Solar Powered Air Conditioners

WHAT IS SOLAR ENERGY?

With the broadcast of Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth”, the issue of global warming had escalated to unprecedented heights. These days, nearly all consumers are at least aware of global warming, and with the media’s push to “go-green”, many are now turning that awareness into constructive lifestyle changes.

One of the more prominent sub-categories associated with global warming is the issue of energy.

We all know that a considerable percentage of the world’s limited energy supply is being depleted daily. Billions around the world consume natural resources in some way, either directly or through using products derived from these resources. However, even though most people are now educated on how they can make resourceful changes in their life, they still tend to overlook one area where a significant percentage of consumption occurs – energy.

Our planet is host to a wealth of natural energy resources, with fossil fuels being the one source we’re most familiar with. Due to a steady increase in energy consumption, we now have dangerously fewer resources and energy reserves.

Many conscious consumers and businesses are now looking to source alternative energy to supply them with a eco-friendly energy source. Companies are now researching new and improved ways to harness natural energy through wind and water. Unlike traditional systems, these energy sources are renewable and plentiful. But there is still one element outside of our planet that offers one of the greatest energy supplies to world over – the sun.

We are now able to able to harness the energy of the sun and use it for several purposes, one of them being using heat to provide cooling. This is done through collecting energy through large dark grid-like panels that are positioned to face the sun. The usage of solar powered air conditioners is not a new concept since they were used by the U.S. in the early 20th century. However, with the rise of electricity rates and the need for greater consumption, there has been a steady increase in the commercial use of solar ACs.

SOLAR AC BENEFITS

Incentive programs –
The cost of setting up solar air conditioners can be very high. Still, a family or business opting to go with solar powered ACs can go a long way in reducing long term electricity costs. Additionally, both the federal government and many state governments offer incentive plans to solar energy users. However, since rates vary state by state, it’s best to check your state to see what their specific incentive programs are.

Increase home resale value –
Furthermore, in addition to stabilizing soaring energy costs, solar energy panels are considered an investment. Many homeowners find solar features add considerable value to their home, and make their homes far more marketable in a competitive real estate market. Home buyers are known to be more attracted if two homes are comparable in every way, except that one offers solar air conditioning while the other does not.

There are also considerable savings for solar air conditioner users. IFC, a consulting firm, held a study on solar air conditioners where they show that solar energy can add $20 of home value for every $1 of year energy savings. To get a bigger-picture understanding of this, it’s estimated that an annual savings of $1500 in electricity bills (due to solar energy additions) will add about $30,000 to the resale value of the home. In short, adding solar energy for air conditioning use will save consumers money in the long-run. They may even make a profit through reselling unused energy back to the state.

If solar air conditioning sounds appealing, know that it does not come without its drawbacks. And as with anything else, it’s best to know both the pros and cons before making a considerable investment in it.
Solar AC Drawbacks

Weather-dependant –
Solar energy panels for cooling have one obvious requirement – the sun. If solar ACs are the route you choose to go, know that you’re going to have a significant problem on days where the sun may not be clear enough for the panels to soak up the energy. While this is normally not a problem during the summer, in some areas it poses as a considerable barrier since hot humid weather can exist in cloudy, sun-less atmospheres.

In these cases, you may not have enough energy stored in the batteries to get you through the day. This problem is obviously magnified if you have a bad weather week, a bad weather season or a bad weather region. Since panels can only contribute energy when there actually is sunlight, you’ll need to have some sort of storage device set up. But as you can see, solar powered air conditioning is simply not effective in areas that do not have many hours of strong sunlight.

Tracking the sun –
Being solar driven, solar energy panels need to constantly be directed towards the sun. As such, panel adjustments would need to be made each season. Most solar panel owners usually mount them in a fixed position at the latitude of the area they’re in.

Cleaning –
In addition to tracking, solar panels need to be oriented and cleaned. This is particularly the case in areas where it snows. If you plan on getting a solar powered A/C, then you may want to consider placing your panels on the ground, mounded to racks or poles. Traditional solar energy systems are normally placed up high on a roof, but with snow and sleet, it becomes tricky and dangerous to clean if set up in a high, remote area of your home.

Energy conversion –
Solar panels put out DC power, which needs to be converted to AC before it can be used. There is also the added consideration of storing power to later consume during low light conditions. Most systems now have the ability to convert DC power to AC, and then place the excess power onto the Public AC utility grid. This resolves the energy storage issue, but it’s advisable that you make certain your unit has this ability prior to setting it up. In addition, it’s probably also best that you speak with a state representative and express your interest in solar energy.

Limited power supply –
Panels don’t put out a lot of power. For example, a panel the size of an average desk can provide about 200 watts, which is about as strong as two high-powered light bulbs. To see if solar powered air conditioners suit your needs, you will need to consider the interior square footage of your home and keep in mind solar panels’ limited power output.

Expensive batteries –
Aside from the issue of power storage, prospective solar energy consumers need to consider the costly battery reserve. Batteries are expensive, require maintenance, and don’t last very long.

Easily broken –
Solar panels are also vulnerable to damage from hail and falling tree limbs. They are also expensive to replace.

High set-up cost –
Aside from battery costs and replacement panel costs, the initial set up cost for solar energy systems can be considerably high. In the long run the system is worth it, particularly in areas where there is constant sun and a constant need for cooling. However if you don’t want to wait for the long run, and don’t want to invest a small fortune in the set up process, you may want to consider energy-efficient portable air conditioners.

SMART AC ALTERNATIVES

A lot of smart green consumers know that you don’t have to empty out your wallet in order to get green energy. These days, you can have your cake and eat it too. In a hot climate, costly linked with solar energy systems is frankly not a convenient option. Yet, for environmentally conscious consumers, the thought of switching on the age-old polluter known as the central air conditioning unit, is not a viable alternative. The smart AC alternative is the portable room air conditioner, which boasts considerable immediate and long-term benefits.

Benefit 1 –
Mobility. A portable AC is a mobile cooling unit that can be moved from room to room depending on where you need it.

Benefit 2 –
Portable room air conditioners provide immediate relief without the cost and time required with solar energy air conditioners. Having far fewer parts, mobile aircon units don’t need to be maintained or repaired as frequently as solar energy units.

Benefit 3 –
portable ACs don’t need as much electricity to power them. In this way they are competitive with solar energy air conditioners. However with portable air conditioners, you don’t have the high set up cost nor the problem of converting energy, storing energy, or being weather dependent. Plus, since mobile A/Cs offer sport cooling, you’ll be saving money by not cooling empty or unused rooms. Your PAC unit goes right where you need it, and only where you need it.

Benefit 4 –
The majority of air conditioning units available today come with special ducting which ensures that any warm air is taken out of the room where the system is situated. This again helps to keep down the cost of cooling the room. This benefit is not available with solar air conditioners.

When it comes to you buying a portable air conditioning unit, keep in mind a few important factors to consider, such as the make, size and model of the unit as well as what special features you need yours to have. But the best option for those wanting to keep costs down is to go for smaller more basic models.