I've worked with all kinds of portable AC, and there's a big difference in the cooling capacity, coverage, and power draw.
They don't have the power draw of large, central air conditioners, but the wattage can be surprisingly high. So, exactly how many watts does a portable AC use?
In this guide, I'll explain how many watts your portable AC uses, why it matters, and how you can save hundreds of dollars with an energy-efficient unit.
Key Takeaways
How Many Watts Does Your Portable Air Conditioner Use?
On average, portable air conditioners use 500-1500 watts of electricity.
However, the energy consumption of every portable air conditioning system is slightly different.
Generally, the larger the portable air conditioner, the higher the energy consumption.
You can also get industrial-grade portable air conditioners for large, open spaces (like garages, basements, or open-plan homes).
These can draw more energy, often over 1500 watts.
TL;DR: The power draw of a portable air conditioner depends upon its size and the square footage area it is designed to cool.
Portable Air Conditioners Vs Other Air Conditioning Systems
Portable air conditioners tend to have a lower wattage than other AC units, although it can vary depending on the size, make, and model.
A window air conditioner can also be low wattage but provides less flexibility.
Central air conditioner systems draw the most watts because they need more energy to provide cooling across your home.
Mini split air conditioners offer a halfway house between central air conditioners and portable air conditioning systems/window air conditioner systems.
If you need whole-home cooling, I recommend a mini-split system over a central air conditioning system as they are more energy efficient.
Type of air conditioning system | Average Wattage Range |
---|---|
Portable air conditioner | 500-1500 watts |
Window air conditioner | 500-1500 watts |
Central air conditioner | 3000-5000 watts |
Ductless mini split air conditioners | 900-2000 watts |
TL;DR: Due to the lower cooling ability, portable ACs often have a fairly low wattage rating.
How Size Impacts Portable Air Conditioner Wattage
The physical size of your air conditioning system doesn’t matter - it’s all about the cooling output.
The output or capacity of your air conditioner is measured in British Thermal Units (BTUs) and shows you how much cooling it can provide in your home.[1]
The higher the BTUs, the more cooling it can provide, but the greater the energy consumption.
Some other factors impact the wattage of your air conditioner, but none are as important as the relationship between BTUs and Watts.
The exact BTU-Wattage ratio varies, but the table below provides a rough guide to the wattage for different-sized portable air conditioners:
BTU | Watts |
---|---|
5000 BTU | 417-625 W |
6000 BTU | 500 – 750 W |
8000 BTU | 667-1000 W |
10000 BTU | 833 – 1250 W |
12000 BTU | 1000 – 1500 W |
15000 BTU | 1250 – 1875 W |
TL;DR: The singular most important metric that impacts the wattage is how many BTU the unit is rated at. Usually, portable ACs are rated at 5,000-15,000 BTU consuming anywhere between 400W-1,875W per hour.
Important Note
Watts measures the rated power a device needs to function. kWh measures how much electricity a device consume in an hour.
e.g. A 1,000W portable ac running for an hour would consume 1000 Wh or 1kWh of power. The same running for half an hour would consume 500Wh or 0.5 kWh.
Electricity utilities charge bills by kWh.
Other Factors That Impact Portable Air Conditioner Wattage
- 1Energy efficiency ratio
Air conditioners with advanced inverter technology and Energy Star ratings will have lower energy consumption and wattage.[2] - 2Design & build quality
Air conditioner technology is improving year on year. Modern units are more efficient, with new compressors and internal components in the cooling system. These will draw less power to provide the same amount of cooling capacity/cool air. - 3Settings
The lower the temperature and higher the fan speed settings, the greater the energy consumption of the portable cooling system. - 4Room Size
Cooling large spaces requires greater energy consumption because your air conditioner has to run longer to provide more cool air. You can maximize efficiency and cooling capacity by making sure your air conditioners are sized to meet the cooling demand - even if that means upgrading to a central air conditioning unit.
TL;DR: From efficiency rating to the thermostat setting and the room size you wish to cool, all impact how many watts the portable AC ends up consuming.
How Many Watts Do Portable ACs Use In Different Countries?
The voltage used in countries can differ, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the appliance energy consumption (watts) is different.[3]
There can be slight regional differences, but portable air conditioners will use about the same amount of watts regardless of where you use them.
The table below shows the voltage and wattage for four major countries:
Country | Voltage | Average Wattage Range for Portable ACs |
---|---|---|
United States | 120V | 500 - 1,500 watts |
United Kingdom | 230V | 600 - 1,800 watts |
Canada | 120V | 600 - 1,800 watts |
Australia | 240V | 600 - 1,800 watts |
While the watts per hour and how much power they draw stay relatively consistent, the running cost of portable air conditioners can vary because of differing electricity prices.
I recommend taking a few minutes to calculate the estimated running costs so you aren't surprised by your energy bills.
TL;DR: The wattage used by portable ACs in different countries remains the same. However, depending upon the price per unit, electricity bills can vary.
Calculating The Wattage for Any Portable AC
There are two ways to calculate the wattage for your portable AC:
1.Using the Amps & Voltage
If you know the Amps and Volts of your portable AC, you can use this equation:
Amps x Volts = Watts per hour
If the portable AC pulls 10 amps and it’s a standard 120-volt circuit, it would be:
10 x 120 = 1200 Watts per hour - that’s how much energy it will draw.
2.Using the BTUs and Energy Efficiency Rating
If you know the BTUs (cooling capacity) and Energy Efficiency Rating (or energy efficiency ratio), you can calculate how many watts your portable AC will use with this equation:
BTU rating / Energy Efficiency Rating = Watts per hour (how much energy usage per hour)
If your portable air conditioner produces 7,500 BTUs and has an energy efficiency rating of 10, it would be:
7500 / 10 = 750 watts- that’s the electricity usage per hour
Running Costs of Various BTU ACs
Portable ACs have lower running costs than central air conditioners, but it still varies.
