Solar power and air conditioning: A mutually beneficial relationship

by James Martin II on September 19, 2012

Solar power and air conditioning

A US startup recently announced the launch of a solar-powered air conditioner onto the US market. Units come replete with direct current (DC) electrical inputs and a battery that can run for up to an hour without the sun. As air conditioners are a major money-sink for homes and businesses across the world (including the UK), the concept of integrating solar power generation technology into an air conditioning unit is certainly an inspired one. Is a solar air conditioner really better than an ordinary grid-connect solar system, though?

The number of solar PV systems is growing rapidly across the UK, mainly thanks to the UK government’s feed-in tariffs for solar power and other renewables, and the falling cost of solar photovoltaic (PV) technology itself. Rooftop solar PV systems are now widely recognised as a great investment for homes and businesses alike. The rise of solar PV as a (nearly) mainstream electricity generation technology means that it is more affordable than ever before, and can play a major role in cutting power bills for UK residents.

In this context, the concept of air conditioning powered by solar panels has come into its own. For the most part, air-conditioning units are run at the time of day when the sun is shining its brightest and outside air temperatures are therefore at their highest. Using solar panels to harness the sun’s energy to run an air conditioner and cool a room is a great way to money on power bills.

While certainly a great idea for off-grid systems where air conditioning is necessary but would otherwise be expensive to run, a solar powered air conditioner would be a boon. An ordinary grid-connect solar system (the majority of UK solar systems) will do essentially the same job as the solar air conditioner concept, however, and with more flexibility with regard to the devices powered.

The main boast of the US unit in question here is its efficiency (18.8% energy efficiency ratio, or EER–the measure of BTUs of cooling capacity per watt of power consumed). This highlights the need for all home and business electrical appliances to be energy efficient–something that the UK government has recognised and addressed, introducing its Green Deal Program (for residences) and its Funded Energy Efficiency Program (for businesses and commercial premises). Indeed, the first step for any home looking to reduce its energy bills should be to find cheap and easy ways to cut energy consumption. This enables them to get the most out of their solar PV system once it is up and running.

Written By Solar Selections.

© 2012 Solar Selections

Interested in learning more about the financial benefits of going solar? Contact the Solar Selections team today.

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