While most people gladly welcome the summer sun, thinking of lazy afternoons by the pool with a cooling drink close by, high temperatures can also paint a very different picture for those who have to run their AC systems to the max and watch their electricity bills go through the roof. If you’ve been there, the thought of getting solar panels to run your air conditioner and lower your bills might have crossed your mind.
But you may be asking, “Can solar panels run my air conditioner?” The answer is absolutely yes! When summertime puts a strain on your AC and your budget, there’s really no reason to suffer through the heat in order to reduce energy consumption. Installing solar panels can be a great way to cut back on energy costs while also caring for the environment.
If you’ve learned a thing or two about solar air conditioning beforehand, you’ve probably weighed your options to understand how to get more bang for your buck. So here are some important aspects to keep in mind when working with solar panels and an AC unit.
What is solar air conditioning?
Solar air conditioners give the same results as conventional AC units, so in terms of efficiency they’ll cool your space just as you’d expect. They just use a different energy source to work their magic – solar power – and they are great at saving energy, money, and being kind to the environment. That’s why so many AC providers have made their units solar-compatible.
When looking for a suitable solar powered AC option, you should know there are two types of units:
Solar photovoltaic air conditioners
This type of AC unit is not much different from a split air conditioning unit. While the latter is powered by energy from the grid, solar PV air conditioners run on the energy provided by solar panels. The bigger the AC system, the more solar panels you’ll need to power it.
The great thing about these systems is that you can pair them with a battery to store all the extra energy from the solar panels and use it whenever you need it. This setup is called solar PV hybrid air conditioner.
Solar thermal air conditioners
Solar thermal air conditioners work by heating the liquid that evaporates and runs through the whole system thus creating the cooling effect. It’s a simple and effective way to maintain a comfortable temperature in your home.
Using solar panels to power your AC
Now that you know you can use solar panels to power your AC unit, there’s still an important question to answer: should you go for solar air conditioning only or should you install a residential solar panel system that will cover your entire electricity needs?
Most experts agree you should choose the second option. Using solar panels to power you AC only when you have a grid-connected home is not the most practical idea. That would imply having a separate electric circuit for the aircon unit, installing an off-grid solar panel system, and pairing it up with batteries to have a backup when the sun’s not shining. When you do the math, you’ll see that spending so much money on the equipment and installation work just to end up with solar panels you only use to power your AC is probably not worth it.
On the other hand, installing a solar system for your entire home comes with considerable benefits. For starters, the system will produce more energy in the summer, exactly when you need your AC to run at its full potential, while also covering all your other electricity requirements. Another major advantage is the incentives you get from electric companies. The extra energy generated by the solar system is sent to the grid in return for credits that you can use to reduce future electric bills. And if you consider the bigger picture, why save money on AC costs only when you can save money on your entire electrical bill?
A separate solar air conditioning system might make sense for people who live in off-grid homes or for those who don’t have enough space to install a full solar panel system, but for everyone else, a residential solar system is definitely a great long-term investment.