Air conditioning costs are always at the forefront of our thoughts. Utility bills are a constant presence and for so many of us it means we skip out on running the cooling when it’s too hot. So, what if there was a cheap cooling option for your home?

With the chance to shake-up your air conditioning, these are all important running costs you need to be aware of to save money.

The Candidates

Split System Air Conditioners

Also referred to as ductless air conditioners, multi head split system air conditioners are a non-invasive and affordable heating and cooling option. Most modern systems are reverse cycle, meaning they heat and cool. The all-round potential is affordable climate control that can be tailored to specific rooms and spaces within the home.

You can even have several indoor wall-mounted splits connected to just the one outdoor unit. That means you can heat or cool the whole home independently on one single motor system.

In terms of power consumption, average split systems come in at about 12,000 British Thermal Units (BTU). That’s 3.516 kilowatts/hour, and at $0.14 per hour you can expect to pay no more than $244 per month.

To work out your unique running costs, you can use this formula: kilowatt output x electricity rate = cost per hour. You can then times the hourly running costs by total hours of usage, and again by days of usage.

Ducted/Central Cooling

Central heating and cooling systems are incredibly popular across the United States. They deliver whole-home climate control at the push of a button. However, as great as the convenience is, you can expect to spend a little more… unless you take advantage of cost saving measures.

According to, an average central air conditioning unit with a 3,500 wattage output costs $245 to run per month. This price is based on 16 hours activity and $0.14 kilowatt rates. That duration is relatively long, so unless you do have your air con on all day, you can expect some personal differences.

Meanwhile, zone controls provide flexibility and versatility as you can choose to cool certain parts of the house. For example, if you’re entertaining in the living room you can switch off zone controls for the bedrooms.

Then, if it’s still too warm at night, just switch on the bedroom zone and you will have instant coolness. It’s an effortless way to pay less everyday thanks to reduced energy consumption. Modern reverse cycle systems will also save on running costs when compared to separate cooling and gas heating ducted systems.

Window/Wall Air Conditioners

Box air conditioners, also known as window/wall air conditioners, do provide lower running costs. As per, a window air conditioner can come in at $100 or less to run per month. However, it’s important to acknowledge that it’s only cooling one room. Even a larger unit in the living area or kitchen is not going to cool the entire home. You may need multiple units that will quickly lead to additional running costs.

Influences on Cooling Running Costs

Energy star ratings

ENERGY STAR certified air conditioners are leaders in the industry and are undoubtedly the products you need to look at. Higher rated systems will perform with reduced energy costs, potentially saving you 30-40% on utility bills when compared to a minimum-rated heating and cooling system.

Performance will vary, however, by choosing a top ENERGY STAR rated system you can expect to see positive long term benefits. Ratings are updated annually so you should always look out for new energy efficient units.

Space requirements

The number of rooms your heating or cooling will influence ongoing running costs. For example, you cannot compare the total expenses of a whole-home central cooling system with a one-room split system/ductless air conditioner.

Therefore, evaluate just how many rooms need to be catered for, and the space requirements in each one. Square footage is just as important so you can best understand whether the system you have can easily provide the right amount of conditioned air.

Electricity rates

Utility bills and energy prices vary from state to state. So if you’ve recently moved interstate, or are planning to, chances are you know what to expect. That’s why it’s difficult to compare with a one-size-fits-all running cost due to slight variances.

Therefore, you might even want to shop around for electricity plans to see if you can reduce your running costs further. Swapping to a new plan could be a cost-effective choice that benefits your savings across the board.


Ongoing maintenance – or the lack thereof – will impact air conditioning running costs. A central cooling system or ductless system with blocked filters and broken parts will draw on more energy than a brand new system.

Annual servicing and cleaning will ensure your HVAC system performs at its best. You will benefit from reduced running costs and energy efficient performance.

Home insulation + passive design

Your home’s passive design and insulation efficiency also has an impact on how much energy is required to heat or cool the home. Insulated walls and ceilings will deflect heat in summer, while retaining internal warmth in winter.

Also consider where your windows are. If you have sun-facing windows and leave the blinds open all day, you’re inviting extra heat into the home. By shutting the blinds you can save on air con running costs as it takes a little longer for the house to warm up. Simple steps like that will help you save some money in the long run.

In Conclusion

There is no perfect answer for the cheapest air conditioner to run. So many crucial factors influence expenses. However, your best options include choosing energy efficient models, selecting competitive electricity bills, and taking advantage of natural cooling.

If you can help your air conditioner cool the home with blinds, natural shading and ceiling fans, you can save on ongoing running costs. They are positive steps to keep your expenses down low.

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