Solar Air Conditioner for Home Use: Pros Cons
The summer season in Yavapai County, AZ, can be brutal. It’s hot and you worry that your energy bills might get too high while you’re fighting the heat. Then, you also have to think about the global temperature averages rising. Overall, air conditioners are crucial for everyone.
We know that homeowners want cost-effective and efficient ways to cool their living spaces. Air conditioners make the home feel more comfortable on a hot day. However, they can be expensive to run. You’ve likely compared the price of your energy bills during moderate and hot temperatures!
Therefore, you might be focused on getting solar-powered air conditioners for your home. They use solar panels and can cool the house down using sustainable and clean energy.
Is solar air conditioning right for you? It’s time to find out about the pros and cons of using a solar air conditioner for home!
Pros of a Solar-powered Air Conditioner
If you’re building a new home or remodeling your current one, it might be wise to invest in a solar air conditioning system. Let’s check out the benefits:
Solar-powered Air Conditioners Are Budget-Friendly
Solar-powered technology uses the sun as its energy source. Therefore, solar-powered air conditioning could save you about 50 percent on your energy bills.
While you might be skeptical about investing so much into solar PV air conditioners initially, the long-term savings you see offset that nicely.
Solar Air Conditioners Produce Clean and Sustainable Energy
Carbon dioxide levels have increased by about 100 parts per million since 1950. Your carbon footprint matters, but so does air conditioning!
Solar energy is clean and sustainable, so you can “go green” and be kind to the environment. Unlike fuel-generated ones, solar-powered air conditioners emit fewer greenhouse gasses.
Solar-powered Air Conditioners Don’t Experience Power Failure and Have Minimum Disruption
With solar air conditioners, you don’t have to worry about power outages disrupting your comfort. You still have air conditioning, even if your Wi-Fi is gone for a while!
Solar PV Air Conditioners Don’t Require as Much Maintenance
Solar panels don’t need much maintenance, and the rain washes them perfectly. While a solar-powered air conditioner might require repairs periodically, it’s rarely as much as a fuel- or electric-powered AC unit.
Solar-powered Air Conditioners Are User-Friendly
Most users report that a solar air conditioner is user-friendly. Therefore, you get air conditioning without the hassle!
Solar Air Conditioners Often Feature Financing Solutions
Many local governments are trying to motivate people to switch to solar power. Therefore, you might get incentives for doing so.
Cons of a Solar Air Conditioner for Home Use
Now, it’s important to understand the disadvantages of a solar air conditioner:
High Upfront Costs for a Solar-powered Air Conditioner
Investing in solar power for an air conditioner or anything else in the home has a higher upfront cost than other options. Most of the investment focuses on batteries, inverters, and solar panels. You’re likely to need about 22 solar panels!
Solar Power Relies on the Weather
Weather conditions change all the time, and that can affect the efficiency of your solar power air conditioner. If the solar panels don’t get enough sun, you don’t get power to run the unit.
A hybrid system might work best because the AC charges your battery through the solar panels and can switch out of hybrid mode as needed.
Solar Panels Can Deteriorate
After a while, the solar panels of your solar-powered air conditioner might deteriorate or get damaged. That affects the efficiency of the solar-powered air conditioning unit.
Generally, solar panels have a lifespan of 30 years, but external factors could change that.
Slow Market Growth for Solar-powered Air Conditioners
Many people have never heard of solar thermal air conditioners or understand what they are, which leads to a disadvantage.
On-grid and Off-grid systems
You can run air conditioners on both on-grid as well as off-grid solar systems. The only difference is that in on-grid systems you can run your appliances even when there is no electricity, which is not possible in the case of off-grid systems. If you are using an on-grid system, you should ensure that you install kVA inverters to handle high loads. It is also recommended to install a higher kW worth of solar panels if your expected AC usage is higher than average. In general, it is recommended to run air conditioners within a capacity range of 3 kW to 10 kW depending upon the number of ACs you’re expecting to run and their average durations. In the case of on-grid systems, you can easily support the running of multiple ACs in commercial office spaces or residences with electricity bills ranging from around 1 lakh to 5000-10000 respectively. Apart from this, one of the major reasons for setting up an on-grid connection is that you enjoy the benefit of net metering policies to avail credit in your monthly electricity bills.
In order to run an on-grid system, you will require government approval as well as dedicated roof space to set up your solar panels. The benefit of installing on-grid systems is that the government offers a lot of added incentives for users. This manifests in the form of subsidies which will help you to reduce your costs to a certain extent. You can get different rates of subsidy in different states. General conditions are that the system should be a grid-connected, battery-less, with you as a domestic residential consumer to claim the benefits.
