It takes plenty of energy to power a heating system through winters in the Twin Cities. But don’t underestimate what it costs to run air conditioning in Minneapolis, MN during our summers, which are often hot and have the extra burden of humidity from all our lakes.
How much does it cost to run an air conditioning system? You might have some idea based on changes in your electric bills when summer starts up, but today we want to look into the facts about how your AC uses electricity.
The AC (probably) uses the most electricity of anything in your house
This might not surprise you to learn considering how your electric bills will quickly rise each time you have to use the air conditioner. The only other indoor household device that consumes more electrical power is an electric water heater—and the majority of homes use gas-powered water heaters, so it’s likely your AC is the biggest voltage gobbler in your home. This makes it even more important to know how to cut down on the power it uses.
The compressor is the main electrical consumer of your AC
Why does the air conditioner require so much electricity? It has several electrical components, such as the blower fan and the outdoor exhaust fan. However, the biggest chunk of electrical power goes to the compressor motor. This is the literal heart of the air conditioning systems because it’s responsible for making refrigerant circulate.
If it were just a pump, that wouldn’t need so much power. But a compressor has to put refrigerant under enough pressure to change it from a cool liquid into a hot, high-pressure gas. Without the compressor, an AC can’t cool. Each time the compressor activates, it uses a large amount of electricity.
How much electricity does it take to power the AC?
In general, a central air conditioning system will consume 3,000-3,500 watts per hour. A malfunctioning or incorrectly sized AC can drain significantly more. For comparison, a dishwasher uses 1,200–1,500 watts per hour and your TV uses only 200 per hour. The AC puts a large demand on your home’s electricity!
The fan vs the AC
What’s the difference between running the air conditioner and running only the central fan of the HVAC system? It’s significant. The fan motor is powerful, but it uses only 500-750 watts per hour which is around 2,500 less than using the AC. Since you can opt to only run the fan to circulate air around your house, you can lower your cooling costs by relying more on the fan.
Any motor that needs as much power to run as the compressor motor may overheat if it’s overtaxed. If the compressor motor gets too hot, the electrical demand may cause its circuit breaker to trip. You can reset the breaker to get the AC running again, but if this keeps happening, don’t try to run the AC because the compressor may suffer permanent damage. Call for repairs instead.