Statistics indicate that home-owners in the United States spend at least $15 billion per year on air conditioning in their homes. The widespread use of air conditioners in the United States has a negative impact on the natural environment. Research indicates that conventional air conditioners are using up at least 5% of all electricity produced in the United States.
In addition to that, the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy estimates that 140 million tons of carbon dioxide into the environment. Subsequently, carbon dioxide contributes to climate change and warmer temperatures. As global temperatures are getting warmer, the demand for air conditioners is likely to grow even further. For environment conscious people, this is a worrying trend. With solar air conditioning, however, there is a glimmer of hope.
This article explores solar air conditioning and everything you need to know about it.
Difference between Conventional Air Conditioners and Solar Air Conditioners
Solar air conditioners and conventional air conditioners both perform the same function. The main difference between the two lies in the fact that conventional air conditioners use grid electricity while solar air conditioners use energy generated from the sun.
Photo Voltaic System vs. Solar Thermal System for Solar Air Conditioning
A photovoltaic system uses energy from the sun to generate electricity while a solar thermal system utilizes the sun’s energy without producing any electricity.
While it is possible to use either of these for solar air conditioning, evidence suggests that solar thermal systems are more efficient than PV systems when it comes to powering air conditioning.
Types Of Solar Air Conditioning
Three main types of solar air conditioning are:
1. Solar Thermal Hybrid System
This solar air conditioning system saves power by using solar energy to assist in the functions of the compressor (to compress and heat up fluid).
The system makes use of a solar collector panel such as those used in solar water heating systems to heat the fluid. However, this system requires electricity to run. In addition to that, there are questions regarding its usability at night.
2. Solar PV Hybrid System
This type of solar air conditioning works in much the same way as the solar thermal hybrid system. However, this system transforms the sun’s energy into electricity through photovoltaic technology.
The electricity is then used to charge the batteries (when the sun is shining). When it is dark, the system switches to backup battery power. At the same time, the system uses alternating current (grid electricity) to charge its batteries.
3. Evaporative Solar Powered Conditioners
When it comes to solar air conditioning, no other solar air conditioner beats the environment friendliness of solar powered absorption air conditioners.
This system does not have a compressor (which is the most electricity consuming part of the air conditioner. Instead, it uses a heat exchanger, a condenser that uses water as a refrigerant instead of CFC and absorbents such as lithium bromide or ammonia.
This system only uses electricity to power the fans, chillers and hot water pumps meaning that it has significantly lower operating costs than a conventional air conditioner.
However, because of the dependence of these systems on solar energy, their usability through the night is limited. In addition to that, these systems are best for commercial purposes.
Benefits Of Solar Air Conditioning
Research indicates that conventional air conditioners can constitute up to 30% of a household’s electricity demand. For the average American household, this is often expensive. By using solar air conditioners, however, it is possible to reduce the electricity bill and make crucial savings.
Solar air conditioners also have the benefit of being environment-friendly. Their ability to save on electricity translates to fewer carbon emissions into the environment.
In addition to that, solar air conditioning systems such as the solar powered absorption system do not use CFC as a refrigerant. Instead, they use water.
Thirdly, solar air conditioners are sustainable. These systems use the very same heat from the sun to cool people from the high temperatures caused by the sun’s heat.
It is impossible to ignore the fact that solar powered air conditioners reduce ones dependability on the grid.
Over-reliance on the grid means that crucial functions such as air conditioning would be cut off during a black-out.
With solar air conditioning, however, these functions continue for as long as the sun is up.