Central AC Cooling Energy Costs Calculator – Estimate Savings of Upgrading to High SEER AC

Typical Cost To Install Central AC
See costs in your area

This energy costs calculator will help you analyze your average energy costs for running your central AC, and potential savings from replacing / installing a high(er) SEER rating Central AC.

Average annual savings from upgrading to a new 16 SEER Central AC system will be $485. In areas with higher electricity costs, such as CA, MA, NJ, etc., annual savings can be as much as $725 – $1100 or more, for a 3 TON Central AC.

Use our calculator below to calculate your actual seasonal costs of running your, costs to run a more efficient AC, annual energy savings, as well as price of upgrading / installing a new Central AC system.

Calculate your AC energy costs & savings in Virginia

Current Energy Costs: $0 0 kWh
New AC Energy Costs: $0 0 kWh
Annual Savings: $0 0 kWh
Estimated New System Cost:
Low End
Mid Range
High End

See costs in your area Start Here - Enter Your Zip Code

RESULTS DETAILS: Your enregy costs are calculated based on Virginia's average electric rate of $0.1399 / kWh.

Power usage and estimated new system costs are based on Climate Zone #3 (see map and BTU load table below).

Here are carruent Virginia and US Average residential Electricity rates.

State Average ( VA )US Average
Electic Cost: $0.140 / kWh $0.167 / kWh

The results you see above are as follows:

  • Estimated cost of upgrading to a new EnergyStar rated Central AC or Ductless Mini Split system, based on BTU size and SEER rating that you selected.
  • Current energy consumption of your AC.
  • Energy consumption of a New, higher SEER Central AC.
  • Annual Energy Savings from upgrading to a higher SEER unit.
  • Potential savings from upgrading (insulating and sealing) your ducts.
  • Potential savings from upgrading your house insulation.

NOTE: New AC Systems results with 26 & 30 SEER are only for Ductless Mini-Split systems. For larger system size (over 1.5 TON), consider a combination of multiple Single Zone units.

Maximum efficiency for a multi-zone mini-split systems commercially available today is about 20-21 SEER.

How to use this calculator to get most accurate results:

* Electric Costs and Location: Your State is determined by your geographic location in the US.

Local Electricity Costs ($/kWh) are synced in real time from US Department of Energy (U.S. Energy Information Administration), and are based on average cost in your state. However, if you are part of a municipal power company, your actual cost may be lower.

In states like CA, NJ and others, where the “Peak Pricing” model is used to determine electric costs based on time of day and usage, your actual cost/kWh may be different from data provided by DOE.

Getting accurate cooling costs estimate:

  • Step 1 – Electric Cost ($ / kWh): As mentioned above, enter your electric cost per kWh. The best way to get your actual cost per KiloWatt Hour is to look at your last electric bill, and divide total bill amount by total number of kWh used.

    Our calculator pre-populates the Electric Cost field with average cost in your state, based on DOE data and your location. However for accurate results, get your actual kWh cost from your electric bill.

  • Step 2 – System Size: Select unit size that you have now OR the appropriate unit size for the size of your conditioned living space. Use map & table below (find your location on the map, and match it to appropriate Climate Zone and Home Size in the AC Sizing table):

    AC Size ZONE 1 ZONE 2 ZONE 3 ZONE 4 ZONE 5
    1.5 Ton 700-1100 s.f. 700-1050 s.f. 500-1000 s.f. 500-950 s.f. 500-900 s.f.
    2 Ton 1101-1400 s.f. 1051-1350 s.f. 1001-1300 s.f. 951-1250 s.f. 901-1200 s.f.
    2.5 Ton 1401-1650 s.f. 1351-1500 s.f. 1301-1500 s.f. 1251-1550 s.f. 1201-1500 s.f.
    3 Ton 1651-2100 s.f. 1601-2000 s.f. 1601-1900 s.f. 1501-1850 s.f. 1501-1800 s.f.
    3.5 Ton 2101-2300 s.f. 2001-2250 s.f. 1901-2200 s.f. 1851-2150 s.f. 1801-2100 s.f.
    4 Ton 2301-2700 s.f. 2251-2700 s.f. 2201-2500 s.f. 2151-2500 s.f. 2101-2400 s.f.
    5 Ton 2701-3300 s.f. 2751-3300 s.f. 2601-3200 s.f. 2501-3100 s.f. 2401-3000 s.f.

