Solar panels to run AC [1,1.5,2,3,4 5Ton]
Solar panels are trending since 2014 and since then more and more people are showing interest in them. The questions related to solar panels become more and more exciting. I find excited about these questions is most people are concerned about how many solar panels are needed to power their heaviest load. And for most of the time, the heaviest load in a home is Air Conditioner.
Here I am going to answer one of my favourite questions which is “How many solar panels are needed to run an AC?”
For each one ton of capacity, AC consumes 1 unit of power per hour and to run the same for 8 to 20 Hours daily with solar panels you will need 5 to 12 numbers of 330 Watt solar panels with a grid-tie inverter and net-metering. Also, we can say that you will need a 1.6 kW to 4 kW grid-tied [also known as a grid-connected] solar power plant with net metering.
Since batteries are still expensive and they need time-to-time maintenance as well as replacement. It is not recommended to go with a solar power plant having battery backup (these solar power plants are also known as off-grid solar power plants, learn more) as long as grid power is available.
What is a Gird-tied solar power plant?
Sunshine is available for 5 to 8 hours only but our requirement for electricity is for 24 Hours. To use solar power for 24 hours of requirement we need to have a solar power plant big enough to produce excess power more than our daytime requirement and a way to store this excess power for night usage.
To store this excess power, batteries could be an option, but storing electricity in batteries is still expensive. The reliability of solar energy is completely weather-dependent, leading us to blackouts on certain days of the year.
To overcome these issues, string inverters (also called on-grid or grid-tied inverters) have been developed, which convert DC (direct current) power generated by solar panels into AC (Alternate Current) power in synchronization with grid power.
A benefit of synchronization of solar power with the grid is that if we generate more power excess than our daytime requirement, this excess power can reverse feedback to the grid. In simple words, excess power from the solar power plants will be exported to the grid.
And this exported power will be subtracted from the power you will use at night. Hence your gird will become a huge battery for you and you don’t even need to pay for it.
When the sun goes down, a gird-tied solar power plant becomes unable to produce electricity. Hence we need to use the power from the grid and the amount of power we use at night will be compensated by the power we injected into the grid during the daytime.
The above diagram shows the typical connection of Grid-tied [on-grid]
Now, to subtract the power exported to the grid from the power imported from the grid, you will require “Net-metering”.
If the net-metering is not available in your state and you are looking for a battery-less on-grid solar power plant. I highly recommend you to read our blog on “Solar without net-metering”.
Power consumption by AC [1 ton, 1.5 ton, 2 ton, 3 ton, 4 ton and 5 ton]
As I already mentioned each ton of AC consumes 1 unit of power per hour, which means that if you want to run a 2-ton AC for 8 hours per day the total power consumption by the 2 Ton AC in a day will be equal to [2×8 =] 16 unit [or 16kWh].
Similarly, we can calculate the power consumption by different ratings of AC [that is 1 ton, 1.5 ton, 2 ton, 3 ton, 4 ton and 5 ton] running for different hours daily. Refer to the below table showing the same.
As you can see from the above table running an AC is very expensive and installing a solar power plant to run it will be expensive too.
Whether solar panels are in your budget or not I highly recommend you to read our blog on “15 low-cost tips to reduce the power consumption of AC”.
Sizing of Solar panels to run AC
Power generation from solar panels is dependent upon the sunshine time, pollution level shadow free area and tilting angle.
Now considering, a 100% shadow-free area, low pollution level, and right tilting angle then 1kW of Solar panels (330Wat x 3) will generate 5-6 units of power in 7 to 8 hours of sunshine.
To run 1 ton of AC for 8 hours, you will require number of solar panels that generate (1 x 8 = 8 Units) 8 units of power [that is 8kWh] per day. Hence the size of a gird-tie solar power plant required to generate 40 Units of power = 8/5 = 1.6kW
Solar panels come in various sizes like 330Watt, 325Watt and 360Watt etc, so the numbers of solar panels required can be different for different ratings of solar panels.
Since 330Watt of solar panels is popular these days, we can conclude that 5 numbers 330 Watt solar panels are needed to run 1 ton of AC for 8 hours daily.
Similarly, we can calculate the size of the grid-tied solar power plant needed to run different capacities of AC for different time periods. Refer to the below table showing the same for ease of your understanding.
Solar Panels need to run 1 Ton AC
To run a 1-ton AC for 8 hours a day on solar panels you will need a minimum of 5 numbers, 325 Watt solar planes and to run the same for 12 hours a day you will need 7 numbers of 325 Watts solar panels.
