWh)
$114.71
(474kWh)
$148.84
(474kWh)
$138.88
(474kWh)
$64.11
(301kWh)
$66.52
(301kWh)
$71.34
(301kWh)

Source: www.canstar.com.au – 11/04/2022. Average energy consumption figures based on reverse cycle, non-ducted, single split system air conditioners listed in the Commonwealth of Australia E3 Program’s Registration database. Capacity based on rated cooling capacity at 35°C. Usage cost estimates based on average electricity usage costs – 21.7 c/kWh in Brisbane, 24.2 c/kWh in Sydney, 31.4 c/kWh in Adelaide, 21.3 c/kWh in Melbourne, 22.1 c/kWh in Hobart and 23.7 c/kWh in Canberra. Except for Perth which is based on the usage rate of the Synergy Home Plan of 29.3 c/kWh. Average usage costs are based on rates for an annual usage of 4,200 kWh. ^Climate zones based on the new Zoned Energy Rating Label for air conditioner models imported or supplied after 1 April 2020.

How much does it cost to run an air conditioner for heating?

It generally costs about $11 to almost $500 a year to run a reverse cycle air conditioner to warm a room. Like air conditioning cooling running costs, the yearly amount will depend on location, size of the a/c unit and the room size. A ducted whole-house reverse cycle air conditioning system costs the most, at $62 – $1,244 a year, so make sure you really need it before pressing that button!

Heating Costs (reverse cycle, split-system air conditioner)

The table below reveals the annual costs of using your air con to heat, rather than cool. The usage figures below the costs reflect the demand for heating in each state, as well as how energy efficient an appliance can be depending on the climate zone. In this scenario, a Melbourne household uses significantly more hot air con than a Brisbane one, since it’s much colder there year-round.

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Room Size & A/C Capacity Brisbane (Hot^) Sydney
(Average^)
Adelaide
(Average^)
Perth
(Average^)
Melbourne
(Cold^)
Hobart
(Cold^)
Canberra
(Cold^)
Small (up to 20m2)

2-3kW system

$11.07
(51kWh)
$107.45
(444kWh)
$139.42
(444kWh)
$130.09
(444kWh)
$188.51
(885kWh)
$195.59
(885kWh)
$209.75
(885kWh)
Medium (20-40m2)
3-5kW system
$15.19
(70kWh)
$111.80
(462kWh)
$145.07
(462kWh)
$135.37
(462kWh)
$265.82
(1,248kWh)
$275.81
(1,248kWh)
$295.78
(1,248kWh)
Large (40-60 m2)
5-7kW system
$24.09
(111kWh)
$184.40
(762kWh)
$239.27
(762kWh)
$223.27
(762kWh)
$444.11
(2,085kWh)
$460.79
(2,085kWh)
$494.15
(2,085kWh)

Source: www.canstar.com.au – 11/04/2022. Average energy consumption figures based on reverse cycle, non-ducted, single split system air conditioners listed in the Commonwealth of Australia E3 Program’s Registration database. Capacity based on rated heating capacity at 7°C. Usage cost estimates based on average electricity usage costs – 21.7 c/kWh in Brisbane, 24.2 c/kWh in Sydney, 31.4 c/kWh in Adelaide, 21.3 c/kWh in Melbourne, 22.1 c/kWh in Hobart and 23.7 c/kWh in Canberra. Except for Perth which is based on the usage rate of the Synergy Home Plan of 29.3 c/kWh. Average usage costs are based on rates for an annual usage of 4,200 kWh. ^Climate zones based on the new Zoned Energy Rating Label for air conditioner models imported or supplied after 1 April 2020.

Ducted Air Conditioner Running Costs

Ducted air conditioning is the undisputed king of cooling, but it comes at a cost. Not only are ducted aircon systems more expensive to install, but as the table below illustrates, they’re not cheap to run either. Below is the annual ducted air conditioning running costs for a reverse cycle, single-split system with 12-15 kWh capacity to cool a 90m2 area.

