Solar Air Conditioning
Just as its name suggests, solar air conditioning harnesses the power of the sun to save you energy and money while reducing environmental impact. Most also offer feature reverse-cycling to provide heating during the cold season.
The central components of solar AC are a inverter (or solar-thermal hybrid)—used to drive refrigerant flow and regulate inside temperature—and a series of solar panels. Consumers who are interested in solar can begin by purchasing a solar inverter and later investing in solar panels or bundling a system that includes the inverter air conditioner and solar panels in one package.
Because they’re designed to be able to run off of either electricity or solar energy, homeowners with solar AC will never be without air conditioning when they need it. However, with enough solar power collectors—anywhere from 1 to 15 or more—you’ll collect more than enough power to operate the air conditioning or heat pump on a sunny day. In some cases the excess solar power can be converted into electricity and fed back into your home’s electrical system.
Like an electric-only air conditioner, the price for a solar system depends on the size of your home (or space you wish to cool) as well as other factors. A ballpark range is between $1,500 to $4,500 for a split system up to the $6,000s for a ducted system. Many come with one or more solar panels included.
The obvious advantage is the money you’ll save in energy bills while reducing environmental waste. The disadvantage is that as an emerging technology, for now there are fewer options on the market than for traditional AC systems. That’s quickly changing, however. If you’re not yet in the market for a solar air conditioning system, it’s a technology worth watching for the future.