AC Wattage and Current Requirements
When we talk about air conditioners as appliances consuming more power, we are referring to two main aspects which you need to keep in mind. Air conditioners and other such appliances have a high draw of initial current and demand higher wattage to start with. Here we will discuss the max wattage and the ideal maximum kVA panels that are required for ACs of different tonnage.
In the case of a standard 1 ton AC which is used by most small establishments and residences, the max wattage requirement would be somewhere around 1300 watts or 13 kW. For this kind of power requirement, we would recommend a 1.6 kVA solar power, assuming there is a 0.85 power factor. In the case of higher powered ACs such as 1.5 tons, a 2.4kVA solar panel can be used to match the 1900 watts or 1.9 kW requirements. If this is still not enough and you need to run a 2 ton AC, then you will need to have a 3 kVA solar panel for maximum power supply, as the wattage requirement will be somewhere around 2500 watts or 2.5 kW.
Preconditions to setting up an On-grid Solar Panel System
If you wish to set up a solar panel system to run your ACs, it is vital for you to understand the concept of solar net-metering which helps you to calculate any excess power that is being generated by your solar grid system. The two main conditions that you need to fulfill while
setting up an on-grid solar panel system are as follows :
- Ensure that the total PV capacity in the local distribution network does not cross 30 percent of the distributor transformer capacity. In order to understand this better, consider this example;a distribution network that is powered by a 250 KVA distribution transformer cannot have more than 75 kW of total solar PV capacity connected to itself.
- The total PV system capacity that is being proposed cannot be more than the sanctioned or contacted load of the service connection. In case this rule is breached and the PV system capacity is higher than the sanctioned connected load, you will need to apply for service connection load enhancement. Only after applying for this, your solar net-metering application can be submitted.
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.
How Many Solar Panels To Run An Air Conditioner?
If you are trying to offset your energy consumption, the first place to start is your air conditioning. Air conditioner units and systems are among the biggest power users in your entire home.
Calculating the total energy consumption per unit, how solar energy and grid-connected homes can offset your power usage, and how many solar panels to run an air conditioner is essential to saving money and helping the environment.
Can You Run an Air Conditioner off of Solar Panels?
Air conditioners are what keep us cool during the summertime. Without these units in our homes, regulating the temperature and keeping ourselves cool would be extremely difficult. However, with the ever-changing eco-friendly practices in our houses, workplaces, and schools, the FOCUS is turning towards renewable energy sources.
Instead of burning electricity and gas to power our air conditioners, lights, and appliances in our home, solar panels can harness the means required to run an air conditioner. Solar energy uses the sun to convert sunlight directly into electricity to run our appliances, electrical loads, and air conditioners.
Since solar panels are versatile and easy to use, they are Smart electrical swaps that are good for your home and the environment as a whole. Versatile to use for remote power systems, solar electrical systems, and air conditioners, solar panels can efficiently run your grid-connected home with much less environmental strain.
So, can you run an air conditioner off of solar panels? In short, yes, you can! After recognizing the benefits of using solar energy to help cut costs and provide ample power to your house, you can make the switch to power your electrical appliances via solar energy in no time at all. Turning your house into a grid-connected home is the first step.
Grid-connected homes are arguably the wave of the future. Renewable energy systems can power homes by using solar electricity instead of putting excess strain on the environment.
Grid-connection offers many benefits over other electricity grid power systems, allowing individuals to power their homes or businesses with renewable energy, recycle energy back into the power source, and eliminate excess electricity expenditure.
Making the switch to a grid-connected home is easier than you think—and it is one of the major cost-saving measures you can take in your home.
Using the air conditioner is one of the biggest energy wasters in your entire house—think of all the items you leave on in your house during the summer months, and you leave the AC blasting at 65 degrees so you will be cool and comfortable when you get back home. All of these wasted hours of the AC utilizing energy in your house is costing you money and ruining the environment in the process.
How can you feel better about your energy usage and cut down on excess costs? Installing solar panels is an efficient way to cover your ENTIRE house’s energy requirements!
Using new technologies and solar appliances, like rooftop solar electric systems, turbines, and fuel cell systems are all effective ways of producing natural heat, power, and air conditioning. But what is the case if you have an off-grid home?
Can you still offset your power usage in an off-grid home by using solar panels and interconnected energy-efficient appliances? In short, no—using grid-connected homes is the best way to reduce energy consumption.