  • Step 3 – Current AC SEER Rating: Select your current AC SEER rating. Most units that are 15-20 years or older, will be around 9 SEER. Systems installed in the last 15 years, will most likely be around 13 SEER.
  • Step 4 – New AC SEER Rating: If you want to see what the energy savings from a more efficient AC system would be, select a New AC Rating that is higher than your current AC SEER rating. Most cost efficient option is a new 16 SEER central AC. These units offer great efficiency, at relatively low cost. 17+ SEER systems are usually Central HEAT PUMPs.

    While Central Heat Pumps are very efficient and offer additional whole house HEATING capability without backup heat, such as Gas Furnace or Resisting Heating Coil (in warmer climates only – Zones 3, 4, and 5), these systems are significantly more expensive. They make financial sense when your electric cost is over $0.20/kWh – otherwise payback period would be too long.

  • Step 5 – Ductwork Upgrade: If you currently have uninsulated and/or leaky ducts, select one of the options to seal and insulate ducts. Choose R-value between 6-10 to see what kind of additional energy savings you can achieve. Keep in mind that leaky and uninsulated ducts can cause up-to 40% heat loss! Insulating and sealing ducts can cut these losses in half!

    Changing this option will only show annual savings in energy cost. It will not affect the estimated cost of installing new Central AC system.

  • Step 6 – home insulation upgrade: Same as above – insulating your walls and attic can reduce heat loss by up-to 20% (in case of super-insulated homes, this can reach an astounding 50% reduction).

    Same as above, choosing extra insulation will only have an effect on estimated energy savings.

  • Step 7 – Click Calculate: you will get 4 sets of results.

    1) Estimated price of replacing your old central AC with a newer, more efficient model, based on NEW AC SEER RATING that you selected.
    2) Your current cost and consumption in kWh.
    2) Energy cost and consumption in kWh, if you were to upgrade to a new central AC.
    4) Your energy savings in dollars and kWhs, after replacing your old system.

Below the results, you can request a quote from local HVAC contractors near you, to get firm estimates for replacing/installing your new Central AC.

How is Air Conditioner energy consumption calculated?

AC systems efficiency is measured in SEER, which is basically a representation of how much electrical power your AC consumes, while running, to provide it’s rated Cooling Capacity. While this may sound confusing, it is actually very simple. The formula for calculating power draw of an AC compressor is BTU / SEER = WATTs.

Every air conditioner has a cooling capacity rating, represented in BTU, as well as an Energy Efficiency rating, represented in SEER. Cooling capacity is how much heat (in BTUs) the AC can remove per hour, and SEER shows how much electricity it uses to remove that heat or its efficiency.

TONS: Most air conditioners and refrigeration are rated in TONs, which is an equivalent of 12000 BTUs / Ton.

Thus a 5 Ton AC is the same as 60,000 BTUs. Basically Tons and BTUs are interchangable. However for Efficiency and Power Draw calculations, BTUs are used instead of tons.

Calculating BTUs, SEER and Power Consumption of an AC compressor:

You will need to know two of the above variables to get the third (a very simple equation). If you know SEER rating and BTUs (most common scenario), then just plug those variables into the equation above to get the WATTs that the compressor draws. Let’s use for this example a 14 SEER, 3 Ton (36000 BTUs) AC system (most commonly installed AC in the USA). Once again, the formula is BTU / SEER = WATTs.

