Does Air Conditioning Use Gas or Electricity? Why Electric ACs Dominate

Air Conditioning

The air conditioner has been an indispensable home device in America for many years. People in general know how to operate a thermostat connected to the AC, but very few know what powers their air conditioning—gas or electricity.

Does air conditioning use gas or electricity? What are the benefits of using gas or electricity as a source of energy? Are there any risks involved in using either power source? More importantly, how can you save money on energy with air conditioning?

Let’s get to the bottom of these intriguing questions.

does air conditioning use gas or electricity

Do Air Conditioners Run on Gas or Electricity?

Around 50 years ago, gas air conditioners were widespread. Nowadays, however, most modern air conditioning units are powered by electricity. The reason for this shift is the safety issue with the use of fuel. Gas leaks and risk of combustion are the main reasons many manufacturers divert their production more toward electric-powered air conditioners.

Homeowners find the following perks in using electric AC:

  • Better energy efficiency
  • Easy to use
  • Greater temperature control
  • Free from combustion hazards
  • Protected from gas-leak-related sicknesses
  • Safe for the environment

Today, gas-powered air conditioners are rare and are mostly discontinued due to their dangers and inefficiencies when compared to electric systems. Electric air conditioners have become the standard choice for both residential and commercial buildings, offering a safer and more reliable way of cooling than gas-powered systems.

The History of Air Conditioning

The eventful past of air conditioning includes a time when gas-powered systems were prevalent before the shift to electric air conditioners. How did gas air conditioners become obsolete after being used 50 years ago? And how did the HVAC industry transition to modern electric air conditioners?

Gas Air Conditioners 50 Years Ago

Half a century ago, air conditioning uses natural gas to generate power and absorption technology to cool homes and buildings. These systems were an alternative to electricity-powered units, specifically in areas where electricity was scarce or expensive. Older versions of air conditioning use gas by utilizing the heat produced by a natural gas burner to drive the cooling process.

However, there were some drawbacks associated with gas air conditioning systems. One of the main issues was the potential for gas leaks and combustion hazards, leading to safety concerns for users. As a result, the popularity of gas air conditioning systems began to diminish over time.

Transition to Electric Air Conditioners

As technological advancements progressed, the era began when the air conditioner uses electricity to operate instead of gas. Electric air conditioning systems offered numerous benefits over their gas counterparts, including increased energy efficiency, better temperature control, and improved safety. These features contributed to the rapid adoption of electric air conditioners in homes and businesses.

Today, electric air conditioning systems dominate the market and continue to improve in terms of efficiency, environmental impact, and ease of use. Innovations in refrigerants, smart technology, and improvements in compressors and other AC parts have further solidified the position of electric air conditioners as the preferred choice in modern cooling systems. In common American homes, typical cooling units do not use gas anymore.

How An Air Conditioner Works

Air conditioners work by removing heat from the air inside a building, thereby making the interior environment more comfortable for the occupants. There are various ways that air conditioners achieve this goal, but they can generally be categorized into two types: gas-powered and electric-powered air conditioning systems.

Gas vs. Electricity

Historically, both gas and electric air conditioners have been used to cool buildings. Gas HVAC, which was more common about 5 decades ago, relied on natural gas or propane to operate. These systems absorbed heat from the air using a gas-powered engine, which then transferred the heat outside. While they were effective in cooling the space, they posed certain risks and have since been replaced by electric air conditioners in most applications.

The way electric air conditioners work, on the other hand, is quite different. They utilize electricity to power a compressor, which circulates the refrigerant through a series of coils. The refrigerant absorbs the heat from the indoor air and then releases it outdoors, thereby cooling the air inside the building. This process is considered safer and more efficient than using gas-powered air conditioners, resulting in them becoming the dominant technology in the market.

Electrical Air Conditioning Systems

Electrical air conditioning systems have become the standard for cooling homes and commercial spaces. These systems use electricity to power their various components, such as the compressor, fan, and evaporator, ensuring a comfortable indoor temperature.

Energy Consumption

Electric air conditioners consume a significant amount of energy during operation. They function by transferring heat from indoors to outdoors, using electricity to drive the process. The amount of energy consumed varies depending on factors such as the size of the air conditioner, the outdoor temperature, and the desired indoor temperature. Typically, larger units or those operating in extreme outdoor conditions require more energy.

Many electric air conditioners are designed with energy efficiency in mind to minimize their environmental impact and reduce utility costs for consumers. Features such as programmable thermostats and energy-efficient compressors help reduce energy usage. Additionally, air conditioners are often rated by their seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER), with higher numbers indicating better efficiency.

