Photo Credit: Baboon via Flicker Creative Commons
Guest Post by Chris Keenan
Our power grids are already overloaded, so when everyone is powering up their traditional AC system during the peak of heat, that’s when we get outages. The answer to this problem is solar power. A solar-powered AC unit lessens the dependency on an already stressed grid, reduces cost, decreases power outages, and oh yea, let’s not forget the many environmental benefits like reducing greenhouse gases. So, what exactly is it?
There are two different types of solar AC units; chillers and hybrids.
Solar-powered evaporative coolers, otherwise known as absorption chillers, cool and heat water through condensation and evaporation. They reduce air temperature by passing it across a saturated material. The motor and fan are powered by solar energy.
The hybrid solar AC unit by SolCool runs on solar power, yet can also be plugged it or operate on batteries. Even when running off of electric, it uses far less power than a traditional air conditioner (500 watts-per-hour vs. 900 watts-per-hour). The “chiller” option can give you hours of cool air in the case of a power outage.
A hybrid system is a combination of direct current and photovoltaic technology. It will automatically alternate between battery and solar power as needed. When in hybrid mode, the system charges in the sunlight. When not in hybrid mode, it will use AC power to charge the batteries while running on a battery backup.
GreenCore Air has designed a solar-powered model that can run as a hybrid battery/solar AC unit or as a completely off the grid unit. A 170-watt solar panel powers it, providing enough energy to cool up to 600 square feet.
As with anything else, there are minuses for every plus, at least to some extent. For people looking to use a greener option for their home cooling needs, solar-powered chillers are a great choice since they use far less energy. However, it will increase your water usage. Chillers are designed to be wired into your water tank or water storage line, making them slightly less efficient than a hybrid solar AC unit that operates on battery or solar energy power.
Additionally, no matter which style or type you choose, it isn’t going to be cheap. It isn’t nearly as costly as installing panels on your roof, but it will still run you a few grand or more. However, just like any new technology, the cost is always steep in the beginning. Remember how much you paid for your first computer (which was about 1/20th as fast as today’s computers)? The cost will come down; it will just take time.
About the Author:
Chris Keenan is a green and general blog writer. He writes for many sites and also maintains a personal blog.