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June 5, 2023

How Many Watts Does an Air Conditioner Use?

When you need reliable air conditioning services, call Complete Comfort Heating, Air, & Plumbing at 317-754-8511.

Air conditioners provide delightful cold air that can keep you cool and healthy even during the hottest months of the year. Although air conditioners rely on many features and elements, homeowners should understand how air conditioners use electric power. So it’s worth asking, “How many watts does an air conditioner use?”

Complete Comfort Heating, Air & Plumbing stands out as Greenwood’s top-rated heating and cooling company. We’re here to explain what watts mean, why they matter, how different air conditioners vary in watt usage, and several other important topics that can help you learn more about your AC unit.

how many watts does an air conditioner use

What Is a Watt?

Watts are energy units that describe the rate of power transfer. Most electricity companies use kilowatts, or units of a thousand watts, charged per hour to bill you for payment. Since air conditioners require electricity to convert warm air into cold air, your unit uses watts.

Watt usage matters more than a trivial detail. If your air conditioner starts to use more watts than it’s supposed to, your electricity bill will spike. Watt usage also affects sustainability; the more electricity your unit uses, the greater your home’s carbon footprint will be.

Air Conditioner Watt Usage By Type

When asking, “How many watts does an air conditioner use?” it’s crucial to consider the air conditioner type. Air conditioners come in many varieties. 

Portable Air Conditioners

Portable air conditioners provide a steady supply of cold air, all in a small and handy package. These units use a hose to handle condensation but lack the ductwork you see with other air conditioners. Strangely, despite their size, they use the same or even more watts than other air conditioners: typically between 2,900 and 4,100 watts per hour.

Window Air Conditioners

Window air conditioners rest on a window frame; they’re perfect for smaller rooms in apartments and condos. What they lack in cooling efficacy, they make up in efficiency and size. A window air conditioner with a cooling range of 400 square feet uses 500 watts of power, while a larger unit with a 1,000 square feet range uses 1,400 watts per hour.

It’s important to include all of your air conditioners when calculating how many watts your home’s units use. So, if you have a window air conditioner in a frequently-used bedroom and another in an attic that you rarely, if ever, use, adjust your math accordingly.

Mini-Split Air Conditioners

Min-split air conditioners use multiple units to cover specific zones within a house. For instance, you could have one outdoor unit and four indoor units, with each of the indoor units covering a few rooms or so. You can use multiple zones at the same time.

Like window and portable units, they don’t require ductwork. You can expect a mini-split air conditioner to use 700 and 2,000 watts of electricity per hour. 

Ductless Air Conditioners

As the name suggests, ductless air conditioners don’t use ducts, so they’re ideal for home additions, spaces without ducts, or even older homes. An indoor and outdoor unit work together to cover your home’s entire surface area. They have a one-to-one watt per hour to square footage ratio.

For instance, a 2,000-square-foot home needs 2,000 watts per hour.

Central Air Conditioners

Central air conditioning systems provide unparalleled power and energy efficiency, perfect for larger homes and properties. Recent statistics suggest that 90% of recently built homes use central air conditioners for cooling; yet, many people don’t understand their watt usage depends on whether they use their cooling or fan function.

Cooling occurs when your air conditioner turns hot air into cold air. The standard rule of thumb for cooling is that central air conditioners use 1,000 watts per one ton of cooling capacity. Cooling capacity varies from home to home, yet, a standard 2,000-square-foot home can handle 3.5 tons.

So, given those rules, if you own a 4,000-square-foot home, you’d need 7,000 watts of power. Yet other factors, like additional floors, tall windows, and bad insulation, could alter that ratio.

What about if you only want to use the fan? Fans use considerably less electricity, typically about 750 watts per hour.

Factors Influencing Air Conditioner Power Usage

Air conditioner type affects watt usage. However, several other factors can affect your air conditioner’s power efficiency. 

For example, unit age determines how effectively your unit handles cooling. The older the air conditioner, the less advanced its cooling technology.

While this might not seem like a serious problem, older units aren’t energy-efficient and require more power to cool even small living spaces; they also require more frequent maintenance, and without that maintenance, they can use even more electricity.

Unit size plays a part in regulating your unit’s power usage. Although many homeowners assume that larger air conditioners offer better energy efficiency, that simply isn’t the case, as a unit that’s too large for a given space will provide lackluster cooling and fail to cool a room properly. Smaller units in larger spaces, on the other hand, overheat quickly.

Tracking Watt Usage

It’s possible to track your air conditioner’s watt usage. Simply keep track of your energy bills from month to month, and ask yourself: has my bill gone up? An even better trick is to compare your bill from one month this year with one from the same month last year; if the temperatures match, yet your bill’s increased, it’s highly likely that you suffer from a watt usage issue.

There’s an even easier way to keep an eye on your watt usage, however: smart thermostats. These nifty devices offer smartphone integration, so you can check an app on your phone and see how your unit’s electricity usage compares to your expectations.

Don’t have a smart thermostat? Perhaps you have a smart electrical meter; these meters give you detailed information about power usage during the cooling cycle. 

How Much Does It Cost to Run an Air Conditioner?

When determining how much wattage an air conditioner uses, most homeowners have concerns about the associated costs. Whether you pay a monthly or bimonthly utility bill, you have to pay to use an air conditioner, so it’s worth it to know what you’re paying and how you can potentially lower your costs. Air conditioning bills depend on numerous factors, such as where you live, your provider, and your unit’s wattage.

Air conditioner expenses make up around half of an energy bill. Although that could be higher if you live in a warm climate or make a habit of frequent air conditioner use. Average cooling costs throughout the United States rest at about $1,000 a year.

How to Lower Your Air Conditioner’s Energy Consumption

We recommend that all homeowners take measures to improve their air conditioner’s energy efficiency. Perform regular maintenance checks to check your unit for any signs of trouble. Replace dirty filters and clear out any debris from your unit as well.

Clogged air filters, in particular, affect a unit’s efficiency by preventing effective airflow. As a result, your unit must work harder to keep up, using more electricity and putting strain that can lead to short cycling. While this is one maintenance task that’s easy to do at home, it never hurts to have professional HVAC contractors inspect your unit.

Consider the season. As temperatures rise, leaving windows and doors open can do more harm than good, making your home extra hot, which forces your air conditioner to use more electricity to keep up. Ensure you set your air conditioner to the right temperature as well; if your home feels cool, don’t set the air conditioner to a manual cooling setting, as you’ll waste energy.

Finally, if you own an older unit or if it simply can’t keep up with your energy needs, talk to an HVAC service about purchasing a new air conditioner. Modern air conditioners feature advanced technology that effectively cools spaces while using the least amount of energy possible; you can check a potential air conditioner’s seasonal energy efficiency ratio, or SEER rating, to see if it’s a good fit for your needs.

Professional Air Conditioning Services in Greenwood

We believe that everyone has the power to reduce their home’s energy consumption and save money on their monthly energy bills. Smart choices go a long way, but that takes the right knowledge. By knowing the answer to the question, “How many watts does an air conditioner use?” you empower yourself to make decisions that will both improve your air quality and lower your bills. 

At Complete Comfort Heating, Air & Plumbing, we provide professional air conditioning repair and installation services in Greenwood, IN. We’re locals with a passion for serving our community. We offer 24/7 service, so no matter when your HVAC emergency strikes, we’ll be there to help.

If you want to know how to avoid overcharging your AC unit or if you want to schedule an appointment, call Complete Comfort Heating, Air & Plumbing at (317) 754-8511