SEER RatingEnergy Efficiency
13 – 15Standard Efficiency
16 – 20High Efficiency
21 – 25+Very High Efficiency

When selecting a suitable electric air conditioner, it’s essential to consider the unit’s energy efficiency ratings and any potential limitations.


Efficiency is a crucial factor when evaluating electric air conditioning systems. Manufacturers continue to improve designs and technologies, leading to more efficient air conditioners that use less electricity to generate the same levels of cooling. This can lead to significant energy savings for the consumer and reduce the strain on the electrical grid. Factors such as proper sizing, regular maintenance, and ensuring adequate insulation and sealing in a home can further enhance the efficiency of an electric air conditioner.

To sum it up, electric air conditioning systems have become the standard choice for temperature control, providing a safe and effective cooling solution. Energy consumption and efficiency are essential factors to consider when selecting an appropriate system for your needs.

Common Types of AC Units

Air conditioning units have evolved over the years, and there are several types available today. They primarily use electricity as their power source, with gas-powered units mostly phased out due to safety concerns. This section will briefly discuss the common types of air conditioning units that rely on electricity.

1. Central Air Conditioning Units: These units are commonly installed in large buildings and homes, providing even cooling throughout the entire space. They use a split system, with an indoor evaporator coil and an outdoor condenser unit connected by refrigerant lines. Electricity powers the compressor that circulates the refrigerant between the indoor and outdoor units.

2. Window Air Conditioners: These self-contained units are designed to fit in a window or a hole in the wall. They are easy to install and maintain, making them popular choices in smaller spaces. Window units rely on electricity to power the fan and compressor, which work together to cool the air and circulate it in the room.

3. Portable Air Conditioners: These versatile units are compact and can be easily moved from one room to another. They require a nearby electrical outlet to power their compressor and fan. Exhaust hoses must be connected to a window or another form of ventilation to expel hot air outside.

4. Ductless Mini-Splits: These units are similar to central air conditioners in their functionality, but they don’t require extensive ductwork. The system is divided into indoor air handling units and an outdoor condenser unit, connected by refrigerant lines. Each indoor unit cools a specific zone, and the system operates using electricity.

5. Heat Pumps: These energy-efficient systems can provide both heating and cooling by reversing the refrigeration process. They use electricity to power their compressors and transfer heat between the indoors and outdoors, depending on the desired temperature setting. Heat pumps can be central or ductless systems, depending on the building’s needs.

Modern air conditioning units have shifted away from using gas as a power source, focusing on safer and more efficient electrical systems. These five types of electrically-powered units cover a wide range of applications and environments, providing reliable and effective cooling solutions for consumers.

Presently, there are air conditioning and heating systems that have also transitioned from gas-powered to hybrid systems (units that utilize both gas and electricity) and all-electric HVAC systems. For hybrid designs, gas is used only in the furnace to generate the heat required for the heating to initiate, while electricity is utilized to run the condenser. Meanwhile, in an all-electric air conditioning and heating system, electricity fuels the furnace and causes the condenser to function.

Choosing the Right System for Your Home

When selecting an air conditioning system for your home, it is essential to consider which type of system and energy source is best suited for your needs. Modern air conditioning systems primarily use electricity to provide cool air. However, many years ago, gas air conditioners were common. These older systems were phased out due to the inherent dangers associated with using gas as a cooling medium.

As you evaluate your options for air conditioning, it is crucial to consider factors such as the size of your house, the climate in your region, and your specific cooling requirements. By keeping these aspects in mind, you can choose a system that efficiently provides cool air throughout your home, maximizing your comfort during warmer seasons.

Here are a few tips to guide you in selecting the right air conditioning system:

  • Assess the size of your house to determine the appropriate capacity for your air conditioning system. A system with the correct capacity will cool your home efficiently without using excess energy. You can also ask the service of a qualified HVAC expert to size your AC versus your home.
  • Consider the energy efficiency of the system. Higher energy efficiency ratings can result in lower utility bills and a smaller carbon footprint.
  • Look for systems with additional features such as programmable thermostats, which allow for greater control over the temperature settings in your home, yielding enhanced comfort and energy savings.
  • Analyze the climate in your area to choose a system tailored to your region’s specific needs. For example, if you live in a humid environment, a system with built-in dehumidification capabilities might be beneficial.
  • Consult with an HVAC professional to ensure that the system you select is adequate for your home. If you found a trustworthy technician, schedule an annual service and maintenance for your AC to maintain its efficiency.

When you do these recommendations above, you can find an air conditioning system that effectively meets your needs and delivers cool, comfortable air throughout your home.

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