How much does it cost to run air conditioning?

A hand holding a remote control and pointing it at an air conditioner

Air conditioning will appeal more than ever this summer as weather forecasters say 2023 could be one of the hottest years on record. But what does this mean for your energy bill?

If you’re looking to avoid the discomfort of hot weather this summer and maintain a stable temperature in your home all year round, air conditioning could be worth investing in.

However, not only do you have to pay for installation, air conditioning in your home could increase your energy bills – at a time when energy costs are still high.

We look at the costs involved to help you decide if you should pay for an air conditioning unit, or stick to a fan instead.

How much does it cost to run an air conditioner?

Installing an air conditioner costs from £1,250 for a small home office up to £5,000-£9,000 for a whole house, according to Checkatrade. A double bedroom could cost around £2,250.

When it comes to running costs, there’s no straightforward or precise answer because there are many variables that affect the running cost of an air conditioning unit.

These include:

  • Insulation – this acts to keep out the summer heat as well as the winter cold. If your house is well insulated, you may find you don’t need to have your air conditioner on constantly, and it will not have to work so hard to keep a room at the right temperature.
  • Annual servicing of your air conditioning system – this will increase its efficiency and life and reduce running costs, which in turn will help to keep your energy bills low.

According to Uswitch research, a portable air con unit costs £2.31 a week if you use it for just one hour a day. If you use it for nine hours a day, the cost rises to £20.79 a week.

A built-in air con unit is more expensive, Uswitch claims. This costs £6.24 a week if you use it for just one hour a day. This rises to a hefty £56.13 a week if you use it for nine hours a day.

But according to Evergreen Air Conditioning, a 10kw air conditioning unit costs around 38p per hour.

It says as the average person uses their air con for about nine hours in total through the day and night, this could add £24 per week to your energy bill.

So while it’s difficult to be precise on the cost it’s important to know you will notice the effect of having air conditioning on your energy bills.

Cheaper tips to stay cool in hot weather

It sounds obvious but you can significantly save money on the cost of air conditioning by using a fan instead.

According to Uswitch research, a desktop electric fan costs around 1p an hour to run, so somewhere between 8p and 11p a night depending how many hours you sleep. 

Pedestal fans cost a little more at just under 2p an hour – this adds up to about 14p per night.

There are other tips and tricks to help keep your house cool during the hot summer months that don’t require the use of expensive air conditioning units. These include:

  • Keep your windows shut during the day as this will prevent hot air from entering your home
  • Reopen windows once the sun goes down to let in the cooler air
  • Use your oven and grill less to help keep the temperature down – turn on your extractor fan to remove the warm air when you do use them.