Climate Zone City Yearly Cooling Costs Yearly Heating Costs
Hot Brisbane $817.01 $62.06
Mixed Sydney $312.91 $468.75
Mixed Adelaide $406.00 $608.22
Mixed Perth $378.85 $567.54
Cold Melbourne $176.36 $1,118.46
Cold Hobart $182.99 $1,160.47
Cold Canberra $196.24 $1,244.49

Source: www.canstar.com.au – 11/04/2022. Average energy consumption figures based on reverse cycle, ducted, single split system air conditioners listed in the Commonwealth of Australia E3 Program’s Registration database. Capacity based on rated cooling capacity at 35°C or heating capacity at 7°C. Usage cost estimates based on average electricity usage costs – 21.7 c/kWh in Brisbane, 24.2 c/kWh in Sydney, 31.4 c/kWh in Adelaide, 21.3 c/kWh in Melbourne, 22.1 c/kWh in Hobart and 23.7 c/kWh in Canberra. Except for Perth which is based on the usage rate of the Synergy Home Plan of 29.3 c/kWh. Average usage costs are based on rates for an annual usage of 4,200 kWh. ^Climate zones based on the new Zoned Energy Rating Label for air conditioner models imported or supplied after 1 April 2020. Average annual energy consumptions by climate zone for cooling are: 3,765kWh for Hot, 1,293kWh for Mixed and 828kWh for Cold, and for heating are: 286kWh for Hot, 1,937kWh for Mixed and 5,251kWh for Cold.

Cheap Electricity Deals

While you’re here, why not take the time to compare energy plans in your area. Check out our free comparison tool to see a range of quotes for your suburb or look at some cheap electricity plans by clicking on your state below:

Here are some of the cheapest published deals from the retailers on our database that include a link to the retailer’s website for further details. These are products from referral partners†. These costs are based on the Ausgrid network in Sydney but prices may vary depending on your circumstances. This comparison assumes general energy usage of 3900kWh/year for a residential customer on a single rate tariff. Please use our comparison tool for a specific comparison in your area. Our database may not cover all deals in your area. As always, check all details of any plan directly with the retailer before making a purchase decision.

Here are some of the cheapest published deals from the retailers on our database that include a link to the retailer’s website for further details. These are products from referral partners†. These costs are based on the Citipower network in Melbourne but prices may vary depending on your circumstances. This comparison assumes general energy usage of 4000kWh/year for a residential customer on a single rate tariff. Please use our comparison tool for a specific comparison in your area. Our database may not cover all deals in your area. As always, check all details of any plan directly with the retailer before making a purchase decision.

Here are some of the cheapest published deals from the retailers on our database that include a link to the retailer’s website for further details. These are products from referral partners†. These costs are based on the Energex network in Brisbane but prices may vary depending on your circumstances. This comparison assumes general energy usage of 4600kWh/year for a residential customer on a single rate tariff. Please use our comparison tool for a specific comparison in your area. Our database may not cover all deals in your area. As always, check all details of any plan directly with the retailer before making a purchase decision.

Here are some of the cheapest published deals from the retailers on our database that include a link to the retailer’s website for further details. These are products from referral partners†. These costs are based on the SA Power network in Adelaide but prices may vary depending on your circumstances. This comparison assumes general energy usage of 4000kWh/year for a residential customer on a single rate tariff. Please use our comparison tool for a specific comparison in your area. Our database may not cover all deals in your area. As always, check all details of any plan directly with the retailer before making a purchase decision.

How can I reduce the cost of using my air con?

We’ve established that air conditioners aren’t necessarily the Big Bad Wolf when it comes to your power bills. However, there is still the potential for your power bill to shock you if you’ve been running your aircon a fair bit through a particularly sweltering summer. Here are some easy tips to potentially minimise the effect aircon can have on your power bill:

  • Consider an energy-efficient air conditioner: Energy-efficient air conditioners cost less to run and could save you lots in the long term. Remember, the more stars on an energy star rating, the more efficient the appliance.
  • Set your air conditioner to the right temperature: Even slight changes to air conditioner temperature settings can add a surprising amount to your electricity bill.
  • Consider alternatives to air conditioning: While modern air conditioners might not cost as much as you think, there are cheaper alternatives. Consider evaporate coolers, ceiling fans, portable aircon units or practical cooling solutions.
  • Buy when the time is right: Unit and installation costs of air conditioners can be fairly seasonal. Hold off on buying until the time is right.
  • Keep your air conditioner clean: A well-maintained aircon unit will run more efficiently than one that has never been cleaned. The harder your system has to work to reach the temperature you have set, the more electricity it will use.
  • Make sure you’re not paying too much for electricity: If you haven’t compared electricity plans recently, you might not be getting the best deal. Compare leading electricity retailers at Canstar Blue.

Air Conditioner Reviews & Ratings

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