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

June 2, 2021   By Jackie Whetzel

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

Approximately 87 percent of Americans use their air conditioner to fight off the heat. It’s a must-have for many households, especially in southwest climates such as Texas, where the temperature soars above 100 degrees on some sweltering summer days.

While we know that air conditioning accounts for 12 percent of U.S. home energy expenses, we can’t really say how much the average homeowner spends on their air conditioner in the summer months. Factors such as the size of the AC unit, square footage of the home, thermostat setting, and insulation can impact cooling costs. Take a look at your home’s average energy bill to estimate 12 percent of the total bill – this will help you accurately determine how much your air conditioner is costing you each month.

What we can tell you is this – there are many ways to save on cooling costs this summer, without compromising your perfectly chilled indoor air.

Here are a few tips to save energy this summer:

Keep the filter clean

A clean air filter is one of the easiest ways to ensure your air conditioning unit is operating efficiently. We recommend checking your air filter every month in the summer and replace it whenever it’s dirty to save on cooling costs. A pro tip: buy filters in bulk so you always have one handy when it’s time for a change.

Go high efficiency

When you walk past the latest and greatest high efficiency (HE) appliance in Lowes or Home Depot, consider the savings you could reap by upgrading an older appliance. Switching to a high-efficiency air conditioner can lower your energy use for cooling by 20 to 50 percent, according to the Department of Energy. Look for rebates or incentives for making the switch as an added bonus! Who doesn’t love a good rebate?

Check for air leaks and seal the cracks

The best way to maintain a cool and comfortable indoor temperature this summer is to keep as much cool air inside as you can. This means ensuring there are no air leaks. Check the caulking and weather-stripping around doors and windows and fix any cracks or gaps which could allow air to escape. We also recommend replacing any leaky air ducts and bringing your home’s insulation up to the recommended levels to save on cooling. Weatherizing your home will not only save you money in the summer months – but this winter too!

Use a programmable thermostat

Summer is a great time to start using a programmable thermostat if you’re not already doing so. A programmable thermostat can save a household approximately $180 annually on energy costs, according to Energy Star. We recommend programming your thermostat higher when you’re going to be at work, away from home, or sleeping. Making a habit of setting your temperature back 7 to 10 degrees from its normal setting for 8 hours a day can save a household as much as 10 percent on heating and cooling costs annually, according to the Department of Energy.

Cover the windows

Close the blinds and pull the curtains shut to reduce unwanted heat from coming in. Consider blinds or roller shades as the first layer of reducing heat. You can also add a thick panel curtain such as a blackout panel as a second layer. According to the DOE, “medium-colored draperies with white plastic backings can reduce heat gains by 33 percent.” The DOE recommends hanging draperies as close to the windows as possible and allowing them to fall onto a windowsill or floor. You can also use velcro or magnetic tape to attach the drapes to the wall at the side and bottoms. Taking some of these extra steps can reduce heat loss by about 25 percent, according to the same source.

Cook smart

Keep your house cool this summer by cooking outside or preparing no-cook meals. Cooking indoors in the summer is not energy friendly if you plan on using an oven at a high temperature or making a meal that needs a long time in the oven. Before you crank the oven up to 450 degrees to make grandma’s favorite casserole for the 4th of July, we recommend grilling up something amazing instead! Who doesn’t love sweet buttered corn, shish kabobs, charbroiled burgers, hot dogs, or steaks? If you live in an apartment or don’t have the budget to buy a grill, consider a small, outdoor pop-up charcoal grill. It does the same job without raising the indoor temperature of your home.


Jackie Whetzel is a reporter who has written articles on energy, government, business, economic development, and education.  Her work has been featured in newspapers across the country. You can find her on Instagram.