What is Solar AC and How Does It Work

Temperatures during summer in India can soar up to 45° Celsius in some regions. Although you will find ceiling and table fans across India, air conditioners (AC) have become more than a luxury. As an essential home appliance, an air conditioner (AC) keeps the home and offices cool even when there’s a scorching heat wave outside such as how the summers in 2022 saw. 

However, with mounting electricity costs, high humidity, and longer usage, the cons of using ACs are more than the pros since it will land you a hefty electricity bill not to forget the impact on the environment. But what can you do to keep the electricity bill in check and still use AC? Well, apart from the usual window, split and central ACs, there are solar ACs available in the market that utilize renewable solar energy to produce a cool breeze in a home or office. 

The question is, what is a solar AC and how does it work? Well, we put in a lot of energy and came up with the right answer to keep you guys informed. Let’s discuss what solar AC is and everything you need to know about it.

What is a Solar AC?

Solar energy is a renewable source of energy used for centuries. Nowadays, it is used to convert into electricity which eventually powers home appliances, offices, and more easing off an excess load of traditional methods of electricity production. It thus enables users to offload some of their carbon footprints as solar energy is environment-friendly. 

One of the greatest applications of solar energy is solar air conditioning (or call it Solar AC). It uses the sun’s rays as cosmic fuel to power its efforts of conditioning air inside a room or house. It can also work by providing a source of heat for regions with excessive cold. What it brings is reduced cost of electricity used, puts the environment at ease with minimal GHG emissions, and not to forget, the cooling (or heating) effect in the home which is why people buy it. As said, it doesn’t use the electricity coming from the grid but rather harnesses solar energy to produce its fuel.

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. 

Wrapping Up

It is always mind-boggling to study new applications of solar energy. Solar air conditioners can resolve one of the largest issues plaguing the world at the moment i.e. climate change and global warming as they produce little to no carbon emissions at all. Compare it with traditional electricity and you will find it acting as a saint to sin. Hopefully, the brief introduction on solar AC and how it works did resonate with you helping you decide your future purchases when it comes to buying air conditioners in India and abroad. 

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