Air Conditioning Costs Don't Have to be a Mystery
Sometimes it feels like Australians have a love-hate relationship with air conditioning. It’s a necessity during sweltering summer heatwaves, yet air conditioning cost is one thing that stops many from switching it on.
We all know someone who refuses to turn the cooling on. And then we know others who spend all day in air conditioned comfort – which is sometimes a touch too cold.
There’s no need to be at one end or the other. You can actually enjoy your cooling without blowing apart household expenses. It’s also quite easy to keep track if you know how much you pay for electricity and how long you have the air con running.
Energy prices and air conditioning running costs don’t have to be a mystery.
Typical Running Costs per Hour
Hourly air conditioning running costs are always dependent on the local conditions. You will not necessarily see a direct correlation between the kilowatt output, energy prices, and what you pay per hour for air conditioning.
Take a 20kW ducted air conditioning unit, for example. This is the maximum output the AC delivers, but often it can perform with far less energy consumption. A small-medium room can be cooled with roughly 4-6kW per hour, while larger rooms might require 6-10kW.
Electricity prices are measured in kilowatt-hours (kWh). These prices vary in each state and can differ between electricity retailers. Canstar Blue collated average electricity usage rates in Australia, revealing that South Australians pay nearly 65% more per kWh than Victorian neighbours.
Per state, by hour, 6kWh usage would equal:
- SA 34.24c/kWh = $2.05
- QLD 21.34c/kWh = $1.28
- NSW 24.66c/kWh = $1.48
- VIC 20.96c/kWh = $1.26
As a snapshot, that’s just loose change. But per day, it can add up to a reasonable amount. That’s anywhere from $7-$13 on a good day, and more if you really need to crank up the air con. It’s a necessary expense, but this breakdown is a great way to better understand your daily usage.
Annual Air Conditioning Costs Per Year
Most of us don’t keep track of air conditioning usage. It really isn’t something that we put together a spreadsheet for.
Thankfully, Zoned Energy Rating Labels provide some handy guidelines when you start looking for a new air conditioning unit. They show average energy use in kWh per year, with climate variations, too.
This is super helpful if you’re grabbing a new ducted air conditioning unit. But what if you already have one and don’t plan on changing? That’s where you can look at past energy bills for reference. Or, use the above to plan out your likely energy expenses before summer hits.
Say you used 6kW per hour cooling your home four hours a day in summer. You probably won’t have the air con on every day, so let’s go with 30 days from December-February.
That’s 120 hours per summer, leading to the following per year:
- SA 34.24c/kWh = $246
- QLD 21.34c/kWh = $153.60
- NSW 24.66c/kWh = $177.60
- VIC 20.96c/kWh = $151.20
Bear in mind that these costs are based just on average cooling and your expenses could be above or below. For many of us, they’re reasonable expenses. However, there are still some ways to save.
The Impact of Temperature Settings
There’s a general consensus that 25°C-27°C is the best temperature for an air conditioner in summer. Now, that might still sound warm, but when the peak temperature hits 40°C, 25°C still feels like a major relief.
Essentially, the actual temperature you use can vary. The impact on your expenses comes when you go too cold. Asking your air conditioner to cool a house at 21°C on a 40°C could cost you in the long run. The kWh usage difference could be 5c per hour or 50c, and over a summer that might be three additional figures to your energy bills.
You don’t have to skimp on the cooling here. Remain comfortable. However, just take a moment to think about the thermostat temperature when you go to grab an extra layer in the middle of summer. Maybe that ducted air conditioner can be turned down a little.
How You Can Save Money on Ducted Air Conditioning
Your ducted air conditioning will be a lifesaver in summer. Long, harsh summer Australian days will feel like a distant memory as you turn on the cooling and beat the heat.
Now, many of us will feel concerned about the price of comfort. That’s a natural reaction. Thankfully, you shouldn’t have to feel guilty about using ducted heating and cooling. There are steps you can take to reduce your cooling expenses without compromise.
Use Ceiling Fans
Ceiling fans are a brilliant addition to any room as they help mitigate your need for air conditioning on those more bearable summer days. You can rely on the air movement to feel more comfortable instead of having to turn the air con on straight away.
The additional airflow also means you can complement the air conditioning when you turn it on during hotter days. It will help displace warm air that settles at the top of a room, allowing your AC to not work as hard as it might normally need to.
Utilise Shade and Blinds
Natural shade is a brilliant way to keep heat out of your home. High density, light-coloured blinds reflect sunlight and heat that would otherwise be absorbed through your windows. External roller shutters, awnings and even large plants are also other quality options.
Plants will help soak up the sun’s heat while balancing out additional warmth reflected from cement and brickwork around the home. The use of shade is an efficient and cost effective way to reduce ducted air conditioning running costs.
Zoned Cooling and Inverter Technology
Advancements in heating and cooling technology have brought in several financial and environmental benefits. Zoning and inverter technology are two of the leading features that everyone should take advantage of.
You can save on overall kW usage through zoned cooling. That means you can simply switch off the ducted cooling supply to rooms that aren’t in use. So if you and the family are watching a movie in the lounge, all the bedrooms can be turned off until you need to use them.
Likewise, inverter technology is an inbuilt feature of most high-quality air conditioners. Essentially, instead of an on-off performance all day from your cooling, the inverter motor maintains a steady performance. Compressors react to the room’s temperature, providing more cool air when the thermostat starts to rise.
But once you hit the desired temperature, the air conditioner eases back, but it doesn’t actually turn off. This saves a reasonable amount of energy compared to units that repeatedly turn off and on once the ideal thermostat temperature is hit.
Change Your Energy Provider
Running costs are heavily dependent on the price you pay for electricity. Therefore, consider switching your energy provider. There could be additional savings elsewhere as a new customer, and lower kWh rates. Do your research, though, and be sure not to rush into any contract changes.
Annual Maintenance and Servicing
Above all else, you want to make sure your air conditioning costs remain low with annual maintenance and servicing. Heating and cooling systems have to work harder when their filters are blocked, and old parts break down.
This results in more energy use for the same amount of output – or even less. That means you’re paying more to receive the same cooling benefit as last summer.
However, routine maintenance ensures that all internal parts are working properly. Filter and duct cleaning also provide a clear pathway for the air to flow through, giving you fast and direct delivery on those stifling hot days.
Aim for an air conditioning service at least every 12 months for the best performance. It’s especially important if you use the unit heavily all year round. Otherwise, you’ll have to pay more to run your ducted air conditioning for less of a reward in summer.