How much does it cost to run my air conditioner in summer?

Use this guide to understand how much your aircon is adding to your bill and how to cut down.

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Australians tend to set their air conditioners somewhere in the low-mid 20s for the summer and call it good. But picking the right temperature can make a big difference to how much energy your air conditioner chews through and therefore, how much money you spend.

How much your aircon costs to run depends on how long you run it for (and more)

Scenario2 hours per day3 hours per day4 hours per day
Cost for summer (2.5kW system @ 21 degrees)$28.80$43.20$57.60
Cost for summer (5kW system @ 21 degrees)$77.40$116.10$154.80

Assuming energy usage rates of 30c/kWh, a temperature of 21 degrees using a 5.0kW appliance.

Here's how the temperature you set affects your hourly cost

The table below shows how your choice of temperature affects the aircon's hourly running cost. As you can see, setting the right target temperature matters even more for larger aircon units.

Aircon power21°C22°C23°C24°C25°C
2.5kW$0.16$0.15$0.13$0.12$0.11
5.0kW$0.43$0.39$0.34$0.32$0.29

What's the best temperature to set my aircon?

The ideal aircon setting is usually between 25°C and 27°C in summer and 18°C and 20°C in winter, assuming you live somewhere with moderate weather. Australia is a large country, though, so here are some recommendations based on a few regions/climates:

RegionClimateTarget aircon temperature
North coast, Northern Territory, Central AustraliaTropical21-23°C
South-east Queensland, northern NSWSubtropical25°C
South Australia, south-west Western AustraliaMediterranean24-25°C
TasmaniaMild temperate28°C
ACT and the surrounding parts of NSW and VictoriaOceanic26-27°C
Southern VictoriaModerate oceanic24°C
Why does the temperature setting matter?

Air conditioners work by sucking the heat out of the air in your house and shifting it outside. The bigger the difference between the ambient temperature and your target temperature, the longer your air conditioner has to work extracting the heat, and the more energy you consume.

Does setting a lower temperature cool my room faster?

No, unless you have a specialised multi-coil air conditioning unit. Your aircon will cool down the room at a constant rate, regardless of how low you've set the thermostat. Lowering it further does not speed up this process.

How does room size affect what aircon unit I need?

The larger your room, the more powerful an air conditioning unit you'll need. It's important not to buy too powerful a unit for the space that you're cooling, since this will consume more energy than necessary. Here's a rough guide:

Room size (m2)Common room typesAir conditioner unit power
10-25m2Bedroom, study, small office2.6kW
25-35m2Bedroom + ensuite, office, small lounge room, small kitchen3.5kW
35-60m2Master bedroom, medium lounge room, kitchen5-6kW
60-80m2Large lounge room, big open plan areas, small shops7-8kW

Three ways to cut your aircon bill by over $50 in summer

According to Finder's air conditioning usage statistics, running your aircon all summer for four hours a day, seven days a week, at 20°C, will cost you around $250. This is equivalent to consuming 833kWh of energy with an electricity usage rate of $0.30/kWh.

1. Raise the thermostat

Increasing your aircon's thermostat from 20°C to 22°C for the duration of the summer will cut your energy usage by about 20%. This saves you around 167kWh of energy, and drops your bill by 20% as well, down to $200.

2. Use your aircon on fewer days

Another approach would be to not use your aircon at all on certain days, say two days during the week where you're out of the house or can forego it. Dropping from seven days to five days a week is a 29% reduction, saving you around 242kWh of energy. This will reduce your bill to $178.50.

3. Use your aircon for fewer hours per day

Shrinking the number of hours per day that your aircon runs from four to three hours would also have an appreciable impact on your bill. That's a 25% reduction in energy usage, saving you 208kWh of energy. It's also a 25% cut to your bill, reducing it to $187.50.

A more drastic approach: Look for a new air conditioner

Another longer, but perhaps for effective way to save on air conditioning costs is to go for a more efficient unit (and recycle your old one). While the average unit can cost $0.50-1.00 per hour to cool a medium-sized home, energy-efficient units can be more powerful and also cheaper to run. Below are the five cheapest groups of air conditioning units to operate, according to energyrating.gov.au.

BrandModelsCooling StarsOperating cost (10 years)
MitsubishiSRK20ZSXA-W7$579
DaikinFTXM20UVMA / RXM20UVMA / FTXM20Q / RXM20Q / FTKM20Q / RKM20Q / FTXM20QA / RXM20QA / FTXM20R / RXM20R / FTXM20P / RXM20P5$747
MitsubishiSRK / DXK_20 / 06ZSA-W / SRK20ZSA-W / SRC20ZSA-W / DXK06ZSA-W / DXC06ZSA-W5$766
PanasonicCS-Z20VKR / CU-Z20VKR / CS-Z7RKR / CU-Z7RKR / CS-Z20TKR / CU-Z20TKR5$766
FujitsuASTG07CMCA / AOTG07CMCA / ASTG07CMCB / AOTG07CMCB5.5$784

These costs are based on just over 600 hours of cooling per year. We've used NSW energy prices above, but costs will vary state-by-state. It's also important to note that the main cost factor with running aircon will be the outside temperature, the thermostat setting and the running time.

How else can I reduce my aircon's energy consumption?

Here are a few tips for saving energy with your air conditioning unit:

  • Install the right sized unit. Air conditioners have different power ratings, suitable for differently sized spaces. See the section below for notes on how to choose the right unit.
  • Get a high star rating. The higher your unit's energy star rating, the more energy efficient it is. This means that it will consume less energy when in use compared to others.
  • Insulate your house. Wall and roof insulation doesn't only keep the heat out, it keeps the cool air in. Good insulation can drastically reduce your heating and cooling costs.
  • Use fans to circulate air. If you only need a little bit of localised cooling, such as in a small room or at a desk, use a fan. They work almost as well as aircon for small areas and they are far cheaper to run.
  • Close doors and windows. Similar to insulation, closing doors and windows can minimise the heat getting in and cool air escaping. If there's a cool breeze, you may want to keep them open.
  • Use blinds. Installing blinds on your windows to block incoming sunlight can do a lot to cool down your home.

How to save on your energy bill

Figures based on this room sizing guide.

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