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Understanding How Much Electricity an Air Conditioner Uses

When the summer starts, you know to expect a rise in monthly electric bills. Air conditioning systems require large amounts of electricity to run, and as soon as you start to regularly turn on the AC, you’ll see an increase in electrical usage.

In this post, we’re going to look closer at the amount of electricity your AC consumes and the difference in electrical consumption compared to other appliances. If you’ve ever wondered what’s the difference between “cooling” and “fan only” mode on your AC, this is the post for you.

The Compressor Is the Source of Most Energy Consumption

An air conditioner contains multiple electrical components that consume energy: the blower fan, the compressor, the outside exhaust fan motor, the control board, and the thermostat. But as you probably know, it’s when the AC is actually providing cool air to the house that it uses the most energy. This is because the compressor must run in order for the AC to cool, and the compressor consumes an enormous amount of energy.

How much? There’s a range, because it depends on the size of the AC and several other factors. But on average, an air conditioner’s compressor uses 3,500 watts of electricity per hour when it runs. We can give you an idea of how much this is by comparing it to the average watts per hour of other household appliances:

  • Electric stove: 2,000 watts
  • 42” LED television: 20 watts
  • Dishwasher: 1,200 watts
  • Game console: 120 watts
  • Personal computer: 60 watts
  • Lawnmower: 1,000 watts
  • Microwave: 600 watts
  • Phone charger: 4 watts
  • Refrigerator: 100 watts
  • Toaster: 800 watts
  • Electric oven: 2,150 watts
  • Blow dryer: 1,800 watts
  • Electric tankless water heater: 6,600 watts

So, with the exception of an electric tankless water heater (not a common item), using the air conditioning system to cool your home uses more, and often much more, than most household electrical items. It costs money to stay cool, no doubt.

Fan-Only Mode

The best comparison to make for the air conditioner’s electric use is to compare it to its electrical consumption when the compressor isn’t running. I.e. when the AC is running in “fan-only” mode. When you’re just using the fan and the compressor isn’t turning on, your AC consumes about 750 watts per hour. Higher than many appliances, but only a fraction of the 3,500 the compressor uses. 

Using a ceiling fan to help cool down a house only uses from 50–80 watts per hour. That puts electrical use in perspective.

Smart Use of the AC

We understand that you will need to use your AC to stay cool this summer, and you know it will raise your electric bills. But you can help cut down on those costs if you know to set your thermostat to higher settings (such as 78°F during the day) and use alternative cooling methods like ceiling fans—which our electricians install! You may have an aging AC that’s become a major electricity hog, consuming 4,000–6,000 watts/hour, and in that case we recommend calling us for a new air conditioning installation in Los Angeles, CA.

Call our friendly technicians 24/7 for exceptional customer service! Kilowatt Heating, Air Conditioning and Electrical has served Los Angeles, Van Nuys, and the San Fernando Valley since 1990.

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