Air Conditioner Electrical Requirements

Electric requirements are important considerations whether you’re installing a small window air conditioner to cool one room or a central air conditioning to cool an entire home.

Central Air Conditioners

Electrical work for central air conditioning units requires permits and professional installation.Electrical work for central air conditioning units requires permits and professional installation.
Take a picture of the wall outlet socket with your cell phone camera or draw an outline on paper and take it along when you shop. The salesperson will help you select a model that works with your existing electrical outlets. Electrical requirements for a central air conditioning system, mini-split and packaged terminal air conditioning systems require must be assessed on your premises by a professional installer and will require permits from your local building code office.

Central air conditioner units are connected to a home’s heating ventilation and air conditioning system. They have the most complicated electrical requirements and require professional installation. Most units require a minimum 220-volt outlet; however, the exact requirements will depend on the size of the system and the British thermal unit output capacity. Central systems require dedicated circuits on a home’s electric control panel and exterior and interior electrical wiring that must be performed by a licensed and experienced professional installer.

Ductless Mini-Split Units

Ductless mini-split air conditioners are commonly found in high-rise apartment buildings. They were originally developed in Japan by the Mitsubishi Corporation as a means to install air conditioning in high-rise buildings without having to install ductwork. Ductless systems are growing in use and popularity in multi-unit residential dwellings as well as apartment buildings in the United States. Like conventional central air conditioners, mini-split systems have a separate condenser unit and evaporator unit. Most systems require 100-volt or 220-volt wiring. Units that use 110-volt outlets often have a BTU output of 12,000 or less, while those requiring 220-volt wiring are more powerful and will have a BTU output greater than 12,000.

Packaged Terminal Air Conditioners

Packaged terminal air conditioners are the types of units you see in hotel rooms. These wall-mounted units typically require a minimum 575-watt electrical outlet capacity, which is a bit higher than conventional window units, and go up to as much as 1,200 watt requirements. In most cases, units that require less than 1,000 watts will often work with standard three-prong electrical outlets.

Window Air Conditioners

Window air conditioners are often a popular choice for homes and apartments. They allow you to cool one room or supplement central air conditioning to save money. The wattage for the unit determines the electrical requirements. Wattage for window air conditioners typically starts at 500 watts and can go as high as 1,200 watts for larger units. Window air conditioners have electrical outlet configurations that fit into standard 115 and 230-volt outlets, so you can plug them in and begin to use them right away.

Evaporative Coolers

Evaporative coolers are cooling units more common in use by those who live in dry climate locations such as Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada and parts of California. Evaporative coolers, also called swamp coolers, pull outside air through water-saturated pads inside of the unit. Evaporative cooling systems can condition the air for an entire home, or small units can be used to cool one room or space, such as a bedroom or garage space. A large, whole-home unit might require a 220-volt capacity and a dedicated circuit on a home’s control panel. Small, portable units used to cool one room, range in watt requirements from 85 to around 160 watts. An 85-watt unit can cool up to about 150-square feet and a 160-watt unit can cool about 300-square feet of space.

About the Author

Cheryl Munson has been writing since 1990, with experience as a writer and creative director in the advertising industry. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism with a focus on advertising from the University of Wisconsin in Madison.