With off-grid housing, the only option for producing power is using battery power banks or the ever-flowing electricity used when your AC is running.
As you can see, every appliance in your home uses electricity—your lamp light bulb, hair straightener, and air conditioning/heating system all pull various amounts of electricity from your off-grid system. To consistently supply the necessary amount of power, you will have to ensure you have battery power banks that can provide enough electricity.
If you are trying to incorporate solar panels into your off-grid house, it can end up being a tedious process. You will have to install more solar panels to offset the off-grid technologies.
Although this is doable, it is less efficient and costlier than creating a grid-connected home. Processes are in the works to decrease the cost of solar cell installation, but the price of silicon is still higher than other materials.
Since the number of solar panels required will vary between grid-connected and off-grid homes, it can be helpful to calculate the necessary number of required solar panels needed to run the air conditioning unit in your house before setting up the installation.
How Many Solar Panels Do I Need to Run an AC?
Before you can determine how many solar panels to run an air conditioner all year round, you need to calculate the various factors that influence the power requirements of your AC system.
- What size of solar panels do you want to use?
- How long will you run your air conditioner system every day, week, and month?
- Do you need extra batteries to run your AC system (for off-grid housing)?
- What is the surge number and the power required for your AC system?
- What are the required kilowatts for your air conditioning unit?
- How much energy will each solar panel generate for our AC system?
Once you have these necessary data points, you can begin the manual calculations to figure out the cooling capacity of your AC unit. The basic premise of these calculations is to determine the amount of heat the air conditioner gets rid of in one room (i.e., how efficient the AC unit is at cooling a space).
There are three basic “must-know” facts to determine before beginning your calculations:
- Air conditioner wattage: The consumption/hour
- Hours using the AC: Hours running per day
- Electricity charge: How much does your provider charge you per AC unit?
Individuals can guesstimate their power consumption by using the average American household numbers and the average electricity tariff. However, if you want a more precise number for your AC consumption to determine the number of solar panels, you should convert watts into tons for an accurate calculation.
Converting Watts Into Tons
1 Watt = 0.000284 tons of refrigeration or 1 ton of refrigeration = 3516.853 watts. Using this calculation, you can determine the number of energy usage your AC unit has in a specific space.
The first step is to understand what type of air condition unit you have in your home—the most common types are either a 1-ton AC, 1.5-ton AC, or window unit. A 1.5-ton air conditioning model uses 1709 watts of electricity/hour, whereas a window AC unit uses 1745 watts/hour.
Individuals will have to calculate the kilowatt power x hours to determine the total AC consumption units. Using this calculation is the best way to determine how many solar panels are needed to run an air conditioner.
How Many Watts Does a Solar Panel Produce
A solar panel ranges between 250-400 watts. The efficiency of the solar panel typically depends on the following:
- Panel efficiency
- Solar panel square meter area
- Sun’s energy
- Angle of the solar panels
- Solar installation
The power a solar panel produces directly relates to the number of solar panels needed to cover your entire AC consumption. Individuals must determine how many watts an AC unit uses to divide the total power usage/number of solar panel units.
How Many Watts Does an AC Use?
Determining how many solar panels are needed to run an AC unit is directly dependent on the watt usage of the air conditioning system. However, the answer varies depending on the type of system you use—some houses have window units, whereas others have larger, portable units. The amount of watts used per hour depends on the size of the unit:
- Small AC unit: Approximately 500 watts
- Medium unit: 800-1000 watts
- Window unit: Up to 1,440 watts
- Mid-sized air conditioners: 2,800-3,000 watts
- Large air conditioners: 3,800-4,100 watts
A central air cooling system is among one of the most power-consuming appliances in your house. Since this unit is widespread and covers the entirety of a building, it requires more energy to do its job. Using a compressor, electronic controls, and fans, this central air conditioning unit requires more energy than a smaller unit.
The average size of a central air condition system is 3.5 tons, using around 3,500 watts per hour when running. To put the amount of energy this unit uses into perspective, this hefty system uses around 10-12x more energy than a ceiling fan!
A central air conditioner uses 3,500 watts per hour when on the ‘cool’ setting to rid the hot air within the bundling and uses 750 watts per hour on the ‘fan’ mode.
If you are trying to save energy, consider turning this system off when you leave the house to avoid excess consumption.
Large Window Units
The average power consumption of a large AC window unit is usually between 1,250-1,440 watts per hour. The amount of power necessary per window unit will range depending on the energy efficiency of the unit—the majority of window units range from 8-12 on the scale of EER ratings (energy-efficient ratings).