36000 BTUs / 14 SEER = 2571.4 Watts (2.5714 kW)

If your AC runs for 12 hours in one day, it will use 30.86 kWh of power (2.5714 kW * 12 hours).

Keep in mind that this usage is for the Compressor only. The entire Central AC system is made up of other components, besides the compressor. Biggest user of power, other than the compressor, is the blower motor, which pushes air through the ductwork.

Depending on size and age of your system, the blower motor will consume between 250 and 600 watts, while it’s running. If we use an average of 400 watts, our total system draw will be about 3 kW. Thus in 12 hours, your AC will use about 36 kWh of power. In Florida, where average cooling season as about 150 days, and average AC runs for 14 hours a day, your will use 14 hrs * 3 kW * 150 days = 6300 kWh per season. With average electric cost in Florida being $0.1177/kWh, your cost of running the AC for the entire season should be around $742.

In Hawaii, where electricity is MUCH more expensive ($0.328/kWh), it would cost you $2,066 to run your AC the same 150 days at 14 hours per day.

However, in Hawaii, the cooling season is pretty much all year long, with average temperature year round being about 84°F High and 72°F Low. This means that you don’t need to run your AC so long each day (about 8 hours), but temperature fluctuation throughout the year is only +/- 3°F. Therefore, AC will run all year long.

With that in mind, running AC in Hawaii will cost a whooping $2,873!

Here is where it is critically important to use high SEER air conditioning systems, with 18 – 20 SEER. Going to a 20 SEER heat pump would cost $2,107 – a saving of $766 per year!

Situation in most of California and New Jersey is similar, because there you have Peak Hours rate system, where you pay over $0.40-0.50 per kWh during the times when you actually use your AC the most!

Importance and Financial Incentives of Replacing old AC with new High SEER air conditioner

Besides the obvious savings, in most states, you will also qualify for rebates, tax credits, and incentives when you upgrade to high efficiency, EnergyStar rated central or ductless AC!

For example, in Massachusetts, if you install a Central Heat Pump, you will get $250 per ton MassSave rebate! With a 4 Ton system, your rebate will be $1000!

Even better – if you are switching from Oil or Propane heating source to Central Heat Pump, you will receive $1250 / ton! That is a $5000 MassSave rebate for a 4 ton system!

Average cost of installing a 4-Ton, 18 SEER central Heat Pump is $9,740-$10,680, and with $5000 rebate, your final cost will be $4,740-$5,680, which is on par with 13 SEER regular AC.

On top of that, you will see about $1,041 saving in cooling costs, which will make your new AC/Heat Pump pay for itself in just 5 years, while giving you better comfort!

Other states may not have the same great rebate programs, but most states have rebates and incentives programs! So replacing your dinosaur with a new High SEER air conditioner or heat pump, will be financially viable!

Final words:

If you read this far – congratulations and big thanks! We put a lot of work into this. Research took over 50 hours. Coding the calculator, including automatic adjustment of prices based on location and local electric costs, AC replacement costs, based on system size, cost of materials and labor in different regions of US, and energy savings from upgrading insulation in ducts, walls and attic, took over 200 hours combined, and is over 2000 lines of code!

On top of that, formal HVAC technician training and hands-on experience of over 1,000 hours, which make me qualified to produce tools like that, bring the total time spent on building this tool to about 1250 hours, which is about 7 months of full time work!

If you enjoyed this tool and/or found it useful – do share it with your friends!

About Leo Bender

Leo has been a contractor since 2003, specializing in: roofing, siding, general contracting (GC) and residential remodeling. Leo is also a Certified HVAC, Oil & Gas Heating Technician/Installer. In addition to roofing and remodeling, Leo is passionate about Solar, green building and energy conservation, so a lot of my time and energy goes to installing energy efficient heating and cooling systems.

See more about Remodeling Calculator team here

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

3 comments on “Central AC Cooling Energy Costs Calculator – Estimate Savings of Upgrading to High SEER AC