You can calculate the running cost of any ACs (portable ACs, window air conditioners, or a central AC system) using these figures:
To work out the cost per hour, you can use this equation:
(wattage x kWh cost) / 1000 = Electricity cost (per hour)
Let’s assume you have a 1000 Watt portable AC, and it costs $0.13 per kWh:
(1000 x 0.13) / 1000 = $0.13 per hour to run your unit per hour.
You can then multiply it by the running time to find the daily, monthly, or annual costs.
The cost of your portable AC electricity usage per hour may vary, but the table below gives a rough guide of the energy costs for AC units based on cooling output:
Portable AC BTUs | EER | Watts | Cost per hour (based on $0.13 per kWh) | Cost per day (based on 8-hour run time) | Average Cost per month |
---|---|---|---|---|---|
5000 | 10 | 500 | $0.07 | $0.56 | $16.80 |
7500 | 10 | 750 | $0.10 | $0.80 | $24 |
10,000 | 10 | 1000 | $0.13 | $1.04 | $31.20 |
12,500 | 10 | 1250 | $0.16 | $1.28 | $38.40 |
15,000 | 10 | 1500 | $0.20 | $1.60 | $48 |
TL;DR: You can use simple formulas to calculate how many kWh your portable AC consumes and also the average cost to run it every month.
How The Energy Efficiency Rating Impacts Running Costs
The Energy Efficiency Rating (EER) can make a noticeable difference to the actual energy usage costs.
Your typical air conditioner will have a 6-14 EER rating, and the higher the number, the more efficient it will be.
I recommend spending slightly more on a high EER-rated unit as it will save you a lot of money on your electric bills.
The table shows the running costs for a portable AC unit with the same cooling capacity but a different EER, illustrating just how much you could save on your electric bill:
Portable AC BTUs | EER | Watts | Cost per hour (based on $0.13 per kWh) | Cost per day (based on 8-hour run time) | Average Cost per month |
---|---|---|---|---|---|
7500 | 6 | 1250 | $0.16 | $1.28 | $38.40 |
7500 | 8 | 935 | $0.12 | $0.96 | $28.80 |
7500 | 10 | 750 | $0.09 | $0.72 | $21.60 |
7500 | 12 | 625 | $0.08 | $0.64 | $19.20 |
7500 | 14 | 535 | $0.06 | $0.48 | $14.40 |
TL;DR: Higher EER rating means lower power consumption which in turn means lower bills. However, units with higher EER can cost more.
How to Find The Wattage Information of Your Unit
Check the Specification Sheet
Every portable air conditioner should come with a user manual or spec sheet. There should be a technical section showing the wattage rating of the air conditioner.
Check the Air Conditioner
Most modern portable AC systems have a label printed on the back or bottom of the AC unit showing how much electricity they use.
Check the Manufacturer
If I can't find the spec sheet or printed label, I try Googling the portable AC unit model. The manufacturer will probably have published details of how much electricity it uses.
Use Watt Meter
Plug a watt meter into your outlet and portable air conditioner to see the power consumption.
I like using this method because it shows exactly how many watts air conditioners use on different settings.
Calculate The Wattage Yourself Using BTU and EER
You can calculate the wattage of the AC unit yourself using this equation:
BTU rating / Energy Efficiency Rating = Watts (energy usage)
TL;DR: There are many ways to figure out the power consumption including checking the technical spec sheet, using a watt meter, or by using simple math formulas.
Why Understanding Portable AC Wattage is Important
1. It Explains the Running Costs
Knowing how many watts your portable AC system will use allows you to estimate the power consumption costs and budget effectively to cover your electricity bills.
2. Wattage is Used for Breaker and Wire Sizing
Your wiring and breakers must support the appropriate wattage. Knowing the power consumption allows you to power it safely and prevent circuit overloads.
3. Highlights How Energy Efficient the Model Is
Knowing the energy usage of different AC models allows you to compare the energy efficiency and choose the most energy-efficient model for your home.
4. Allows You to Choose the Best Power Source
Knowing the wattage energy usage allows you to set up the right power source.
If you're not using your residential outlet, you can choose the right generator size or determine how many solar panels you need for a solar panel system.
5. Helps Optimize Portable AC Use
Knowing the wattage, energy usage, and energy efficiency lets you adjust the settings to maximize output and minimize costs.[5]
TL;DR: Wattage is used for more than just energy consumption and for billing purposes. It is also used for figuring out the electrical circuit requirements, power source requirement, and for adjusting its cooling settings for maximum efficiency.
FAQs
Do Portable Air Conditioners Use More Electricity Than Fans?
Portable AC Units use more electricity than fans because they cool the air and require more watts to power the refrigerant and compressor system.
Can You Plug a Portable Air Conditioner into an Extension Cord?
It's not advisable to use extension cords with portable AC units because it can trip the breaker or lead to short-circuiting.
If you are using an extension cord, make sure it's the right size to manage the unit wattage.
Do Portable ACs Require a Dedicated Circuit?
Portable AC units don't usually require a dedicated circuit because the energy usage is low. However, for a high-wattage AC unit, it can be beneficial to have a dedicated circuit to ensure it operates optimally and doesn't overload the circuit.
References:
- https://www.eia.gov/energyexplained/units-and-calculators/british-thermal-units.php
- https://www.energystar.gov/
- https://news.warrington.ufl.edu/faculty-and-research/why-do-different-countries-have-different-electric-outlet-plugs
- https://www.eia.gov/electricity/state/
- https://www.energy.gov/energysaver/articles/save-money-and-stay-cool-efficient-well-maintained-air-conditioner