To run a 1.5-ton AC for 8 hours a day on solar panels you will need a minimum of 7 numbers, 325 Watt solar planes and to run the same for 12 hours a day you will need 11 numbers of 325 Watts solar panels.
What are AC solar panels?
AC solar panels are solar panels that come with a microinverter already attached to each panel.
Every solar energy system needs an inverter in order to function properly. Why? Because solar panels convert sunlight into direct current (DC) electricity, but almost all homes use alternating current, or AC electricity, to run appliances. The inverter takes the DC electricity and converts it into usable AC power.
Instead of the DC power traveling from the solar panels to one central inverter, microinverters on the back of each panel convert the solar power to AC electricity right at the panel, where it can then be sent directly to your home. Some homeowners opt for microinverters because they can increase the output of their solar system and make the installation process easier.
You can buy microinverters individually, or you can opt for AC solar panels, which already have them built in.
What brands of AC solar panels are available?
AC solar panels are becoming more popular among homeowners, with many major solar panel manufacturers offering AC module options, including Solaria, Qcells, SunPower, and LG.
Solaria PowerXT Pure Black
Solaria Power XT Pure Black AC solar module. Image source: Enphase
Solaria is one of four solar panel manufacturers that has paired with Enphase, one of the most popular solar inverter manufacturers, to make AC modules.
Solaria’s Power XT Pure Black monocrystalline panels are popular for their sleek, all-black look. You can choose between two Solaria AC modules: the 355-watt panel or the 365-watt panel. Solaria no longer manufactures these panels, however, they may still be sold by installers who gave them in stock.
Both modules have an Enphase IQ7 microinverter attached. The Enphase IQ7 has a continuous power output of 290 watts and an efficiency of 97.5%.
Qcells Q.Peak DUO BLK-G6/AC
Qcells Q.Peak DUO BLK-G6/AC. Image source: Qcells
Qcells is another solar panel brand that is great for residential solar installations. Its AC module is available with two power ratings: 340 watts and 345 watts.
The Qcell AC modules use the same Enphase IQ7 microinverter as Solaria.
SunPower Maxeon 5 AC
SunPower Maxeon 5 AC. Image source: Enphase
SunPower is another manufacturer that has partnered with Enphase to create AC solar modules. SunPower is one of the top-selling home solar panel manufacturers and is best known for having the highest-efficiency panels on the market.
The Maxeon 5 AC has a power range between 400 and 415 watts, with efficiencies reaching up to 22.2%. Each module has an Enphase IQ7A microinverter attached, which is more powerful than the inverter used on the Solaria and Qcells AC panels. it is capable of 349 watts of continuous power.
However, the IQ7A has an efficiency rating of 97%, which is slightly lower than the IQ7 inverter used by Solaria and QCELLS AC modules.
Find out which type of solar panel is best for your home
The pros and cons of AC solar panels
Like most things, AC solar panels come with their own set of advantages and disadvantages. The following table outlines some of the pros and cons of AC solar panels:
AC solar panels are called ‘Plug and Play’ for a reason. They’re extremely easy to install because they don’t require all of the same DC wiring that is needed to connect solar panels to a central inverter. This cuts down on the amount of time and materials needed to install these panels.
Fewer wires cuts down on the number of materials and time needed to complete a solar installation, which can end up lowering the overall labor costs.
Reduces impact of shading
When a solar power system uses a central inverter, the shading on one solar panel decreases the output of all of the other panels in the string. AC solar panels don’t have this problem. If there is one shaded panel, the rest will continue to operate as normal.
So, let’s say you have five solar panels in a string and one of them gets covered by some fallen leaves. The solar panel that is covered by leaves drops energy production to 50% because half of the panel is covered. With a central inverter, the remaining four panels will also operate at 50%.
With AC solar panels, only the covered solar panel will operate at 50%; the rest will be operating at 100% because they each have an individual inverter.
Better for complex installations
With a string inverter, all of the panels must be installed in the same orientation to properly connect to the inverter. So, if you need to put solar panels on two different sides of your roof, you’ll need two different inverters.
Microinverter systems, on the other hand, can be installed anywhere on your roof. There is no limitation on the orientation of the solar array.
Because each AC solar panel has its own inverter, each panel can be installed in any orientation without having an impact on the rest of the panels in the system. This makes AC solar panels great for more complex installations that may require solar panels to be put on multiple roof planes to produce enough power to cover the home’s energy consumption.
