Are you trying to decide whether your heater or your AC is more expensive? It turns out there are a lot of questions about which uses more electricity. In this article, I’ll share the research I’ve done on AC and heat, and which one uses more energy.
Your heater uses more energy than your air conditioning. While this can vary slightly depending on the type of unit, the home’s insulation, and the amount of use, in general, it’s more expensive to heat a home than to cool it.
Why does the heater use more electricity than the AC? That’s one of the many questions we’ll answer in the sections below. We’ll explore some of the nuances and provide some tips that can save you money and make your space more comfortable.
Let’s get to it!
Which Uses More Energy: The Air conditioner or the Heater?
The heater uses more energy than the air conditioner. This comes as a bit of a surprise, as we often hear about the energy consumption of air conditioning units.
However, it turns out several studies have been done on this subject, and they’ve concluded that northern cities, such as Minneapolis, use more energy than very southern cities, such as Miami. This is a relative comparison of the usage of air conditioners in the summer vs. heat in the winter.
If you’re curious to learn more about the specifics of this study, then you can look at this report on ac vs heat.
In the next section, we’ll talk about why heaters use more energy than AC. First, let’s get something out of the way.
When discussing electricity, one area of confusion is that air conditioners often run strictly from an electric power source. In contrast, heating units often use a different power source, such as natural gas. However, what matters is the net amount of energy usage, not the fact that one runs on electricity (in your home) and one runs on gas.
Think about this: electricity is energy, and it must be generated from a power plant. So, in this discussion, let’s focus on energy usage, not the technicalities regarding how it’s delivered.
Alright, let’s talk about why a heater might use more energy than air conditioning.
Why Does the Heater Use More Energy Than the AC?
So, why would a heating unit use more energy than a cooling unit? Without getting too technical, let’s discuss this. There are various specifics, but let’s just stick with a general overview and then talk about nuance later.
To understand why a heater uses more energy than an AC, we need to think about energy flow and resistance. AC uses less energy because it’s a more passive process, removing heat from an area. Aside from cooling the air, the AC unit’s job is to suck out the warm air.
It may be helpful to remember that cold is the absence of heat – you don’t create cold; you just remove heat.
However, on the other hand, when a heater needs to take a cold room and make it warm, it must actively create the heat and then move it into the home. This process requires more energy than simply removing heat from the room.
On a more specific level, the previously mentioned study found that it took almost four times more energy to heat a room than to cool it down.
All this science stuff is cool, but let’s talk about all this from a more practical perspective.
AC vs. Heater: Some Nuances
Just because heaters use more energy than AC units doesn’t mean you will automatically have a higher heating bill. If you’re wondering which costs more, the heater or the AC unit, you’ll need to answer some questions about your climate and lifestyle.
Here are several nuances that could affect home much you spend on heat vs. AC:
- Where you live
- What you prefer
- The efficiency of your home
Let’s look at this in more depth. We’ll also spend a bit more time on the last one and offer you some tips that will help you save money on heat and cooling.
AC vs. Heat: Where you Live
Where you live can play a big part in how much you spend on heat vs. AC. Some people might be reading this article and thinking: I spend way more money on AC than I do on heat – what’s the deal?
If you live in southern Florida, you are much more likely to fork out money on cooling than on heating. Florida is a much warmer environment than some areas of the United States, so it’s naturally going to cost you more each year on heating than on cooling.
On the other hand, if you live in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, you will spend much more money on your heating bill, as you need to spend more time in the cold.
However, this is not the only factor that affects the cost – it also comes down to personal preferences.
Heating vs. Cooling: What you Prefer
Some people may naturally spend more money on their heat than their AC unit, even if they live in a relatively moderate climate. For example, some adults are very sensitive to the cold, so they may have their thermostat set to the high 70s all year, even in the summer months. This person is obviously going to spend a lot more money on their heating bill and may not notice an AC bill at all.
This comes down to another interesting point – many houses don’t have an AC unit. However, it’s rare not to have a source of heat. Why is this? Although heat stroke is a thing and can be dangerous, it’s unlikely as long as people aren’t overexerting themselves and staying hydrated. However, sitting in even mildly cold temperatures for too long can passively lead to hypothermia.
Although, some people prefer their homes to be on the cold side, so they might notice that they use very little heat in the winter and spend a fortune on the AC in the summer months.
There’s another factor that plays a big role.
Air Conditioning vs. Heating and the Efficiency of Your Home
Depending on how your heating and cooling are set up and how well your home is insulated, you could pay more or less for heating and cooling.
For example, if you only have a window AC unit, but it’s low efficiency, and it’s in a room that isn’t properly sealed, then it could use considerably more energy than usual as it tries to cool the home.
On the other hand, some heating units are very efficient, and this may make your heating bill lower than your AC bill.
Of course, both heating and AC bill will be greater if your home is poorly insulated, or the system doesn’t work properly – it’s very important to have your appliances serviced if you suspect they are faulty!
Let’s talk about several ways to save money on energy.
What Are Some Ways to Lower the Cost of Heating and Cooling?
There are ways to lower your energy costs for your heating and AC. Let’s talk about three of the best ways to do this.
Here they are.
First, make sure your home is properly insulated. Think of your home like a fence around sheep. If there’s even a small hole in the fence, the sheep will escape – it doesn’t matter if the rest of the fence is rock solid! The same thing is true with your home. You might think it’s well sealed, but if there’s one small crack, it could compromise the whole system. So, step back and take a good look at your heating and cooling – be vigilant about preventing weak points.
Second, check your AC or heating unit. If you have an ancient AC unit and a brand new, energy-efficient heating system, you’ll likely notice some discordance in their energy use. Just like your house can have leaks, there can be leaks or fail-points in an AC or heater. Service them often and make sure you’re happy with their consistency.
Finally, change your own habits. Yes, it might be nice to have the AC running all summer, but maybe you can tolerate your home being a few degrees warmer – every little bit will help you save money in the long run. Or maybe install a whole house fan that could potentially save on AC cost.
Now, let’s go over our final take.
Final Take on The Electricity Use of AC and Heaters
Heaters used relatively more energy than AC units. Studies have shown that it takes more energy to heat a home in the north than it does to cool a home in the south.
Heating is a more active process than cooling, requiring a greater need for energy. If you’ve been struggling with high energy bills, think about improving your home’s insulation, having an expert evaluate your AC/Heater, and changing some habits.
What do you think? Do you pay more for heat or AC? Also, let us know if you have any tips on improving energy efficiency.