Why Do Air Conditioners Use So Much Electricity?

Late this June 2021 to early July 2021, an extreme, record-breaking heatwave struck most of Western North America, especially Idaho and Washington. More than 208 heat-related deaths were recorded in the United States alone, with temperatures in the northwest reaching temperatures 116 F, an unprecedented temperature for the area.

This led to residents of Idaho and the neighboring Washington neighbors forcing their fans, air conditioners, central air conditioning units, and other cooling appliances to the test in order to survive the harsh heat. Many individuals and families even ended up booking extensive stays in nearby hotels and bed-and-breakfasts to avoid the intense temperatures lingering in their homes.

And now, families and small businesses are paying the price of increased energy costs. Even as temperatures in the Northwest have simmered down, Idahoans and Washingtonians are now facing a wave of increased electricity bills. This leads many people to wonder: Why do air conditioners use so much electricity? And are there ways to decrease electricity costs even while using air conditioning?

How Air Conditioners Use Power

First, we need to understand how air conditioners work. Air conditioners of different shapes and sizes essentially function in the same way.

AC units take the indoor air from inside a particular room or space, its compressor pressurizes it to become liquefied in the condenser coil while removing the humidity and heat through adding in a chemical agent called a refrigerant, then an evaporator coil evaporates it into cool air as a result.

This process requires a lot of energy and therefore a lot of electricity. If air conditioners are made to run constantly, especially during times where the air is especially warm, they require even more power.

Poor Maintenance Makes Them Less Efficient

Poor AC Maintenance adds to the power costs by reducing the efficiency of the AC unit. Neglecting to clean the coils or replacing the air filter can cause dust to pile up and accumulate inside the unit. This forces the air conditioner to exert more effort in taking in the warm air and converting it to liquid then subsequently to cooler air.

Some AC units are easily collapsible with replaceable parts for maintenance. Doing so will make your air conditioner unit more efficient. Clogged and dirty filters can be replaced by newer ones, raising your AC’s efficiency by five to fifteen percent. Meanwhile, the dust and dirt collected by the coils can make it difficult for them to absorb heat. That is why cleaning them manually is necessary.

Thus, air conditioner users who wish to decrease energy costs should schedule seasonal maintenance on their air conditioning units.

Outdated Systems Need More Energy

Moreover, air conditioner systems become outdated and obsolete over time. This requires more energy to be used in order to keep the temperature at home comfortable. That’s why unit owners may want to look into replacing the unit or central air conditioner altogether.

Ways To Cut Electricity Usage

Since the air conditioning unit will likely need to do the bulk of the work of keeping a home and its rooms cool, there are other things one can do to ease the air conditioner’s workload. These include:

Using a Programmable/Smart Thermostat

Having a programmable or smart thermostat that automatically adjusts when temperatures rise significantly can help control the intensity of work the AC unit does. It will also help to program it to a higher temperature at night or while no one is home. This will help in saving power and thus decrease energy costs.

Turning off the lights

Lights tend to give off heat, even at minimal levels. This means that turning off the lights can actually help decrease the amount of warm air the air conditioner needs to convert in order to cool the home. At the same time, it will also decrease electricity costs since lights also use their own share of electricity.

Close windows and doors

Closing ways for outside sources of heat to enter and keeping them shut as much as possible is also helpful in reducing the work the air conditioner will do. It also keeps the cool air produced so that the energy spent in cooling the air is not wasted.

Close curtains and shutters

Like with windows and doors, curtains and shutters can also keep sunlight and warm air from raising the room’s temperature. Sunlight tends to add heat to the room. This is why shutters and curtains are important in maintaining a manageable temperature.

Turn Off Heating Appliances

Refraining from using the oven unnecessarily as well as other appliances that use heat, such as the microwave or toaster, can also help decrease the level of heat in the room. At the same time, you also save on the costs of electricity these devices use themselves.

Use fans to circulate air

Placing fans throughout the home to circulate air keeps the cool air traveling from one place to another. This reduces the temperature of the air throughout the house and the energy needed by the AC for the air conditioning process.

Closing off rooms of little to no use

Rooms that aren’t often used during intense heat can be closed so that the cold air fills the rooms that people often use. These include storage rooms or work-out rooms which can add to the heat the AC needs to cool.


ACs use so much electricity given the process it needs to keep your home and your rooms cool, especially during the hot summer months. The warmer the air, the more energy is required from the AC unit to treat it to a more manageable level.

Proper maintenance, as well as responsible practices, can make an air conditioner run better and more efficiently. When in doubt, air conditioner unit owners can schedule an inspection with a professional HVAC specialist to identify what interventions need to be done to keep your air conditioners cooling your home while not spending so much energy and power.

J.A. Bertsch

If you live in North Idaho, you likely experienced the same heat wave that plagued the northwest in 2021. Many residents of Kootenai County and other parts of North Idaho don’t have air conditioning and if this is your situation, we’re here to help. We specialize in creating comfortable homes for Idaho residents and can help you find the perfect air conditioning system for your home and budget. Contact us today at 208-635-5480.

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