How Much Does It Cost to Run Air Conditioning?

How Much Does It Cost to Run Air Conditioning?

One of the most common questions I get is, “How much does it cost to run AC?”  The answer, a LOT cheaper than most people think!

In Montana, we are fortunate that we don’t need AC for long extended periods of time, typically just in the afternoons and evenings on very hot days so our energy consumption is low.

To figure out “exactly” how much using your home’s central air conditioning system will cost, follow these steps.

woman trying to cool herself off with paper fan

When you determine the energy consumed by your new AC (in watts) you can figure out what it’ll cost you to run. These are the steps:

  1. Divide the BTUs of the system by the SEER rating tagged on the unit.
  2. To convert this to Kwh, dividing by 1,000.
  3. Multiply the Kwh your AC consumes by the number of hours it operates annually.

The majority of homes in Bozeman have 3 – 4 ton systems so you are typically looking at 36,000-48,000 BTU’s of cooling.

So let’s say you have a 3 ton AC which is pretty typical for a 1500-2000 square foot home.

With step 1, a 36,000 BTU air conditioner at a SEER rating of 13 (the typical SEER installed in Montana) gives us 2,770 watts.

Step 2, converting to Kwh gives us 2.77 (2,770 divided by 1,000).

Imagine you run your air conditioner 8 hours a day for about 90 days a year. That’s 720 hours of AC use per year.

So, for step 3, the calculation goes – 2.77 Kwh X 720 hours of annual use = 1994.4 annual Kwh consumption.

The average price per Kwh in Montana is roughly 11.5 cents.

In this case, you’d spend just over $229 on cooling your house annually. 8 hours a day for 90 days a year is a pretty aggressive estimate for our Montana climate so chances are, this may even be a bit on the high side. If you upgrade to a system with a higher SEER rating, that number is even less. For a 16 SEER unit, your cost would be $186.30 to run the system for 720 hours.

If you have more questions about air conditioning in your home or to schedule a free estimate, contact our team at Premier Air Heating and Cooling at or (406) 333-0177.


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