Higher solar energy production
AC solar panels can potentially increase the amount of electricity your solar panels produce. One obvious way they do this is by reducing the impact of shading, which we talked about earlier. But that’s not the only way.
Because AC solar panels have microinverters attached to them, the inverter can maximize the amount of solar production from each panel through something called maximum power point tracking (MPPT). This can end up increasing your PV system’s power generation between 5 and 10%.
Easy future expansion
Most solar systems are paired with a central inverter that is sized for their system. This means that if you want to install more solar panels in the future, you will also have to get another inverter that can handle the additional panels.
Systems with AC solar panels won’t have this problem. There is no central inverter to get overloaded, so you can just connect more AC solar panels and call it a day.
Microinverter connected in factory
You can get all of the benefits we listed here from traditional solar panels that are paired with a microinverter. However, because the microinverters are attached to AC solar panels in a factory, there’s less room for errors in connecting the inverter to the panel.
AC solar panels cost more than conventional photovoltaic solar panels because they include the cost of an inverter. The overall cost of the equipment of an AC solar system will likely be higher than a string inverter system. microinverters are expensive.
However, AC solar panels are easier to install, so the overall installation costs may be lower because less labor is required.
Find out how much it costs to install solar panels in your area
Exposed to elements
The problem with having dozens of inverters on your roof is that those inverters are more exposed to the elements than a traditional system. Typically, you’ll find somewhere that is sheltered from the elements to house your inverters.
Are AC solar panels right for you?
AC solar panels are best for homes that require a complex solar system design, so the AC panels can be installed anywhere, regardless of their orientation. AC solar panels are also a great choice if portions of your roof are covered by shade regularly. This way, when one panel is shaded, the rest of the system won’t be affected.
Most AC solar panels on the market are from high-quality, Tier 1 solar panel manufacturers, so the panels themselves will be reliable and perform well. However, inverters tend to be the first thing that breaks in a solar panel system, and having dozens of them on your roof could cause a headache even though most microinverters have 25-year warranties.
If you’re opting for an off-grid installation, you’re better off going with conventional PV panels, as many off-grid projects use batteries that charge with DC power.
The best way to find out what solar panels are right for your home is by getting quotes from local solar installers. Not only will this give you an idea of the type of system you need, but it can help you find the lowest price for a solar installation.
Off-Grid Solar Air Conditioner
When you are running Solar, it’s when it’s the hottest part of the day and the sun is shining the brightest, that’s when you can making most of the power! This allows you to run the AC full blast to keep your Off-Grid Cabin, RV, or Tiny house nice and cool. Even with the air conditioner on the high-powered solar panel system should still makes enough power to add Watts into the batteries. These portable Solar Powered air conditioner units use about the same as a home window 5000-watt air conditioner use about 1000 watts. Solar Powered types should be more efficient than the standard units.
The problem with the Portable Solar Air Conditioner is that they are not all built the same. They can be the biggest load on your Battery Bank so you need them to be the most efficient. Units that have a dual hose system are the best. The condensation is released outside next to an intake hose. Most portable Air Conditioners don’t have this design.
In a regular air conditioning unit, hot air is pulled into the unit to cool the condenser that is located outside of the window unit, while cool air is pushed inside of the room cooling the room’s temperature. The Compressor and the majority of the hot working parts of the unit are already outside(the hot side). This way the air conditioner motor parts that are generating heat are insulated from the room by the front of the unit(the cool side) it’s trying to cool.
Most Solar Portable Air Conditioners have the whole unit inside. meaning the hot working side and the cool side are all together. Air from the room is pulled from the room that’s being cooled and vented to the outside. Making this way a far less efficient way of cooling the temperature. In Solar Energy, the main deal is all about efficiency saving energy that is collected by the Panels and stored in the Battery Bank.
- The air being drawn in to cool the condenser and vented outside which means it’s dispelling processed cooled air from the room it just generated, wasting it to the outside.
- Also by expelling air from the room it creates a low-pressure environment in whatever the space it’s in like a tent or RV. This makes the pressure from the outside greater than the inside which means the hot air outside will try to make it into the inside to even out that loss of pressure.
This the reason you will see 2 BTU values on the front of a Portable Air Conditioner box. They are 25 % less efficient than a 5000 BTU window unit you have at home. They are just not efficient to design. Always look for the Dual Hose System when it comes to a Solar Powered Portable Air Conditioner. If you have a choice and have an Air Conditioner that has a low surge and Eco setting use that, it will be more efficient than the Portable unit.
