Using a 1 Ton (12,000 BTU) AC | 7 Answers you Should Know

Are you considering installing a 1 Ton air conditioner and have doubts whether it is right for the space you intend to cool?

Do you have questions about the electrical installation – wire gauge and circuit breaker rating to use?

A 1 Ton air conditioner with its cooling capacity of 12,000 BTU/hour can deliver the expected performance when installed in the recommended area (square feet).

It can also operate safely and reliably when the recommended wiring guidelines are followed.

So in this post, I share:

  • the estimated cooling area for the air conditioner as a rough guide to which spaces it can cool,
  • provide indicative energy and electricity usage so that you get an idea about the impact it can have on the electricity bill,

and also the recommended circuit breaker, and wire size rating information for the 1 Ton (12,000 BTU/hr) air conditioner to use it safely.

#1. The Number of Amps a 1 Ton Air Conditioner Uses

A 1 Ton, 208 – 230V Air Conditioner has an estimated current draw of up to 12 – 18 amps. The 110 – 115V model’s current draw is higher at between 24 – 36 amps.

The actual current draw for the AC varies depending on the settings selected by the user – such as the speed of the fan and the target temperature to cool too.

For example, when the fan speed selected is high, the current drawn by the air conditioner is higher.

#2. How Much Electricity (kWh) a 1 Ton AC Uses?

The estimated annual energy consumption of a 1 Ton AC is about 1,155 kWh*.

During the operation of the air conditioner, the energy consumption will depend on:

  • how often it is used. If it is only switched on on certain days then the energy consumption (kWh) is lower
  • the air conditioner mode settings selected by the user for example low, medium or high fan speed, and
  • its SEER – Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating of the air conditioner.

An air conditioner with a higher SEER rating is more efficient and consumes less electricity (lower kWh).

You can usually find an AC’s SEER rating in the Energy guide, part of the documentation provided with modern air conditioners.

How Much Electricity (kWh) per month?

The estimated monthly energy consumption of a 1 Ton AC is 96 kWh*.

How Much Electricity (kWh) per day?

The estimated daily energy consumption of a 1 Ton AC is 3.0 kWh*.

*These are estimates. Your AC’s actual energy consumption can vary depending on the climate of your location, how often it is used and what settings are selected.

*# 3. 1 Ton AC | How Many Watts to Run

The estimated power consumption of a 1 Ton AC unit, is about 2,310 watts at full load.

This power consumption is higher during the startup phase of the air conditioner but reduces thereafter.

This assumes a cooling efficiency rating of 18 (SEER). More efficient units have a lower power consumption compared to inefficient ones.

#4. Circuit Breaker Rating to Use | 1 Ton AC

The circuit breaker current rating for a 1 Ton air-conditioner, 208 – 230V is usually in the range of 20-25A.

Check the technical specification information for your particular AC model.

#5. What Size of Wire for The 1 Ton AC Unit

For a 1 Ton AC, rated 208 – 230V, consider using 12 AWG wire size (subject to the Manufacturer’s recommendation).

The 1 Ton AC usually has a specified minimal ampacity of 18A.

#6. Indicative Generator Size (kVA) for 1 Ton AC

You can use a good quality 5kVA rated generator or higher to power a 1 Ton AC.

Consider using a generator with a higher capacity (kVA) if the generator is also used to power other appliances to avoid overloading and tripping the circuit breaker.

#7. How Many Square Feet for a 1 Ton Ac Unit?

A 1 Ton AC can cool an estimated area of 450 – 550* square feet.

Always consult a professional to size the AC for your desired space before you decide to purchase and install the AC.

The effective cooling area for a 1 Ton AC and other AC capacities depends on :

  • the prevailing climate of the area where it is being installed.
  • how much window space is available. If a room has fewer windows, the AC does not have to work as hard to cool the space.
  • how well insulated the building ia. Rooms with good insulation need less cooling.

Warmer areas need more cooling capacity compared to colder areas.

For cooling a whole house, consider a residential split-system central AC with ducts for each of the various rooms to be cooled.

Related Questions

#7. Should you Use 1 Ton or 1.5 Ton AC?

A 1.5 Ton AC costs slightly more but has more cooling capacity (18,000 BTU/hr) than a 1 Ton AC (12,000 BTU/hr).

For a new installation, you may use the recommendation as a guide but also consult an AC professional or contractor to conduct a professional heat load assessment to guide whether a 2 Ton or a 2.5 Ton AC is a better choice.

If you are considering an upgrade because the existing 1 Ton AC is not cooling well anymore, as a first step check that the AC is regularly serviced.

Is the space that needs to be cooled properly insulated? If not, this can also be a cheaper alternative both short and long-term to purchasing a new AC.

Also, consult a qualified AC professional for advice before you make the purchase.


A 1 Ton AC with its cooling capacity of approximately 12,000 BTU can cool a room of 450 – 550* square feet depending on the insulation of the building and climate where it is installed.

At full load, a 1 Ton AC draws approximately 2,310 watts. Actual power consumption varies depending on the settings selected.

To protect the circuit against overcurrent, consider a circuit breaker current rating of 20-25A for a 1 Ton, 208 -230V air-conditioner (subject to the AC manufacturer guidance and existing wiring). If in doubt, consult a qualified electrician.

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