How Does Solar Power Air Conditioning Work?

Solar panels have so much potential to help provide the vital energy requirements of the modern world. With a growing population, climate change and its various impacts, and only so much left in our fossil fuel reserves, the reality is that we need as many forms of clean energy as possible. One of these forms, solar, is already widely available and has a wide range of uses including air conditioning our homes.

So How Can I Use Solar to Power My Air Conditioner?

Good question! There are actually many ways that we can combine solar and air conditioning technologies. The most common method, and the one that you may be the most familiar with, is using photovoltaic (solar) panels to produce electricity, and then using that electricity to power a normal air conditioning unit. Other ways that you can use solar power to condition your home include passive solar, using desiccants for solar open-loop air conditioning and closed loop solar absorption cooling. Each of these solar powered solutions can be advantageous in different situations.

Air Conditioning with Solar Panels

This is a fairly straightforward method. It involves mounting solar panels on the roof of a home or other building and then using them to power a standard air conditioner, along with potentially a whole host of other household needs. This means that you can be partially or completely off the grid (you will normally need a battery or an additional power source for nights and when the sun isn’t shining). Another great benefit of powering your air conditioner with solar panels is that you can reduce your electricity bill substantially.

There are often rebates that you may be able to get if you choose to install solar panels to power your air conditioner. This can help to offset the cost of installation and make sure that you begin to see the savings even sooner. Depending on the tariffs that you pay on your electricity, there are additional techniques you can use to optimise the savings from your solar panels. For example, you can run your air conditioner during the day while the power is supplied from the sun, then seal up your house and turn your air conditioning off at night.

Having solar panels can help to reduce the heat of your home in another way as well. Just having them mounted on your roof will mean that they are absorbing the solar energy that reaches your roof and converting it to electricity. Normal roofs tend to absorb this energy and turn it into heat, particularly if the roof is a dark colour. Part of this heat than transfers into your home. So by simply harvesting this energy, solar panels can sometimes even help to keep your house cooler.

Passive Solar

If you are building a new home, a form of temperature regulation that you may want to look into is passive solar. Passive solar is all about designing a building to reduce the heat transfer and help to remove unwanted heat. It revolves around the principles of thermal radiation, heat conduction and heat transfer. It can be much easier to plan new builds around passive solar cooling, because renovating a building to be optimised can require significant changes, which can be very expensive.

One of the key aspects of passive solar is ensuring that a home is well insulated, which can significantly reduce unwanted heat transfer. Good ventilation can also be important, as well as the direction that the house faces with regards to the sun. You may find that having awnings over certain windows can have a significant effect on the overall temperature. You will find that these principles can often reduce the air conditioning costs of a new home by half or more.

Solar Air Conditioning Can Work in Many Different Ways

As you now know, there are many ways that solar technology and air conditioning can be combined. Some are less common and less technologically advanced than others. If you are building a new home or business, it can definitely be worthwhile considering passive solar, because this can have a significant impact on your overall costs.

As far as other measures go, you need to consider your climate and what rebates are available from your government. Some technologies may be cheaper and more efficient, however if a rival one has a greater government rebate, it may work out more cost effective to go with the less efficient system.

If you have been thinking about it, solar air conditioning is a great way that you can stay comfortable, save money and save the planet. Although there may be upfront costs, you might be able to pay it off sooner than you think with government rebates.

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