Roof Top Tent Air Conditioner
New portable Air Conditioners called an Evaporative Cooler or a Swamp Cooler use a technology that simulates air passing over a body of water creating a cooled environment. Water in the air is evaporated in the cooler and the air temperature is lowered. Designed for personal space it’s perfect for your Tent. This device works a whole lot better than the 12 volt Tent fan that is made just to move warm air in the Tent at night cooling the inside space. The Swamp Cooler is a Fan-Air Cooler and Humidifier all in one. It can cool your tent space or any other personal space. I liked this because of the size and it did work well. Check it out on Amazon.
The bigger the unit the more air is cooled down by this technology. Perfect for tent camping, garages, and RVs. Some have built-in Air Filters to remove the dust and unhealthy particles while the air is moving through the Cooler. Evapolar EvaSMART Personal Evaporative Air Cooler, Purifier and Humidifier, Portable Air Conditioner EV-3000 with Alexa support – Opaque White While this perfect-sized device is removing humidity from your tent, it’s also removing spores and molds that are built up in the space of your Camping Tent, RV, Camper or even a Cubicle at work all small areas where you spend time in.
DIY Tent Air Conditioner
Speaking of a Solar Tent Fan When I saw this Solar Air Conditioner DIY video I had to try this and actually this cooled or tent down the fastest. Yup, the ice melts so keep the lid closed but what a creative DYI idea that simple to make. A solar Tent fan can be used which will pull almost nothing with minimum watts. I ran this on a 100 Watt Solar panel system all weekend with one 20 pound block of ice.
Most RVer’s will tell you that if you are looking to run an Active Air conditioner in your RV, you probably don’t have space on the rooftop to accommodate enough Solar Panels to make enough power to keep an Air Conditioner running for your RV. Unless you can make some adjustments and adding some type of generator to the system. But if you are planning to use the Air Conditioner for shorter lengths of time and not continuously there are some things you can do to lower the load on your system
A Solar Power Air Conditioner can do the job if your Battery Bank is full and you can generate enough power from the Solar Panels to keep the deficit consumed from the batteries low enough. As an example, if the Air Conditioner consumes 1000 watts and your Solar Panels are producing 800 watts then the load on the battery would be 200 watts at that time. The Air Conditioner will be able to run for some time before it stops.
Solar Power Air Conditioners are possible appliances that you can add to your Solar power system as long as you size the number of watts on your panels, diverter along with the amount amps you’ll need on your batteries. Check for Volts Amps or Watts of your air conditioner like you would any device you going to run and then calculate how many hours per/day you will run the device. If the Watts is not listed on the electrical device then you can easily calculate it by multiply the Amps x Volts and that will get you the Watts.
Most Appliances or devices don’t run 24 hours a day. They may only run 1 hour or maybe 12 hours per/day. The Air Conditioner may be rated at 1200 Watts and will say it runs for 3 hours per/day. You can get the load from the Battery. 1200 x 3.0= 3600 Watts. Most Campers that use Solar Power efficiently might run the air conditioner a few hours per day to cool things down.
Adding up all the devices in RV or Camper seems to be overkill. On the other hand, If you need to run other devices along with the Air Conditioner that pulls a large amount of load from the system, it needs to be done. It will give you an exact idea of what you are going to need. Inverters will be very important when it comes to the initial surge that is needed to accommodate whatever size Air Conditioners unit you have. With the right equipment, it can be done. Buy the right stuff.
In case there’s a problem then do what most RVers do. Use a Generator and always keep it around as a failsafe for spare energy that will come in handy and easily push an Eco mode-low surge Air conditioner that you’ll need and charge your battery bank if you need it. It’s a great tool to have around.
Always have one around if you are Boondocking or off-grid. We have Honda EU1000i Inverter Generator, Super Quiet, Eco-Throttle, 1000 Watts/8.3 Amps @ 120v (Red) that comes highly recommended by many Off-Grid Solar System operators, Preppers, and owners of cabins, and in a pinch, the Honda EU is highly dependable.
According to Professional Installers and Engineers, if you want Solar Power Air Conditioner on your Camper or RV, you can do it. You CAN power an Air Conditioner off of Solar Power. It takes a minimum of around 1000 watt system which is a more realistic amount, but it can be done. It’s also very helpful if you buy this a low-draw, low start-up, Energy Star rated, 5000 BTU AC that contains the low surge starts with an ECO capability that uses fewer watts of power.
