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How much does it cost to run your air conditioner during summer?

It can cost between $137 and $707 to keep cool depending on where you live, but there are ways to keep energy bills down.

What you need to know

  • Based on our research, the cheapest way to cool your home is to use a single split system air conditioner.
  • The average hourly and daily running costs in Australia are $0.73 and $3.44, respectively, but there are ways to lower energy bills this summer, as explained further down.
  • Air conditioner running costs in QLD and the NT are higher because they are categorised as hot climate zones. Our state-by-state breakdown will show the cost difference across states and territories.

Air conditioning running costs during summer 2023/2024

We've crunched the numbers to show how much your air conditioner will cost to run this summer (90 days).

The running costs have also been broken down into daily and hourly figures in case you want to make adjustments accordingly.

You can read our methodology about how we calculated the running costs before diving deeper into the guide.

What is the cheapest type of air conditioner to run?

According to our analysis, a single split system is the cheapest type of air conditioner to use. It dispels the myth that bulky appliances cost more to run.

Cooling-only split systems cost $152 to run over the summer period, while reverse-cycle split systems cost $185.

Reverse-cycle split systems are generally more efficient for both heating and cooling a home during the year. Air conditioners cost far more to run than the other appliances using energy in your house year round.

Understanding the different types of air conditioning systems

You can get all 3 air conditioners listed in cooling-only or reverse-cycle modes.

Split type aircon
Single split systems: These have one indoor and one outdoor unit and are generally unobtrusive. You can choose between cooling-only models or a reverse-cycle AC which will heat and cool your home. If you're looking to buy, costs start at around $800 for a 2.5kW unit and installation can set you back around $600 for a small unit.
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Ducted air conditioners: There are different ducts installed inside the ceilings and walls of a home. Air is sent from one central location. You can have one installed with a zone controller which allows you to switch on the AC only in certain parts of your home. Starting costs for purchasing and installing a ducted system are $9,000 to $10,000.
Portable Aircon
Portable air conditioners: These can be a more practical choice if you don't have any other type of air conditioner installed at your property and you're also renting. They will cool one room at a time. Costs start at $350–$450 for a 2.5kW system.

Single split system air conditioner running costs

The running costs for a single split system (cooling-only and reverse-cycle) have been broken down by state and system size. Hover on each bar to see the actual cost. Not all unit sizes support both reverse-cycle and cooling-only.

Due to different climate zones, you'll notice that running costs in VIC start at $29 for a 2.5kW system but jump to $153 in QLD, which is the highest across all states and territories.

New South Wales icon

New South Wales

Victoria icon

Victoria

Queensland icon

Queensland

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South Australia

Australian Capital Territory icon

Australian Capital Territory

Tasmania icon

Tasmania

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Western Australia

Northern Territory icon

Northern Territory

Ducted air conditioner running costs

We analysed the running costs for a ducted air conditioner across different states and territories over the summer and found it's cheapest to run a ducted air conditioner in VIC and highest in QLD.

The range for VIC is $44 to $308 compared to $223 to $1,588 in QLD.

You can hover on the bars for actual dollar figures. Not all unit sizes support both reverse-cycle and cooling-only.

New South Wales icon

New South Wales

Victoria icon

Victoria

Queensland icon

Queensland

South Australia icon

South Australia

Australian Capital Territory icon

Australian Capital Territory

Tasmania icon

Tasmania

Western Australia icon

Western Australia

Northern Territory icon

Northern Territory

Portable air conditioner running cost

Portable air conditioners are generally more expensive to run, with the lowest starting cost in VIC at $137 for a reverse-cycle 2.5kW system. It goes up to $685 in QLD for the same system size and type.

You can hover on the bars to see actual costs. Not all unit sizes support both reverse-cycle and cooling-only.

New South Wales icon

New South Wales

Victoria icon

Victoria

Queensland icon

Queensland

South Australia icon

South Australia

Australian Capital Territory icon

Australian Capital Territory

Tasmania icon

Tasmania

Western Australia icon

Western Australia

Northern Territory icon

Northern Territory

Air conditioner vs fan running cost

It should come as no surprise that fans are cheaper to run, costing 2–3 cents per hour as they consume less electricity.

Air conditioners can cost anywhere between $0.33 and $1.70 to run per hour depending on the type.

Investing in one or more fans for your home can be a great idea to keep your cooling costs down this summer. The upfront cost may be a bit higher but it'll pay itself in no time.

How can I reduce the running cost of my air conditioner?

These 5 tips can help you keep your energy bills at bay when running your air conditioner this summer.

  • Clean the filters regularly. It's recommended that you clean your air conditioner's filters at least once a year. Filters can become clogged with dust, pollen or even mould, lowering their efficiency.
  • Raise the thermostat. Setting the right target temperature is vital. Each extra degree of cooling can add 10% to your bill.
  • Use your air conditioner for fewer hours. Running your air conditioner only during the hottest parts of the day – say, cutting down from 4 to 3 hours of use – will knock 25% off your cooling bill.
  • Use fans to circulate air. If you only need some light or localised cooling, such as a small room or a desk, use a fan. They work nearly as well as an air conditioner for a fraction of the cost.
  • Close doors, windows and blinds. If you stop heat from getting in, you'll have a much easier time keeping your living spaces cool. If there's a cool breeze, you might want to open your windows instead.

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Besides following these tips, you should also make sure you're signed up for an electricity plan with the cheapest usage rates for your area. This can help reduce the cost of your energy bills during summer.

Frequently asked questions

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