In recent years, global temperatures have become more extreme in summer and winter. In the United States and Australia, there have been many record-setting heat waves that have lasted for weeks. For most, returning home after work and cranking up the air conditioner is a major relief from the heat. Also, it is the safest way of battling the heat for children, the elderly and pets. However, when using the air conditioner, it is critical to find an energy-efficient product to save money on electricity bills as well as minimise impact on the environment.
One of the most popular types of energy-efficient air conditioners is solar power air conditioning. The premise is simple; it is an air conditioner that converts sunlight to electricity that powers the units. There are four primary types of solar air conditioning including:
- Photovoltaic (PV) solar cooling
- Solar closed-loop absorption cooling
- Solar open-loop air conditioning
- Solar thermal compression
Photovoltaic (PV) Solar Cooling
As the most frequently-used type of solar cooling for small residential applications, PV –powered cooling technology utilizes a conventional compressor-based system. In recent years, it has become cost-effective, especially when built into the construction of new homes.
Solar Closed-Loop Absorption Cooling
In closed-loop absorption cooling, there are several absorption technologies that can be implemented including Methanol/Activated Carbon, NH3/H2O, Water/Silica Gel, Water/Lithium Bromide and Water/Lithium Chloride. The cooling process utilizes solar thermal collectors to deliver solar energy to thermally-driven chillers which recirculate air back to the collectors.
Solar Open-Loop Air Conditioning
With this type of solar cooling, air passes over solid desiccants that suck the moisture from the air and allow them to engage in an evaporative cooling cycle. Solar thermal energy is then used to regenerate the desiccant to dehumidify in a low energy consumption and cost-effective cycle.
Solar Thermal Compression
Finally, solar thermal compression technology begins with the system super heating fluid with energy from the sun. The fluid is then delivered to a condenser as a high-pressured gas. Then the fluid enters the solar compressor which packs the molecules close together and superheats the liquid into a gaseous form. From there, the gas moves back into a condenser and is cooled and depressurized to turn back into a liquid. The cooled liquid moves through coils and removes humidity within the home and cools the air.
Benefits of Solar Air Conditioning
There are numerous benefits, environmental, financial, community and economic, to upgrading to a solar air conditioner. These benefits include:
- Around the clock use
- Available anywhere
- Cost savings
- Decrease power spikes
- Eco-friendly technology
- Freely available raw materials
Around the Clock Use
Even when the sun is not shining, you can enjoy the cooling benefits of a solar-powered air conditioner. Due to their eco-friendly designs, each unit stores energy from the sun in batteries which are used when a constant energy source is not available.
Solar air conditioners can work in even the most remote locations where there is no power grid. These units are completely self-contained allowing you to have air conditioning in almost any location around the world.
One of the greatest benefits to homeowners is the savings of not being on the grid as well as the tax incentives provided by governmental and organizational programs. Since air conditioners typically eat electricity, using a renewable resource will not hit your monthly bill.
Decrease Power Spikes
Fluctuating power consumption of air conditioners due to variations in the weather wreaks havoc on the electricity grid because power plants are not equipped to adjust their power production fast enough to meet demand spikes. On the other hand, solar-powered air conditioners generate more electricity from the sun as consumption increases.
Another major benefit for homeowners is that the power is generated from a renewable resource that does not harm the environment. This equates to clean energy that is free from CO2 and other emissions. This helps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and your carbon footprint.
Freely Available Raw Materials
The raw materials to create solar energy are in abundance. It does not need to be imported, manufactured or traded with other nations. It is consistently all around and green technology is all that is needed to harness this source.
How to Maintain Solar Air Conditioning
Given that solar air conditioning units require less maintenance than traditional air conditioners, there is not much involved to keeping it running efficiently. However, there are a few tips that can help keep each unit long-lasting. First, cleaning the solar panels every so often will help maximize the amount of absorbed energy. Second, ensuring the fan on the air conditioning unit is clear of debris will maximize output and lengthen the quality of the components. Third, change the air filter annually to improve efficiency. Finally, ensure all vents in the home are clear and free of debris or other objects.