SIZING A SOLAR INVERTER
Choosing the right Inverter for your RV Solar system depends on accurately calculating your electrical loads and usage patterns. The size of the inverter you need is based on your ‘peak load’ requirements – all the AC loads that could be turned on simultaneously. If you have a device that has a pump or a compressor like an Air Conditioner with an initial surge that demanding then you need the Inverter that can handle that requirement.
For example, if you will be using the 1500 watt microwave, while also running 100 watts of lighting and running a refrigerator that will draw 500 watts of power, you will need an inverter that can handle at least 2100 watts (1500 100 500). Once you have identified a minimum wattage, you will select a style that has the same nominal voltage as your battery bank (12, 24, or 48 VDC).
Types of Solar Air Conditioning
It’s easy to say that all ACs powered by solar energy are termed Solar ACs but they have different types you can buy. Depending upon the use case and real-world scenario, the likelihood of deploying one of the two major types of solar AC becomes ideal. Here are the major types that you should be aware of.
Solar PV Air Conditioners
It is the most common type of solar AC you might have come across. The system essentially harnesses solar energy using solar photovoltaic (PV) panels that capture solar energy and converts it into electrical energy. It powered the AC via either DC or AC power where the latter would need an inverter in the contraption too.
PV solar air conditioner works off the grid and primarily works on DC. It stores the current in the battery allowing it to power the appliances at night when the PV panel is no longer producing any energy. Buying a hybrid solar PV air conditioner would allow you to run the appliance during the day when the solar panels are working tirelessly. As the night clocks in, the solar AC uses traditional electricity from the outlet.
Solar Thermal Air Conditioners
Are you aware of the heat pipe? It uses electricity to power the contraption and removes heat from a room passing it through pressurized refrigerants and that’s how the room cools down. Solar thermal ACs use similar mechanics where solar energy is used to heat up water. Once the water becomes hot, it is passed through a refrigerant that converts it from liquid to gas thereby triggering heat absorption.
The result is, now the treated air is cool and then, it is released into the room thereby cooling the household or offices, etc. These systems are more efficient than solar PV as the process of production of electricity to run AC (such as in the case of PV) is more difficult than heating up the water and cooling it using both the resultant as an application for conditioning the air. Solar thermal air conditioners are mostly used in areas that see limited sun exposure.
Types of Systems
Finally, apart from types of air conditioners, there are types of systems that you can use. An alternating current powered solar AC uses alternating current where it is stored in the battery and an inverter helps convert it from direct current. It is connected to the grid as well where you won’t need a battery.
Direct Current Powered solar air conditioners use PV panels to collect electrical energy which is stored in batteries and an inverter is used to convert DC to AC. It can be run entirely off the grid. Lastly, there’s Hybrid solar AC that uses both AC and DC and has the capability of latching itself with the batteries or the grid depending upon the situation.
How Does a Solar AC Work?
With all the buzz around, you might be curious about how a Solar AC actually works, right?
Unlike traditional AC which uses electricity from the electricity board/company directly, solar AC harnesses the solar energy using its solar panel (photovoltaic panel). Once the energy is harnessed, it is converted into electrical energy which is stored in a battery as direct current (DC) power. As most appliances at home use alternating current (AC) power, the contraption requires an inverter to convert DC to AC. Note that the battery here acts as a storage medium before it can be used.
The converted AC power is then used to run the solar AC instead of the grid energy. Appliances at home can use DC power directly without any conversion although Indian households mostly use AC power.
PV panels and solar thermal panels work slightly differently. Here, the thermal-based systems tend to lose a substantial amount of energy which gives PV-based systems an edge.
Note that the entire system is divided into three major categories i.e. on-grid, off-grid, and hybrid where the latter allows the best of both on-grid and off-grid systems. Check out the ‘Types of Solar AC’ to know more about this bifurcation.
What is the Cost Associated with Solar Powered Air Conditioners?
The cost associated with Solar Powered AC differs widely. Based on what type and system you are buying, you will have to pay for batteries, photovoltaic panels, inverters, wiring, charger controllers, and the structure on which PV panels are laid out as they require to be galvanized among others.
The after-sales service is essential as the life of the contraption is approx 20-25 years. Without proper servicing, these panels may not produce enough solar energy or may not work at all. Thus, when going for these systems, it is also important to look for after-sales services as well.