Will a 1200-watt portable air conditioner be okay on a 15-amp circuit?

A 1200-watt portable air conditioner will generally be okay to run on a 15-amp circuit, but it is best to calculate this for your specific unit.

Air conditioners are known for using a lot of power to run, but you can optimise your portable air conditioner’s electricity usage by buying the right model.

In general, a smaller 1200-watt portable air conditioner will be able to run on a 15-amp circuit breaker, as long as the maximum amp requirement to run this portable air conditioner is below the NEC 80 percent rule, but this will be unique to your model.

Portable air conditioners and their power usage

Portable air conditioners are a great option if you want an appliance that will be more effective than a fan at cooling down your space, but you do not want to install a complex and expensive central air or HVAC system.

However, air conditioners, especially portable units, are known for using a lot of power to operate.

This high-power usage can be managed by ensuring that your portable air conditioner is sized correctly for your space and that it has the newest, modern technology that enables it to be as energy-efficient as possible.

Will a 1200-watt portable air conditioner be okay on a 15 amp circuit?

The electricity usage of your portable air conditioner increases as the unit gets more powerful. This means that portable air conditioners with higher BTUs (British Thermal Units) generally have a higher wattage (W) and amp (A) rating.

This wattage and amp rating will be determined by your particular air conditioner and by the manufacturer.

You can generally find the wattage and amp rating of your portable air on a label that is printed on the side of your unit and that states the “minimum circuit ampacity”.

You can also calculate the amperage of your air conditioner yourself, using its wattage and voltage. In general, most portable air conditioners have amperage ratings of around 3.1A to 12.8A, and 12A is the most common.

In order to determine the correct size circuit breaker for your appliances, you need to apply the NEC 80 percent rule.

This rule states that, to avoid overloading your circuit breaker, you should only draw 80 percent of the maximum amperage of your circuit breaker.

Therefore, if your 1200W portable air conditioner only draws 12A, it will be okay to use this air conditioner on a 15A circuit, as 12A used by the air conditioner will only use 80 percent of the 15A circuit breaker’s capacity.

How to calculate the amperage for your portable air conditioner

If your portable air conditioner does not have the unit’s amperage on its label, you can calculate the maximum amperage usage yourself, by dividing the wattage by the voltage of your unit.

In this case, if you have a 1200-watt portable air conditioner, you can find the maximum amperage by dividing this number with the voltage listed on your unit.

The most portable air conditioners have a voltage between 220V and 240V. In this case, if we use the lower voltage, which is common for smaller units, it means that when you divide the 1200W by the general 220V to 240V, your amperage is between 5.5A and 5A.

This means that you will be able to use a 15A circuit breaker safely to power this portable air conditioner.

Examining the amperage of specific 1200-watt portable air conditioners

In order to illustrate this point further, you can examine specific examples below of portable air conditioners that are in the 1200-watt-range and determine whether they can safely operate on a 15-amp circuit.

Portable air conditioner Wattage Labelled amperage Calculated amperage Will a 15 amp circuit be okay?
Whynter ARC-14S 14,000 BTU Dual Hose Portable Air Conditioner 1300W 11. 6A Yes
SereneLife SLPAC10 Portable Air Conditioner Compact Home AC 1150W 1150W÷120V

= 9.9A

BLACK+DECKER 10,000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner with Remote Control 1150W 11.5A Yes

This illustrates that most 1200W portable air conditioners will be okay to operate on a 15A breaker.

Operating your portable air conditioner safely on its own circuit

It is important to remember that it is safest to operate your air conditioner on its own circuit, since it is likely one of the appliances in your home that will draw the most power.

When you apply the NEC 80 percent rule, it becomes even more apparent that your air conditioner, in most cases, will use the full 80 percent of amperage when it comes to the 15A circuit breaker and will need to be on its own circuit, without any other appliances.

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